We were the new crop of seniors at an all-boys high school in Baton Rouge. Our predecessors had just graduated and now the world belonged to us: the class of 1981. We had already done a lot of things that proved (to us) how grown up we really were. We got into fistfights. We drank beer on the weekends. We chewed or smoked tobacco ... or that other illegal substance that you could buy under the bleachers if you had an extra 40 bucks.
So, the night when I decided to go see "The Shining" with the five other guys whom I'd spent a lifetime trying to prove I was a man ... well, it seemed like just another cool, fun, awesome, thing to do. Besides, we were meeting up with the girls just as soon as it was over.
Earlier that year, we had snuck into the only porno theater in town and watched a double feature of "Deep Throat" and "The Devil in Mrs. Jones," so what could a scary Hollywood movie starring the dude from "Cuckoo's Nest" and Olive Oyl possibly do to us?
When we got to the theater, we proudly showed our fake IDs and bought our tickets. I was the youngest in our group, only 16, but the cashier took my money just like all the clerks at Pack-a-Sack did when I put half a case of beer on the counter. Yep, I was just that grown up.
We walked in, took our seats and waited for the film to start. I was seated on the aisle. Next to me was Steven, then Brown, Raymond, John Chandler and Frank Paul. The six of us had been through a lot together and were the kind of friends you think you'll have forever when you're 16.
I think it was when the beautiful naked woman in the bathtub turned into an old blister-and-boil-covered hag that I first started feeling a bit uneasy. But what could I do? My boys were all kicked back, enjoying the show. Hell, Brown had his feet up on the chair in front of him, and Raymond was tossing his popcorn up in the air and catching it in his mouth.
As the movie went on and the terrifying soundtrack blared and Jack Nicholson began to lose his mind ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"), I started losing mine right along with him. I finally turned to Steven and whispered urgently, "If you'll leave with me, I'll go! Right now!"
"Yeah, this shit is pretty scary," he said and laughed, assuming I was just fooling around.
Two minutes later, Crazy Jack was taking an axe to the bathroom door ("Here's Johnny!"), and that's when I stood up and said, "I'm gonna get some popcorn. Anyone need anything?"
I didn't wait to hear their answers. I was up the aisle and into the lobby faster than the "redrum" kid riding his Big Wheel through the halls of the Overlook Hotel. When I finally calmed down and caught my breath, I realized I was about to become the laughing stock of all my friends. So, I bought a small popcorn and waited, peeking every once in a while through the theater doors until the end credits started rolling, which was my cue to sneak back inside and sit down two rows behind the guys.
When the lights came up, nobody said anything to me, so I figured they were all none the wiser about how scared to death I had been. A few minutes later, we met up with all the pretty girls in the parking lot at McDonald's, which was when Brown blurted out, "It was so scary that Mese had to run outta the theater!" The girls all turned to look at me.
"I wasn't scared. I just went out to get some popcorn," I pleaded my case to them ... and I've been trying to plead it ever since.