NYC Midnight first heat

The cinema is our usual drop off point. Chunky red writing on a white background spells out “The Metropolitan Picture House”. Torn faded posters advertising Casablanca, Aliens and The Godfather. The smell of salt popcorn and lukewarm hot dogs. Stains on the foyer carpet from spilt drinks. It is the last independent cinema in town. I am early.
Satchels and bags are generally not allowed in cinemas these days due to fear of piracy from concealed cameras, however the Metropolitan’s policy of only showing classics meant that they are somewhat more lenient than the average multiplex. This fact combined with the privacy afforded by the twilight of the silver screen makes it the perfect place to stage The Drop. The weight of the holdall pulls against my shoulder reminding me of my mission I stand in the foyer eyeing the refreshments with hunger and suspicion before turning to look at list of screenings. The other reason I have for using the Metropolitan for The Drop is my love of film noir, and the Met is holding a retrospective.
One ticket purchase for Hitchcock’s Psycho later and I find myself at the back of the dark theatre. The stuffing is beginning to leak from the seat in places where angry teens had once stubbed illicit cigarettes out on the chair arm. The floor is tacky with gum. I place my holdall with its precious cargo at my feet and settle down. Chas is not going to arrive for a while.
On screen Janet Leigh’s character Marion Crane is stealing from her boss. The money is what Hitchcock would call a MacGuffin, a device that serves no purpose except to instigate the action. Marion Crane steals the money, goes on the run and falls victim to Norman Bates. Easy. The money plays no really part in what transpires.
About me: I work as a pharmacist, I have to prescribe a lot of anti-psychotic medication. I’ve never has a patient like Norman Bates though. Psycho despite being a master piece, has set public understanding of mental issues back somewhat.
These hot summer days mean that cinemas are largely devoid of other patrons, I have a row to myself and a clear view of the screen. The low hum from the projector underlies the soundtrack. Chas enters the cinema. Partially deaf, he wears fat headphones in order to take advantage of the cinema’s loop system. His chronic diabetes makes him fluctuate in weight. Right now his cheeks are so thin that he looks bug eyed and alien. When he’s not in hospital having various treatments he lives with his mother and she’d have a haemorrhage if she knew he was with me.
“Hey” I mouth and gesture him to my row.
He can only hear me if he moves is head uncomfortably close to mine. I’m not sure if the oversized hearing aid is a help or hindrance.
“You got the stuff right?” He asks looking at the holdall.
I tell him not to be hasty.
On screen Janet Leigh is undressing and getting into the shower. This is the moment that Norman Bates goes on the rampage with a knife wearing his dead mothers dress. The sound of the shower fills the cinema. Water drips over the unmoving body of Marion Crane. I realise Chas is holding the most gigantic bag of M&Ms in all the world.
“You know, you’ll die if you eat those now?” I say thinking about his diabetes and the contents of the holdall. He takes out his wallet and looks at the bag meaningfully “So give me the merchandise then” I begrudgingly agree and and shift the bag sideways with my foot
. “If anyone asked you found it”.
He slips me the cash in return and picks up a glass ampoule from the bag. It glints in the reflected light of the movie projector. It’s a new type of experimental insulin, not tested yet and taken orally. Maybe I’m a bad pharmacist but I tell myself I like to go the extra mile for my clients.
In the dark I can hear Chas sipping the insulin and cracking M&Ms between his teeth. On screen Bates murders another victim and Hitchcock has dispensed with the MacGuffin that started the story. Between mouthfuls of M&Ms, Chas asks me “So what’s with the cloak and dagger routine today anyway?”
“Well you know” I reply, “it’s the only real way to enjoy film noir”