“Polly the Popcorn Girl” we used to call her. Even though her name was Rachel. She was a romantic who’d worked at the Astor ever since she was a teenager. She loved films and would talk about her script writing and her dreams of making movies. I’m like Tarantino, she used to say, only he worked in a video store and I’m selling popcorn in an art-house cinema. And, as I reminded her once, he’s big into violence and you’re all about love. She was always at the De Beauvoir Club on Fourth and Taylor on the last Thursday of every month. That’s when they had the open mike. She’d get up among the poets and short story writers and read out snippets from her film scripts. Acting out all the voices. Though mostly it’d just be two. A man and a woman. Or woman and a woman. Even a man and a man. Intense. Gritty. Passionate. Heartfelt. She said you never know. There might be an agent in the room. Someone from Hollywood. I went to listen a few times. More Herzog than Spielberg I thought. Not surprising, given she had such a big thing for European cinema. So it was ironic that Wim Wenders’ ‘The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty’ was showing that week. That last night it was a double-bill with ‘Wings of Desire’. You know the one. Colombo with angels and no raincoat. Polly worked the late shift. It’s funny thinking back.
No one had seen him before. Or knew where he’d come from. But we all noticed, without saying, that he gave us the creeps. Waiting in the corridor while we cleaned the cinema. Always with a big box of popcorn. He watched that goalkeeper movie every night. Sitting in the back row. Wrapped around in his huge coat. Afterwards we all said how spooky he was. That weird guy in the trench-coat. Like art imitating life, or whatever the cliché is. I was in the ticket booth that week so I didn’t see the film. But naturally I was curious. A couple of days later I got it out on DVD and I saw what they meant. The goalkeeper losing his touch, his confidence, his direction in life. Then going to the cinema in a strange town and killing the usherette. For no reason. How crazy. And it would’ve been just like Polly to walk to the bus stop with him. She was so kind and trusting. And she probably felt sorry for him. What with him being alone and a stranger to town. And I reckon she would’ve talked to him about her latest scripts and ideas for films. They found her hat down by the river. She always wore that hat. That’s all they’ve found so far. We all got interviewed. And we all gave descriptions of the stranger in the coat. That’s all there was. Descriptions. What we’d seen. Our own bits of the story. And what we knew about Polly.