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First Cliffhanger

First Cliffhanger

I had recently turned ten years old,
quiet and serious and still
a bit dazzled by the move
to double digits, that somber zero
a new responsibility, a stone I worried smooth.

To that general sense of worry,
to that pocket of stones I carried,
I added a new ache
as I sat in the popcorn dark
of the multiplex:

the Falcon zooming away,
Lando and Chewie off to rescue Han,
my beloved, from the Hutt’s carbonite–

and then, without hint or warning,
John Williams’ bright horn section
blazed to life with the familiar theme,
and credits started rolling,
and around me everybody clapping
and on either side, my brother and uncle
getting up from their seats, but

the movie–

the movie wasn’t over–

and I just sat there,
stunned in the clutches
of some horrible mistake,
jostled at the knees
by idiotic people scooting past me,
as if everything were still right with the world,
as if my beloved and my sense of narrative closure
hadn’t both just been yanked from me
like my very breath.

I was ten,
and it would have been enough
to leave me with the outrageous
and yet also intriguing suggestion
that Vader was Luke’s father
to chew on for the next three years.

But to end it like that,
in the middle of a sentence,
at what I would later come to understand
(but still resent) as the second act–
to cut it off so abruptly
and, to my mind, artlessly,
when I would have sat there for another two hours
if it meant seeing my scoundrel rescued–

the single-digit childhood
of stories that ended
like they were supposed to
was over. Whatever was coming–
puberty, the internet, prequels–
I was ruined. I was ready.

Screen Shot 2020-07-25 at 12.21.09 PM

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