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You know what it is? It's St. Elmo's Fire

Lightning raced across the sky as I stood inside my childhood home, the newspaper spread out before me, my finger lightly touching the tiny, inky squares that held the movie showtimes for a cinema that was 30 minutes away.
Thunder clapped loudly as the storm brewed outside, and I stared at the title that I had waited for so long to see. My parents were on a bus trip, my dad being one half of our local motor coach line at that time, and my sister and I had been left at home to fend for ourselves.
Dad drove many long-distance tours, and Mom had gone out to meet and join him for the rest of the trip. It was easy summer, golden, and the empty house stood gloriously silent, save for my deliberating. The only vehicle sitting in the garage was Dad’s beat-up truck, orange and cream-colored in all her rusty need-a-muffler glory. Would she make it to Wooster? I could feel the lights going down in the theater, my body absorbing the unnecessary space unoccupied beside me, and I grabbed the keys and headed out the door. I needed only myself.
The sky was streaked meanly with storm clouds, a bit of bright sun peaking through as I wound my way up those rural backroads. The old radio blared music that I chose, coloring the warm grasses as they swayed in the fields, the thrill of having a solo adventure thrumming inside me.
The steering wheel was huge, and the truck grumbled along, growling fiercely, and I glided into town in one piece. I parked her just down the street from the theater, and gathering myself, walked up the sidewalk secure in my Bass sandals.
We all need a moment when no one knows where we are. It’s essential to knowing what’s written on the inside of our eyelids, tattooed inside us like the unique pattern of our fingerprints. To decide to be alone inside your skin, doing something that most deem couple-worthy, was a big deal to me as a 16-year old.
In high school you do as others do, or at least in theory. Right or wrong, herd mentality goes a long way to fitting in, even though I had many different thoughts and ideas, ones not reflected in crowd form. I grimace when I remember, myself an open book who only wanted to fit my square self into a round peg.
My love for reading and books and gritty metal music, voluptuous lines of poetry and my absolute love of all things cinema, this was who I was. There were moments when who I would be radiated pinpricks of light, faintly, but I first needed to slog my way through what I thought held me back. My unorthodox self, well, she simmered just below the surface awaiting her time.
As I entered the theater and bought my ticket, summer of 1985 careening around me, the lights flickered as the storm broke loose outside. The electricity held, and I sat alone, yet surrounded, in a theater full of others seeking release, the interior like a womb cushioning me yet propelling me forward.
Singular silence and chosen solitude, a breaking away of norms, a needing to know that my innate power as a woman didn’t need someone else to bolster it. I could and would do things on my own. And it was good. This small moment from my past held the key to my future: that I should know choosing myself and what I wanted was imperative to accomplishing my goals. It’s giant in my memories.
To this day I spend many days shopping alone, taking in movies alone and dining alone. It’s a powerful thing choosing solitude, especially when the world tells you it’s strange. And while I have a partner, my husband of many years, we both anticipate the days we plan separate things, choosing our distinct preferences and tastes in lieu of every moment spent together.
I gather strength from being alone, from remembering who I am instead of who I am inside of a couple. I learned it long ago inside a darkened theater, where I met myself, choosing her in all her unformed glory, in front of the big screen.

Published: April 12, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180419974