The Gentle Folk

By Joel Netsky

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I was working in a movie theater as an usher. To the uninitiated, who think that the main vocation of an usher is to keep order – probably as a carry-over from going to movies as a kid – their primary duty is cleaning up: the theaters after the movie, restrooms during the movies, the lobby of fallen popcorn and wrappers.  With my foot I was holding a theater door open as patrons were exiting after a show, my two hands holding wide the mouth of a plastic trashbag for them to deposit their refuse, if they hadn’t already on the floor.  Out of the aether she from the lobby side emerged and asked if she could put a wrapper in


She did so, and departed.  There are people, I guess like in anything, who take a hankering to a thing for a while, thoroughly enthuse over it for that time, then have their interests take them elsewhere.  Going to movies at theaters was for her in this period of her mortality a way of coping.  In the next few weeks I would see her any number of times in the theater lobby waiting for the evening show to begin.  Invariably she would be sitting on the long couch which extended the length of the side wall, studying the playbill of present and upcoming movies.  Weekdays, especially in winter, slow to a trudge, and individual countenances remain in the memory.  Once or twice had I tried conversation, inquiring about a film; always, though polite, she demurred.

Twice or thrice I saw her in the neighborhood; not once did either acknowledge – the last time she was sitting in a bookstore, reading, distress having seized her features.

An elapse of seasons crossed the heavens.  I was walking on the sidewalk when towards me she approached.  The crispness of late autumn with its clarity of air, the broom of brisk winds having swept away the residual dust, presented her to me as the unicum of a face in a portrait.  She looked well – her appearance almost was as if she had been freshly scrubbed.  Should I say hello?  Yet instead of passing me as a pedestrian, she came up to me as a friend, and said:

We are of the Gentle Folk:

We attach no agenda to our yoke.

As a matter of fact our shoulders are free

To live a life of liberty.

As much as they intimidate

And think that all are filled with hate,

We but remove them from our sight

And live a life of pure delight.

– Joel Netsky