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A Place Where Heartbreak Feels Good

A Place Where Heartbreak Feels Good

“Oppenheimer” was the first Christopher Nolan movie released since Cam and I broke up, and my interest in seeing it was neutral. I watched my friends go in twos and threes, reporting back good, bad and boring experiences. With peer pressure mounting, I decided that my seeing “Oppenheimer” hinged on Cam’s opinion. In the meantime, I saw “Barbie,” “Theater Camp” and “Barbie” again.

Beginning on “Barbenheimer” weekend, I started checking Cam’s Letterboxd. I watched as he logged “Barbie” (four-and-a-half stars out of five), “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” (two stars), and “Talk to Me” (three-and-a-half stars). I read his reviews and felt comforted. On his page, I experienced a tablespoon of time travel — Cam and I may not exist together presently, but the relationship we shared will never disappear.

Cam finally saw “Oppenheimer” almost a month after its release. He drove six hours, crossing state lines, because he wanted the perfect theater (IMAX), format (70 mm) and seat (H8). His patience for what he cared about deeply was immense. Cam rated “Oppenheimer” three stars, “technically incredible, but mostly hollow.”

It was decided: I would not see it.

Falling in love is all about seeing how good something can be. And with Cam, I learned how to go to the movies: a large popcorn is nonnegotiable, the significance of a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine is exponential, and if there’s an option to see something in a recliner, you take it. Under Cam’s influence, my treatment of the movies transformed from pastime to worship.

As the curtains closed on our honeymoon phase, Cam’s particular preferences became a litmus test for our relationship. A few years in, I found them grating and was desperate for variation. I wanted to go to the small, independent theaters nearby — try new restaurants, make a date night of it. Instead, it was AMC Burbank, always AMC Burbank.

When “Dunkirk” came out, Cam insisted on seeing it in IMAX. I had no interest in war movies, but I was his perpetual plus one. The theater’s steep stadium seating made me feel nauseated. All I remember about “Dunkirk” is feeling so, so cold. And worrying that if I tried to get up and leave, I might topple into the abyss.

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