Movie Marathon, 1968

In Malcolm Square, we emerged after the theatre’s last
full show into the flashing blue lights and blare 
of a police squad car. Father had called in 
an almost missing persons report— My recently retired
schoolteacher aunt, visiting from out of town, taking
to heart the advice she’d read in a magazine about 
the importance of keeping busy every waking moment 
so as to prevent one’s faculties from deteriorating, decided 
she and I would go out and try to watch as many movies 
as we could in one day. I felt like her accomplice in crime;
her sidekick, all grown up like Bess or George to Nancy 
Drew in those dog-eared library mysteries I loved to read
after school. There’s one where they find what look like bones
inside a piece of Chinese pottery, or an ideogram for Help!
They follow a trail of clues to an abandoned farmhouse—
Who knew there was a family held in there, maybe 
without papers; “illegals” forced to forge rare blue-
and-white designs on vases and china that would be sold
to unsuspecting collectors?  People are always saying things
like “It was right under your nose” or “In the plain
light of day.” I want to know, though, why father thought
we’d gone missing; if he thought we’d skipped town. 
What exactly went through his mind that he had to call
the police? When they shone a flashlight at my aunt’s
face and mine and said Excuse me Ma’am, are you 
the sister of Attorney Aguilar, and is that girl his 
daughter? I wish she’d said something like No,
I’m Princess Urduja and this is my lady-in-waiting
and the entertainment in this town is terrible! They went
into the theatre lobby to make a phone call (this was
in the days before mobile devices), then came out
clearly suppressing their laughter. One of them had
a nose like a misshapen carrot, and the other had
a face as porous as a dry pomelo. If there were 
Instagram or Snapchat then, I might’ve taken a photo
for my feed, to caption LOL busted! But it was the sixties;
the world seemed very different then, not like something
out of “Law & Order, SVU” where everyone could be a rapist 
or pimp or serial killer, whether or not they’re related 
to you. But come to think of it, evil isn’t original to our
time; what am I thinking? When I was in first grade,
a classmate’s mother had gone missing; a few
days later, they found her body hacked to pieces: 
stuffed into a cardboard box, then shoved under a bed.
I heard the story from my parents: something about
a business partner, a debt, an attempt to collect. 
My aunt refused the offer of a ride from the cops.
She hailed a cab, talking all the way home about John
Wayne in “The Green Berets” which we’d seen at noon;
and about Paul and his friends in “All Quiet on the Western 
Front,” who knew nothing of life except what they’d given
of it to war. Perhaps, she was thinking Can’t a grown woman, 
newly widowed, use up what remains of her life however
she sees fit? At the door, my father, waiting, said her name:
Sofia! Turning to me she smiled and said, Go to bed, it’s late.
 
 

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