Coming straight up the aisle in sight of our seats, the feet shuffling to the side, I tried to move as gingerly as I could and put a handkerchief inside the sweatband of my hat to keep the perspiration out of my glasses. I expected the movie to start at any minute and I wanted to calm down so my heart would not be pounding. In watching live-action films there is no reason ever to miss the beginning if you have a good timepiece and can read it and know where to go, unless you are unsteady from a run to the bathroom or from a fog on your glasses, or you break them or run out of material to wipe them clean. But no such thing had taken place, and we were sitting in the recliners that manufacturers had built of pleather and in the middle of the row when we heard the music starting. At first it was quiet. Then it was building and we hoped it was the start of something. Then it grew slowly bigger, unmistakable now, louder and louder until, terrifyingly in a swell of huge noise it roared. My companion stood up dramatically.
“It is the previews,” he said.
I put my finger to my lips and motioned him down.
“It is the previews,” he said again and gestured to the hushed crowd. I had never liked him and I liked him less now.
“Too late” I whispered. He shook his head.
“No good,” he said. “I want popcorn.”
“Wait a little,” I told him. He bent his head down so that it would not show above the seats and we sat there in the dark of the theatre waiting for the movie to begin but only a trailer came. My companion was irritated and hungry.
A little before the last of the first trailer was over he whispered to me that it was now too late to get popcorn.
“Shut up, you,” I muttered.
My companion gave another demonstration of his irritation by miming eating popcorn with his hands and mouth. I watched without expression or with a hint of caring on my face. After a while he stopped. Finally I made a last signal to the screen and saw it was no use, it was only another trailer.
“Preview.” I said.
“Yes,” he agreed. “We go to the lobby?”
“Yes.” Everything was spoiled.
Now, having purchased our supplies, and going back along the dimly lit hallway of the theatre, small yellow lights peeking out of the posters that hung close on the wall until the swinging doors were on us and they opened with a soft swish; passing the throngs of late arrivers that all moved in to the theatre; me leading, the boots of my hunt on my feet, a flask of whisky under my arm, pouring the whisky into our large cups and passing it over my shoulder in the dark to my companion to pour into his soft drink, drinking them, and stepping over the bodies we passed in the dark, feeling the cool air conditioner of the theatre and smelling the good smell of popcorn, I was altogether happy again. This was the kind of popcorn that I liked. No lack of salt, the kernels well-popped instead of half-done. I was low in weight, had a great appetite for snacks, and could eat all I wanted without feeling stuffy. I wished I had purchased gummy worms as well, but a hush had fallen on the crowd, and it was clear the film was to begin.
Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba
Sithi uhm ingonyama
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama
Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala
Now, looking at the screen at images of the live-action movie I had longed for, and hearing the sounds of the singing on Dolby digital surround sound, I was as homesick for Africa as you are after you have been with a woman that you really love, when, empty, you feel it swelling inside you and there it is and you can never have have her again and yet what there is, now, you can have, and you want her more and more, as much as Scar wants to be king, to have, and watch, and marvel in, to own now again for always, for that drawn-out, quickly-ended forever.
Then there he was, thick-bodied, heavy-sided, regal looking, the hide of golden hair, proud with a shining mane, his tail long, fur tipped, and pointed, his large eyes wise. Mufasa. My companion looked at me and gasped. I agreed with him. This was a hell of an animal.
“By God, isn’t it a great looking movie?” I said.
“Splendid,” he said. “Who would have imagined it?”
“Jon Favreau,” I said.
“The Avengers man?”
“The same,” I said.
My companion grunted his approval.
I saw Mufasa lower his head and begin to run like a spurned horse as he tried to beat the stampede, as the wild game came upon him, slammed in to him and kept running, I knew they had him. I heard a low bellow. The long, sad keening sound of my companion as Simba screamed for his father. Everything was ruined.
I stopped and yelled at my companion, “Hear him? They’ve got him, I tell you!”
“They killed him,” he said.
“Yes. Goddamn it, they killed him. Didn’t you see the original animation?”
“No” he cried. His face was turning red.
“Shut up and watch!”
My companion grabbed my arm and I slapped his back heartily and crying and laughing at ourselves for crying, we sat back, sweating, in the recliners. I had to catch my breath, my heart pounding, and wipe the tears off my face and clean my glasses.
“This is a sight!” he said.
“Every lion’s life ends the same way," I said. "It is only the details of how Mufasa lived and how Mufasa died that distinguish him. Simba will be the same. That is the circle of life.”
I still disliked my companion, but there was a greater ease between us now having survived together this exhilaration together. The popcorn was good popcorn, the seats of fine quality, and I was altogether happy again.