Is This Our First Last Good-bye?

Is This Our First Last Good-bye?
Charlotte Magazine, May 2020

The closing of the Manor Theatre crushes. A business that’s been in the same spot for 73 years, a millennium in Charlotte time, is gone. An art house theater that supported local filmmakers, that took a chance on quirky movies that usually don’t escape bigger cities, has closed for good.

Could this be our first last goodbye? Is this the first in a series of COVID-related closings of places we can’t imagine Charlotte without? We read foreboding predictions about the fate of small businesses, and it’s impossible not to think about our favorite Charlotte shops, restaurants, theaters. At a time when we want nothing more than to be together again, how many of these places will we have to return to? How many will survive partial re-openings and lower demand? We’re still in a disorienting limbo: We don’t know whether reopenings will initiate a gradual welcome back to our old lives or reveal themselves as the opening days of a dreaded, dreadful alternate reality. What if, as Conan O’Brien posited in a recent tweet, these are the good old days?

Of course, a pandemic causes far greater grief and fear, and losing a movie theater hardly registers on the scale of loss these days. But we can’t deny our hundred little griefs and sadnesses; they’ll show up, somehow, whether we invite them or fight them off. We miss our friends and family. We miss our places. We miss our old normal.

During a recent virtual happy hour with friends, our conversation turned to the things we look forward to, a wistful subject that often follows the second drink. One friend said he can’t wait to hear, “Do you want me to start a tab for you?” For me, it’s, “You want butter on your popcorn?” (And yes, I do.)

I love a night in a movie theater. To sit in a big room of people who laugh at the same jokes together. To sniffle (or all-out cry) beside strangers. There we are, in the same room and going nowhere, but after a couple of hours, we leave feeling like we’ve been somewhere together. Who doesn’t feel more warmly toward the people in the theater when you walk out, versus when you walked in?

Read entire essay on Charlotte Magazine’s website.