On Friday nights, I have something resembling a standing date.
Every week, unless work intervenes, we go through the same charade. In the afternoon, we’ll exchange a few texts – “are we watching a movie tonight?,” “Still on for a movie?” – as if to confirm that neither of us has anything better to do. I typically choose a genre, ask if I should bring snacks, and show up in sweatpants and my rattiest hoodie for movie night with my gay sister-in-law.
My sister rarely joins us, confirming that Friday movie nights are more a product of my, and my sister-in-law’s, respective lonely and desolate lives, rather than any real desire to spend time together. So, I, incredulously single and gifted solely with friends with more pressing engagements like spouses and children, and she, my sister’s work widow, sit in the dark to deflect questions of how and why our lives have come to this. Instead, we watch movies – Mechanic: Resurrected (terrible, even for a Jason Stratham movie), The Hunt (a fabulous Danish film starring Mads Mikkelson), Room, Fantastic Beasts, Dr. Strange (hi again, Mads Mikkelson), John Wick, Sleepless, – and at the end of the night, promise to do it again next week.
Given my own ulterior motives for movie night – mainly to stave off the possibility of suffocating to death due to the boredom of my life – I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that my sister-in-law had her own reasons for spending her night off with someone marriage told her she now had to be related to. After a few weeks, I noticed a pattern to how our film screenings ended; namely that they tended to feature monologues about Brad Pitt. Seeming to sense no strong disagreement on my part, her tributes got bolder, pushing their way into the movies themselves.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s appearance in Dr. Strange inspired, “why do straight girls think he’s so attractive? It’s not like he’s Brad Pitt.” When we got our first glimpse of Colin Farrell in Fantastic Beasts, “I like him,” she said, “he’s like a brunette Brad Pitt.” And when Mads Mikkelson took off his shirt for two whole seconds in The Hunt, “ugh,” she said, “men that age shouldn’t take their shirts off unless they’re Brad Pitt.”
This transitioned neatly into her next favorite topic: shirtless Tom Cruise. “It’s so gross,” she said, pulling up Google search images of Tom Cruise’s bare, wrinkled chest. “I agree with you,” I insisted as she enhanced more images, zooming in and circling his invisible pecs angrily with her cursor, “but you know, Brad Pitt just might be genetically gifted…maybe you should compare him to someone else…like, I don’t know, George Clooney?”
Understanding friendships to be a two-way street, I’ve attempted to steer the conversation from Brad Pitt to the nuclear winter that is my social life, job woes, or the most recent blow up currently causing my eyes to roll back into my head for inordinately long periods of time.
“Can I just tell you something about—“ I’d start.
“Are you ruining my movie night?” she’d screech, as if it wasn’t also my movie night, “is it about that guy?”
“Yes, no, maybe, which guy? Just listen, ok?”
And to her credit, she does, for about three minutes, before declaring the room a “whine-free zone” and that “breeders are so weird.” To which I’d naturally respond with more whining.
We watched Sleepless a few nights ago while eating ice cream, my sister coming in and out of the room to ask what’s happening, and more ridiculously, what’s going to happen. I periodically clutched my sister-in-law’s sleeve as a tongue was cut out and balls were nearly crushed and other violence ensued. After a month that involved a funeral, and a date that felt like a funeral for any hope of a love life here, plus the realization that some people don’t want a friend as much as a sounding board to affirm their egos, that comfort and escape are welcome. There are no guys involved, no romantic dinners or shameless flirting, just ice cream, tea, and company I can’t replace.
“Here, just Google George Clooney,” I’d said, months ago.
“George Clooney shirtless” she typed, and we stared at the results. And there was no one I’d rather have fallen into the rabbit hole of George Clooney’s face expertly photoshopped onto gay porn stars, than my sister-in-law.