Sometimes nostalgia hits me like a freight train. I hadn’t thought of this place in decades, but suddenly today this little chestnut popped into my head: The Cinema and Brew in Apopka, Florida.
It was a dingy little place, tucked into the corner of a strip mall. Nothing to shout about, really. One screen. Chairs with ragged upholstery surrounding sticky tables. A counter where you could order pizza, beer, popcorn, candy, and soda.
Not the best neighborhood. Someone I distantly knew was stabbed on the sidewalk out front once. God, though, I loved that place.
The minute I turned 16 and could drive at night, I was there every single week. If I remember correctly, it only cost a dollar to get in. The manager would get really irritated with those of us who couldn’t afford to buy food. That was his only chance for profit. But since I was quiet and never caused trouble, I never got kicked out, as many of my male friends did.
The movies were often really bad. Cheech and Chong. The Porky’s franchise. Most of the time I didn’t even bother to see what was playing until I got there. Because the whole point was being there.
It was a place to run into friends. It was also the place to hope for romance. I got my first kiss there. I also got my first unwanted kiss there. He had pizza breath and really awful body odor, and he took me by surprise. I made it quite clear that it would be a really bad idea to ever try that again. Hopefully he’s not aiming for a future in the Supreme Court.
It was also a place to go to get away from my dysfunctional home life and fantasize about being rescued. One time I was there by myself, and a really good looking guy came up to me and said, “Is this seat taken?” My heart was pounding. I said no. So he took it. Away. To another table.
Another time, a friend was supposed to meet me there, and she was running late. Finally I gave up on her entirely. So I’m sitting in the pitch black, watching the movie, and during a quiet scene, she screeches my name. It made everyone jump.
“Jeez. Over here,” I said. Everyone laughed. We all sort of felt like we were hanging out in a big living room in a low rent neighborhood.
I had forgotten how desperate I was back then. Desperate for love and friendship and acceptance. Desperate to get out of my circumstances. Desperately poor.
Still, a tiny part of me wishes I were going to the Cinema and Brew tonight, for old time’s sake. But like so many other things from my past, for better or for worse, it’s long gone.