At the time, I could come up with no good reason to order a large popcorn instead of the medium or the small, especially since I had whisked myself solo to watch Roman reputation be torn asunder cinematically for the second time this weekend. Who was I fooling? I had even less business seeing “Pompeii” than I did ordering popcorn to satisfy my inner FB - if you don’t know what that stands for in this case, it’s safer you not know it applies to me.
The woman behind the counter must have known. Maybe she saw my desire, my instant recollection of the downtown Phoenix AMC’s version of butter from my gluttony with it during “300: Rise of the Empire” a few days back. Now, I asking if the butter was self-serve, as if I didn't know. She said yes.
“Would you like me to dump half of it out so that you can butter it through?” she added.
I nodded, embarrassed about my transparency, and then had the nerve to be sparing in my application—twice.
By the end of the 98-minute festive disaster flick, I took the half of the bag of popcorn that I did not (and knew I wouldn't) eat, gathered it by its neck and sauntered the five blocks back to the hotel.
Downtown Phoenix is quiet at night. It's lonely, save a light wind with no particular destination, nor hurry to get there. Lovely buildings, unblemished pavement. And absolutely nobody on the streets. This night, I saw not even a random homeless person, odd since there was no abusive weather to hide from.
Then one particular homeless man in a wheelchair made me understand the rulings of my gut.
He had a long, clear face framed by gray hair that looked less matted than simply age appropriate.
“Do you happen to have any change?” he asked.
There was a casual tone, nothing ominous, desperate, or duplicitous in it. He did not appear high, drunk or mad at the world for his circumstances. The whites of his eyes showed none of the dramatic hope I had just witnessed in “Pompeii,” but they lacked expectation.
“I don’t,” I said. “But I do have half a bag of popcorn.” I grabbed one last handful of popcorn and then extended the bag to him, knowing absolutely he would take it. “It’s good.”
“Thank you sir.”
I understood in that moment why I ordered the large popcorn, and it relieved me to have listened to the divine instruction instead of shooing it as bad judgment. Turns out, it was not mine to make. God had plans, and I was the executive vessel.
I know, it's crazy, but go with me on this one for a minute. The payoff is often invisible: the times that the car doesn’t hit you when it could have, or when the brown recluse is diverted elsewhere, or when the cancer you never had the displeasure of knowing about dies first. Surely, these are balances for our right-doings. I am thankful every day for the thousands of times my life, my career, my loved ones are spared.
But rarer is the instant gratification in understanding my compliance with God’s good will had tangible, visible effect: this time a homeless man in a vacant downtown connected with the one passer-by who had food. Yes, he asked for money, but I'm sure it's because he didn't know I had food; Lord knows there is almost nothing open in downtown Phoenix after ten that he could have used the change for.
Other than perhaps popcorn at the movie theater.
The rest of my walk was slower, more relaxed even. And now it was okay for me to admit my appetite for disaster[ous] flicks.
And [fake]buttered popcorn.