Cinema and Chewing Air

In his forties or fifties. Favourite colour: khaki. Favourite clothing item: flat cap. Favourite thing to do: being loud.

The man is annoying. I run into him a lot. Even for movies like The Longest Ride and How to Be Single. But nobody who comes to the cinema ever shushes him, because of one reason.

The man would be there a lot earlier than when the movie starts. When I walk in, I could often see him already frequently re-spreading his body in the chair in different ways, and commentating the commercials. He’s always seated in the row with the most people.

Sometimes, when I’m early enough, I’d see him get up, as if remembering something, and come back with a family-sized box of popcorn.


But the first time I ever went to that cinema, I was a bit late. Luckily the commercials were still playing.

A minute into a Coca Cola ad, I realized that I was not having the best luck- my neighbor was a coarse voice, “Hmmm” “Ha, Coca Cola” and “More commercials…”.  When I looked, it turned out that my neighbor was the perfect curve of a protruding belly. The curve puckered into layers when the body re-arranged its distribution on the chair.

My neighbour was going to be the type that talks the entire movie, and points everything out to the person that came with him, I surmised.

The lights went off. I could hear him but no longer see him, so I filled in the visuals with imagination, – and some common sense, I thought.

The movie started, and he kept leaning forward and throwing himself back on the chair, which made squeaking sounds. He would munch popcorn at constant intervals, and swallow really hard. Then comes the worst part of his routine of sounds: a chewing noise. Chewing air. I could hear all the moist flesh in his mouth, from his tongue to his throat, like pink ripples. I imagined that the huge box of popcorn must be sitting between him and his wife (or some other family member).

The movie was about Tarzan.

“All I need is a name,” a character said. “Tarzan,” he said eagerly, making sure he says it before the movie does, and making sure everyone hears it. Then he took the popcorn from his wife and poured the last crumbs down his mouth, shaking the box.

Tarzan’s wife was searching for Tarzan. “Where’s my monkey man?” he said in a high-pitched voice, thinking that he’s funny and that whoever came with him was probably impressed and chuckling in the dark.

Throughout the movie he made that air-chewing sound. He probably felt very at home and very cool in front of his company. I didn’t dare to shush him because I thought he would yell at me to impress his family.


The movie ended. The lights came on.

I finally saw him. He stood up, in a khaki shirt and a flat cap. I decided I would never shush him, because I saw him walk down the steps. He was all alone.

There are people who do things that we deem obnoxious and forbidden by the conventional standards, but even the most annoying personas in our lives have their back stories. They are not rockets sent into motion just because they lit on fire, but because something fuelled that- something like regret, or loneliness.






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