It was positively frigid as we stood outside the Randolph St. Cinema. One of those nights with air so cold and crisp that it nearly freezes the nostrils on it's path to the lungs. And when exhaled, the vapor appears to float in place, almost too heavy to lift into the night.
"I can't take too many more nights like this, Frank. This cold is wearing me down. It must be three weeks now that the mercury hasn't gone above freezing. I can't stand this much longer."
Frank didn't say a thing. He's a quiet guy and not much on small talk. "It's probably for the best," I thought. "On a night like this it's best to just keep quiet and try to stay warm."
I buried my hands deep into the pockets of my overcoat and stared into the night sky. Don't know what I expected to see, it's much too overcast for stars this time of year. Besides, it's impossible to see them from downtown anyway. Perhaps a distant plane will pass overhead with its little twinkling light. Maybe if I'm lucky a lonely stranger will take a flying leap from his eleventh story balcony. Someone down on their luck...someone who can't take this damn cold any longer. I lowered my head and tried to shake off such a morbid thought. The queue in front of us stretched on for a block and a half to the box office. Two hundred pairs of agitated feet shuffled about in a ragged dance.
"How long are they going to keep us waiting out here, Frank?" Frank shrugged and looked down at his feet.
"These doormen are real assholes! They know exactly how cold it is out here yet they won't open the theater. We've been waiting twenty minutes and the film is supposed to start in twenty-five. They might as well open the doors and let their customers find a seat. What the hell could possibly be the holdup? It's a damn good thing that this is a classic."
Frank pulled a flask from his left breast pocket and took a swig.
"There you go Frank, now you're thinkin'."
I reached inside my coat and did the same.
"Boy, that'll warm a guy up in a hurry. Nothin' like cheap whiskey on night like this."
I took another pull and put the booze back in my pocket. A man in disheveled clothes with mussed hair worked his way down the queue.
"Obviously a street bum," I thought. "The poor guy's barely got a coat and only one glove."
The sky was starting to spit snow now.
"Just what we need, more piles of this stuff. I swear Frank, if it continues like this we'll never manage to get around town. The snow we've already got has been here for weeks."
"Spare change, sir?"
"What? Oh... sorry guy, I can't spare anything tonight."
"God bless, sir."
I pull the flask from my coat.
"You wanna drink? It'll warm you up a bit."
"No thanks. I gave that up years ago."
The man shuffled on down the queue.
"I'll be damned Frank, you ever met a bum who wasn't a drunkard?"
Frank shot me a puzzled look.
"Sorry Frank, that was an ignorant thing to say. It must be the whiskey talking. I think I need another drink. I'm such a lush."
Finally, in the middle of a pull from my flask, the queue began to budge as the doors to the theater flung open. Slowly we made our way towards the box office. I could feel the heat coming from the lobby each time the doors opened.
"Two please. I got your ticket tonight Frank. Put your wallet away."
"I'm sorry sir, we only have one more seat available for tonight's show."
"What? You've got to be kidding me! We've been waiting here for nearly thirty minutes. There's no way this film is sold out... not tonight!" "I'm sorry sir, we have one more seat. This is a small theater and we've reached capacity."
"Who's going to buy a single seat? We're all lined up out here like Noah's Goddamned menagerie. It's all dates, married couples, and groups."
"I'll take a single," someone yelled from the back.
"Shut your mouth Jack, this doesn't concern you! All right, I'll take that last ticket. Sorry Frank, looks like you're out of luck tonight. I mean, this is the last night the film is in town and it's a classic. I can't miss this."
Frank shrugged and walked off into the night.
"Man, nothing bothers that guy," I thought. "I really wish he'd be a little more assertive sometimes. Heck, I probably would have hocked the ticket out here if he wanted. Not to that bastard that spoke up though. That guy deserves a boot in the pants."
"Please hurry sir," said the usher. "We'd like to start the film a bit early tonight seeing as there's more snow on the way and we're sold out." The usher led me to my seat.
"Great, an aisle, at least I can drape my coat over the armrest," I thought.
I took my seat just as the lights began to dim, pulled the flask from the pocket of my folded coat, and took one more swig as the opening credits flashed on the screen and I slunk deep into my plush velvet seat.