I woke up Thursday morning in a sweat. “This is it,” I thought. My day of reckoning had finally come. Forget finals. Forget going home to California the next day. Today was the day I’d finally see the new Star Wars. It had been three years. Three years that I’d felt this gnawing sensation at the corner of my brain and today it’d finally be alleviated.
At this point, I don’t think I’d use the word “excited” to describe how I felt. I was a mixture of terrified and twitchingly anxious. My head was pulsating throughout the day. I went to the library to study for a final I had Friday morning. Even though I dragged myself across campus to O’Neill, I realized that I couldn’t possibly stare at a page of romantic poetry. It was only 2 p.m. and I was already looking at transit times for my group’s ride out to the Braintree AMC. Google Maps said it would take an hour or more to get there. “Worth it,” I tried to reassure myself. But would an Uber driver agree? I wasn’t so sure anymore. I abandoned the library to go back to my room after I watched the Comic-Con “Behind-the-Scenes” clip for the second time. I wasn’t going to be productive no matter how hard I tried.
Upon seeing my roommate, I knew we were going through practically the same feelings. We were blank slates: Stunned and stupefied by the realization that we weren’t talking about the day we WOULD see The Force Awakens. We weren’t speculating anymore. We weren’t reading anything online—that was dangerous territory. Any man aimlessly hurtling through the Internet was doomed.
I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. I wasn’t really even thinking about the movie. Every once in a while I would check the time to make sure we didn’t need to leave, but besides that I was a certified pile of mush for about three hours.
I began gathering my squad. My roommate and dear friend Patrick was already prepped and ready, probably just as anxious and invested as I was. John, Patrick’s friend from Ohio had flown out that morning on a free flight to join us. I hadn’t met him, but his beard suggested he could pull his weight on the journey. Then there was the one and only Juan. Juan knew what he was getting into—he knew better than to be as anxious as Patrick and I. Brian, the lovable and uncritical moviegoer, was just along for the ride. And finally, there was Sarah. She wasn’t going for the movie. She was in it to see our faces. We thought the motivation was strange, but I few hours later, I understood what she meant.
We assembled at about 5—two hours to showtime. More than enough time to get there, right? Wrong. It had started raining and Uber wasn’t working. Why the hell does it get dark so quickly in Boston? This was all too ominous for me. I’m not a superstitious man—at least not until there’s a reason to be. This wasn’t working out how I wanted it to. Three Uber drivers had dropped my request after they’d found out I wanted to go to Braintree, Mass. It’d be about an hour and 15 minutes of a drive. I’d lost hope. I couldn’t think of a way out to Braintree that’d be quick enough. I almost gave up.
Then Marc came into my life. Much like Han and Luke swooping into certain death to save Leia, Marc flew onto College Rd. in his Ford Explorer to save the day. “Braintree?” he asked, “Hell, I live 10 minutes from that theater. Hop in!” We were saved. Or at least I was saved. I think four members of our crew would’ve survived, but Patrick and I would’ve fallen into a deep depression for a few hours if we hadn’t made it. I snagged shotgun so I could stretch my legs out, Marc offered me the aux cord, and we blasted off into the night.
The car ride was extraordinary and necessarily long. I say necessarily long because I still needed to process some things. I needed to recover from the blank slate my mind had been all day. I listened to my friends who had never met each other ask the usual “get to know you” questions: If you were on death row, what would your last meal be? Do you think Jar Jar was really supposed to be a Sith Lord? You know, those types of questions. It was pleasantly sobering. I found myself in one of those moments in life where I was just ecstatic to be with the people I was with. Each of them meant something different and incredible to me, even John and Marc, who I’d just started to figure out. I played a few of my favorite tunes and I realized we’d make the movie—that I’d be seeing Episode VII in a half hour.
“Uh-oh, we’ve gotta jump out of hyperspace,” Marc said as he realized he almost missed the exit. I died right then. I don’t think I’d snort-laughed in years, but there I was clutching my gut from the pain Marc had induced. We pulled up to the theater. “Here, text me when the movie’s over. You won’t find an Uber XL anywhere after it.” Marc handed me his card. I hugged him. He understood. He was a stand-up man.
I saw them—my people. They were confined to massive lines, but their spirits weren’t. It had been a long time since I’d been around a band of Star Wars fans. I’d forgotten how lovely they are. Harmless. Intelligent. Loving.
I spend a lot of time mulling over my obsession with Star Wars. Why do I love it so much? Why does it continue to clutch my spirit at 20 years old? I’d forgotten that the fans are a big part of it. We are the life of this franchise. We are what keep the cogs moving.
I hesitated for a long moment before I walked into auditorium two. I stared at the little banner hanging over the entrance. “This is it,” I thought. “I’m standing at the precipice, staring at fate.” It was time. I took in a deep breath and plunged across the threshold.
If you ever get the chance, try going to theaters with the luxury seats. My god, that is the way to watch a movie. I was in the second row—no complaints whatsoever. I had my tub of popcorn, my wookie jacket, and my band of thieves and scoundrels besides me.
Previews went by. Is that Independence Day 2? Jesus, sequels are ruining Hollywood (get it?). I didn’t hear a word of them. I couldn’t. My head was pounding voraciously. It hurt a bit, actually. My anxiety was getting to me. This needed to end now.
Lucasfilm. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars. The rest is history.
It’s hard to describe what I felt going through this movie. To start, I had held it up to unfathomable expectations. There is a great quote by the director’s wife. “It’s a great film,” she said, “but it won’t cure cancer. It won’t stop world hunger or anything, but it’s an incredible film.” When I heard that I realized what I’d done and how unfair I was. Hearing Mrs. Abrams say that brought me back down to the level I needed to be at to see The Force Awakens.
And she’s right. It is an incredible film. It recaptured the love that was put into the original trilogy. It’s not exactly like those movies. In fact, it’s very different tonally. Seeing the original cast again is much stranger than I thought it could be, but it was beautiful. They’re necessary. They needed to usher in this new crew of brilliant actors and characters. If you’re a Star Wars fan, The Force Awakens will not disappoint you. It will be something entirely different than you can possibly imagine, but you will love it because it was given so much love.
This is what I told Marc as he drove us back to Boston College. Most of my friends were asleep in the back. Two of them were whispering so that Marc couldn’t hear them. Marc was a big fan of the series growing up. He couldn’t wait to take his 5-year-old daughter to The Force Awakens the next day. After I finished my existential rant, Marc glanced over at me. “Good,” he said, almost a little choked up. “I needed to hear that from a large, hairy, 20-year-old in a Chewbacca jacket.”
Featured Image by Disney/Lucasfilm / AP Exchange