I’ve seen this movie fifty-nine times, but that’s not why it knows me. It’s set in a country that’s not my own, at a time I can only imagine. Mysterious things happen to families unlike families I know—still mysterious on a sixtieth viewing, though I know everything that will happen, and when, and every line. I am a girl separated from her family by war, a refugee adopted by strangers also fleeing. We live a life of hiding and crossings at night. I am a child with a blunt haircut and sorrowful, shining eyes, uprooted and robbed of her childhood and home, whose only offense is that she loves her new family better. I hope that my real parents and my whining little sister never find me. The movie watches me. It wonders if I wish them dead. It gets to know me better. The shimmering screen casts its broad glow out into the murky theater, looking for someone with empty seats to his left and his right and sees us for who we are, and shows us whatever we see. The actors are all amateurs. They act like anybody you might know, and stumble through their scenes hoping the script will save them, but the movie is a pro. It always triumphs in the end, but sometimes the ending comes early. When mother makes the soup tonight, in a can on an open flame, I know there will be nothing but onions in the broth, the hardest-working onions ever pulled from the earth, pale slivers to carry all the love I’ve lost. Tonight they make me weep. I get up and stumble toward the exit sign. There’s no war here in the colorful hallways of the multiplex, but there are refugees. Maybe it’s time to go home.
Copyright © August 31, 2007 David Hodges