This Must Be the Place

“Home is where I want to be, but I guess I’m already there…” David Byrne sings melancholic and sweet, but the theater is loud so we shout eagerly to drown ourselves out. “I come home, she lifted up her wings, I guess that this must be the place,” a ghastly old woman with white hair is dancing alone in front of the screen, illuminated by the projection. “I can’t tell one from another, did I find you or you find me?” David asks, and beside me, a couple in their late twenties is passionately making out. “There was a time before we were born if someone asks this is where I’ll be, where I’ll be,” and I’m reminded of where I am.

An art house theater in downtown Denver, at a midnight showing of Stop Making Sense, watching David Byrne dance with a lamp. And I am alone. I find myself here often, more often than anywhere else in the world. Not this particular place and not this particular showing, but I’m always at some theater, and almost always by myself. I never put much thought into it, but watching Byrne shake his limbs loose and shout at the mic (like how I perform for an imaginary audience whenever I’m home alone) in the movie theater that night, I realized that films have allowed me to accept my loneliness and even embrace the circumstances that led to it.

 

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David Byrne in Stop Making Sense (1984)

 

My mom could never stay in one place. She was always running away from something, always running toward something, always running in circles with me in the backseat watching trees hide the moon. My home was a faceless apartment laid with cardboard boxes and smoke-bloated carpets, and my school was someone who didn’t know my name. Whenever I could make friends, I knew it to be temporary and so eventually lost touch with the idea. I spent so much time alone that I would converse with different personas of myself, explored the woods with friends that didn’t exist, and found an empathic connection so strong to characters in movies, I could place myself in their worlds entirely. So these fantasies saved me from despair in the face of isolation, and anytime my life seemed hopelessly idle, I’d find myself assuming a new one. It may have been a form of escapism, but it was the only friend I knew how to keep. The only home I knew how to keep.

So when I saw David – dancing with his lamp like they were the only two entities amidst the darkness around them, clutching the light to his chest like a lover – I saw myself. I saw his dance with the lamp as my marriage to the theater, his band as the various attendees at the screening, dancing and kissing and singing. The beautiful grain of the film as the hazed memories of an old friend. I saw what I thought I’d been missing this whole time and for the first time, I realized it was all around me. For the first time, I felt that this must be the place.

Despite my extra intimate relationship to the theater, I believe everyone can find solace there. When my dad and his second wife almost divorced, he disappeared for a week before picking me up out of nowhere to take me to the midnight premiere of Mad Max: Fury Road. There is the iconic scene where Furiosa kneels in the dunes and cries to the wind, having just found out their safe haven was nonexistent. My dad turns to me and mutters, “this is what it feels like,” and starts to laugh. The man who ran away from home and hadn’t slept in days, utterly devastated, found some small warmth in the movie theater that night. So whether you’re going through a personal crisis and need a distraction, or you’re just feeling lonely and anxious do something, I encourage you to go out to the movies – and forget your friends one of these times; you need space to explore your identity.

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