In retrospect, choosing Bruce Willis’ Striking Distance for movie night was bad enough. But opting for the midnight showing at Cinema Showcase 12? Native Memphians can attest that demonstrates a complete lack of common sense in the decision-making process.
The movie really packed the house that night. There were approximately five people in the audience, so it was fairly noticeable to everybody when three rather large black gentlemen sauntered into the theater about 20 minutes after the movie had started. “Why bother?” I thought to myself, but those were words I certainly was not going to utter out loud.
“I bet they’re gang members,” my friend Brian whispered to me. “Why do you say that?” I asked, my curiosity piqued. “Did you see the way they walked in?” Brian, resident expert of gang activity, asked. He continued, “One of the guys, most likely the gang leader, was walking in front, and the other two guys were walking behind him. They’re probably his bodyguards. That’s the way gangs work.”
I was 18 at the time and had just recently graduated from high school. Considering the fact that I didn’t grow up around any gangs and wasn’t familiar with gang tradition, I had no way of knowing if Brian’s assumptions were legitimate, but something did seem strange. The one that Brian identified as the leader sat in a row by himself, and the other two guys sat in the row directly behind him. Maybe Brian wasn’t just making stuff up.
About five minutes later a girl stormed into the theater and marched straight to the leader. She walked with a purpose and more than just a little attitude. The two argued for a couple of minutes, and it was quite the distraction, but no one in the audience seemed overly eager to tell them to shut up. All I could really hear from the argument is the girl’s demands that the guy give her the car keys. He refused, and, much to my surprise, she started hammering him with all the gusto her little fists could muster. She just stood there repeatedly punching him in the head. I sat in shocked disbelief, thinking to myself, “Holy cow. They ARE in a gang and GUNS WILL BE PULLED AT ANY MINUTE!”
Apparently the guy was tired of offering his head as a punching bag, so he stood up, grabbed the girl by the throat, carried her all the way to the exit of the theater, slammed her against the door, and exited. Meanwhile, I cowered in my seat and placed my hand in my pocket where it rested comfortably on my pocketknife “just in case.” Brian, to the best of my recollection, was curled up in a fetal position sucking his thumb.
A couple of minutes passed before the two other guys showed any reaction. They finally arose from their seats and slowly walked toward the exit. One of them shook his head and exclaimed, “Here we go again.” They never returned.
Brian and I discussed the prospect of going outside to see if everything was all right, but before we could make our move, somebody was goaded by his wife to check on the situation. His deep sigh and slow gait towards the exit indicated his involvement was not of his own volition, and my theory is he simply stepped outside the door for a couple of minutes and then came back as quickly as possible.
After the movie was over, I said a quick prayer on the way to my car. I had the slight fear that the guys might be hanging around to “get rid of the witnesses.” Thankfully, they were nowhere in sight, and I made it safely to the comfort of my home that night.
I don’t know what became of those suspected gang members or the girl. I like to think that they turned their lives around, got college degrees, and are now positive contributors to society. Mostly, I’m just thankful that I made it through that incident alive because let’s be honest – no one would want his last minutes on earth to be spent at a midnight showing of Striking Distance.