The film was called “Could It Have Ended Any Better?” It was one of Sarah’s favorite movies when she was a teenager. It was a typical boy gets girl, boy loses girl, than after a tragedy, they find each other and fall in love all over again. A nice 50s romance starring Bertram Russell and Helene Scott, who were big stars of the time.
It wasn’t Roman Holiday, or An Affair to Remember, but Sarah loved it even more because it was a film she often used to escape her unstable home life. Bertram became her knight in shining armor, the man who rescued her from her violent home life. But it was a kind soul named Charlie that was her actual hero, the man she married at 17 and loved until the day he died.
The Monaco Theater became Sarah’s home away from home after Charlie passed away. She began going to the movies there at least once a week, it was a place that held some of her most cherished memories. It had been renovated many times over the years, but it still felt like the theater of her youth. When a developer wanted to tear it down, there was such an uproar that the city turned it into an historical landmark.
This month The Monaco was showing films from the decade of the fifties, and Sarah was thrilled to see that “Could It Have Ended Any Better?” was on the schedule. She hadn’t seen it in years, and was looking forward to revisiting the film that was chiefly responsible for her love of the cinema.
Before the movie began, Sarah saw an older gentleman walking in with a much younger woman. ‘Is that Jimmy Rollins?’ She asked herself. Sarah wondered if the person with him was his wife; she looked at least 30 years younger than him. But when the woman said, “I’ll be right back Dad, sit here while I get some popcorn.” Sarah was relieved, and excited to see the boy she had fallen in love with before Charlie.
Sarah walked over to where he sat. “Jimmy? Hi it’s me Sarah Teller.”
Jimmy looked up at her, he seemed confused at first, but then his eyes showed some recognition. “Sarah…” He said, and that smile she always loved spread across his face.
“Remember this theater?” Jimmy asked, his voice sounded a little shaky. Just then, Sarah heard an unfamiliar voice pipe up from behind.
“Hello, do you know my father?” The woman asked.
Sarah stood, “…Uh yes, I’m Sarah Teller. Your father and I grew up together. We saw many movies right here in this theater.”
“Hi nice to meet you, I’m Rachel, Jimmy’s daughter. He looks happy to see you, which is great. Dad hasn’t spoken a word in months…he has Alzheimer’s.” She shrugged.
Sarah gave Rachel a puzzled look, “He just spoke to me, I had no idea he was sick.”
Both women glanced down at Jimmy, and gone were the bright eyes and smile Sarah had just seen. His jaw was slack, and his eyes were very far away.
“That’s how it’s been lately. Sometimes I see the Dad I used to know, however, it’s been happening less and less these days. But of course he still loves movies…” Rachel paused. “I just can’t take him as often as I’d like.”
“What if I take him?” Sarah said. “I go at least once a week, and I would love the company.”
“He can be a handful, and he gets frustrated easily, I wouldn’t…” But Rachel’s voice trailed off, and Sarah could see that the she would love to have Sarah take Jimmy off of her hands for a few hours.
“It’s settled then, I’ll come by and get him next Friday, say noon?”
Rachel was thrilled, “That would be great.”
Sarah picked Jimmy up the following Friday, at noon sharp. He had that fuzzy look about him again, but was very compliant when getting into the car with Sarah, who to him was a complete stranger.
Sarah saw a bit of life when they pulled up to The Monaco, but it was gone so quickly that she wasn’t sure if she’d seen anything at all.
Sarah was quite sure Jimmy had spoken to her last week at the theater, and he sounded very much like the old Jimmy. But she thought her mind could’ve been playing tricks on her again; like after Charlie died, and Sarah would still see him some mornings in the kitchen, making coffee for her the way he always had.
The theater grew dark, and Sarah glanced at Jimmy as the title “Could it have ended any better” appeared on the screen. The small audience applauded, and this seem to snap Jimmy out of his fog. And once Bertram Russell and Helene Scott appeared, Jimmy suddenly began talking —just like the Jimmy of old.
“Remember we used to see this movie when we were kids. We would pretend to be Bertram and Helene. I always tried to sneak a kiss from you, but you never let me.” Jimmy looked at Sarah and said, “That Charlie was a lucky guy.”
“So was Anna.” Sarah replied. Jimmy’s wife had died two years before.
They watched and laughed and cried at all the same places they did when they were young. After the final credits rolled, Sarah and Jimmy left the theater, arm in arm.
He was still there, still aware of what was going on.
Sarah was about to start the car when Jimmy touched her arm and said, “I hope I always remember this day.” He flashed that beautiful smile.
Jimmy didn’t remember though. As soon as they hit the interstate, he was gone again, oblivious to the world outside passing him by.
But every time Sarah took him to The Monaco, Jimmy hoped he would always remember, and each time he didn’t, it broke Sarah’s heart.