My friend Bonnie has never quite left me, at least in the dream sequence where her face appears quite regularly.
Last night I brought my dream date in the dream to the movie theater where she works; Bonnie was still there. Either she can’t get a new job or she’s stuck in my dreams. I can’t figure out if it’s my unconscious psyche or the employment situation in New York, which is not supposed to be very good, at least not as good as where my brother Oscar lives—in Ohio.
I walk into the movie theater with the intention of seeing Bonnie and her roommate, Kim, who I’m also obsessed with; in this dream I am accompanied by my dead grandmother. I have never had a crush on my grandmother and she doesn’t resemble a corpse or a computer error, but there she is with her arm placed around mine. It’s been like this for some time: when Ida, my grandmother, was alive, I’d walk her from her apartment to our car where my father was waiting. It was one of the greatest rituals of my lifetime, next to making Grandma instant coffee or putting pot roast in the oven for my mother. They both praised my cooking talents, but instant coffee and putting pot roast in the oven were not difficult; when you’re doing it at 16, it’s considered talent, particularly in Jersey, where being domestic is very prestigious.
And so my grandmother, who weighs less than half of me, walks with me into the film theater. We are going to see Bertolucci’s The Conformist, and though Grandma does not like movies very much because her cataracts prevent her from seeing, she likes to hang out with me.
Bertolluci’s movie, I am told, is about fascism. I have never seen it, but figure it is a good movie to take one’s dead grandmother to. I also believe this date will make Bonnie jealous, though she recently shaved her head and looks like an Auschwitz victim and it is doubtful that anyone else is crushing on her.
“Why did you shave your head?” I ask, “To be like that girl in the movie Go Fish?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she replies curtly. She likes to be curt, and more importantly, doesn’t like to know what I’m talking about.
“Have you met my grandmother?”
“This is Ida, my dead grandmother—we’re going to the Bertolucci movie.”
“Would you like something?” she is presiding over the popcorn counter.
“Are you going to acknowledge my dead grandmother?”
“I don’t see anyone.”
I had heard, prior to this conversation, that Bonnie and her roommate, Kim, who also works here, think I’m too intense.
“I’d like some intense tea. Very intense. Do you like intensity?”
“We’re totally intense,” Kim, who is behind the popcorn counter, chimes in.
“How many cents?” my grandmother asks. My dead grandmother, though she has been dead for ten years, is still concerned about money. Like my father, she grew up during the Depression, and it’s not something you recover from.
“No Grandma, it’s okay, I got this. Do you want tea?”
“I’d like Sanka.”
“Do you people have Sanka?” I look at Bonnie, and she looks at Kim, and they are both offended by this question.
“We have espresso or cappuccino or tea.”
“Grandma, would you like some cappuccino or espresso?”
“I don’t know what they are.” Grandma, who died in 1979, never tasted cappuccino. It was not prominent in Ocean County, New Jersey. And even if it were, it is doubtful Grandma would have gone to the mall to drink it. To her coffee was coffee, and Sanka was the best of all of it. In fact, she loved the way I made it—mixing the powdered cream with the black sprinkles. It was beautiful when the hot water mixed with the crystals and you smelled it. It was much easier than what Bonnie was doing.
“Maybe tea, Grandma?”
“Would you please make my dead grandmother some tea?”
“What kind?” Bonnie grins. It is her first sign of warmth.
“Spearmint,” I say.
She smiles again. Twice in five minutes.
“Peppermint?” she blushes. The red looks lovely on her.
“Yeah.” I don’t know Spearmint from Peppermint—they all seem the same to me.
My grandmother grabs the cup. In Heaven, she regained some of her eyesight and dexterity, but she is still bothered by those cataracts.
I look at Bonnie and Kim as we enter the Bertolucci movie. Their friend Andrew lets us in for free, for I am famous for being obsessed with female ushers, and it is acceptable to let me in—like Quentin Crisp and Spike Lee—who also don’t pay.
“Thanks,” I wink at the girls because they’ve given me the drinks for free and I leave money in their tip cup.
“You’re welcome,” Bonnie whispers, grimacing at Kim behind the counter.
It is the first time a dead grandmother has entered the movie theater with an infatuated customer, and indeed, it is the first time a customer has so distracted their attention since the time Suzanne Vega came to their theater in a blue dress. Indeed, it takes a great deal to impress them, and while watching the Bertolucci movie, I keep turning to Grandma to see if she is there, but she has gone, sort of faded from the theater like Bonnie’s smile and Bertolucci’s goddess.
Eleanor Levine’s work has appeared in Fiction, The Evergreen Review, and The Denver Quarterly, among others.She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. Eleanor is currently a copy editor and lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her dog Morgan.