Cass, the cineaste
Cass met me during a calm period in my life. Settled into a lecturer’s position at the city college, I was still drinking, but not excessively. Writing more consistently. Feeling stable. Cass, who’d experienced a wild life trajectory as well (travel, addiction, success, burnout, rehab, repeat) was going through a similar phase.
On our first night out, when it wasn’t clear whether or not it was a date, she summed up our matching mindstates rather nicely. “After realizing I had to keep getting further out on a limb to affect on my happiness, I decided it was just easier to keep it cool.”
“Yeah, I agree, but in my experience, you eventually snap out of it and chase the remnants of your youth harder than ever.”
She smiled. “Yeah, maybe.”
The best word to describe our relationship was cozy. We often cooked meals, either in my modest studio, or hers. Occasionally we ventured out to my favorite dive bar for aging hipsters, but more often than not, we headed towards the local independent video store, for a quiet night in.
Our tastes were complimentary, but not aligned. I trended more towards the realism of Peckinpah and verité docs. Cass liked loosely executed melodramas with touches of magic, introducing me to new Asian masters like Hirokazu Kore-Eda and Kiyoshi Kurosawa. We overlapped on old Woody Allen films, Errol Morris and the French New Wave. Our trips to that finely stocked store always featured spirited debate, which, while it occasionally got personal, was always a pleasure.
“I have no patience for cartoons,” I said, one time.
“It’s not for kids, Knox. It’s based on a graphic novel, and it won the grand jury prize at Cannes.”
“Yeah, but I read that was an off year. What happened to the I-pick-but-you-can-veto deal?”
“I vetoed all your picks. I’m sorry, but I’m in no mood for Frederick fucking Wiseman. If I was, I’d go home and watch PBS. Can’t we see something with a little more heart?”
I think we eventually settled on an older Almovodar film, which, once I got into it, I’ll admit to liking a lot.
Our relationship only lasted a year and change. I guess it was my fault. I knew Cass felt like her clock was ticking and that she wanted to step on the gas, while I was content with the happy plateau we’d reached by a few months in. Maybe I should have moved in. I don’t know.
I would have started going to a different video store, but ours was the only one left within a couple miles, so I continued bumping into Cass every couple of weeks. Once, maybe three months after we split, we found each other on a Saturday night, each looking for a film to watch by ourselves. Or, if we’re being honest, maybe we were looking for each other. After a couple drinks at our local dive, we wound up back her house, watching Cléo from 5 to 7 (her pick).
Later in the year, I’d bump into her at the video store with my new girlfriend, one of my students, who would happily watch/misinterpret whatever I wanted to see. Around the same time, Cass found herself with a guy called Dave, a manager at a local restaurant, who, despite his outwardly alternative appearance, seemed to have decidedly middle of the road tastes in film.
One night, I bumped into them as they were leaving the store, made a little small talk with them and asked what they were renting.
“Umm, the new Ben Stiller movie,” Cass said, giving a what-can-you-do shrug.
“Oh,” I said, feeling a little bit sad for everyone. From thereon out, I resolved to use netflix.
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