Dispatches from Home: Titanic 25 Years Later February 2023   

Twenty-five years ago, it was a windy, cold afternoon. I stood in a long line at the picture show with a massive crowd of strangers. After purchasing my ticket, I found my way to my favorite seat, under the projection booth window, and nestled into the seat’s turquoise-blue upholstery. Then I waited, waited with anticipation for another showing of one of my favorite movies, which I’d already seen 15 times.   

     The theater was packed, as it had been when a group of friends and I first watched the movie at the beginning of the month. The house lights dimmed, the audience went silent, and the movie screen, black and foreboding, came alive with vintage, sepia-toned snaps of a great ship. Those haunting scenes diaphanously faded, and the screen came alive with undulating, indigo-blue water. Slowly rising out of the water came one word—TITANIC.

     Today, twenty-five years later, I went to the picture show to see TITANIC again. However, this time there was no line. No jostling crowds buying tickets. No excited chatter. And, to my amazement, no one in the theater! Sitting on the back row under the projection booth window, I thought: Old man, a command performance of one of your all-time favorite movies. Just you. Jack. Rose. And the TITANIC, which has haunted you for almost 60 years.

     This was my twentieth viewing of this celluloid masterpiece. I saw it four more times in 1997 and early1998, but today was the first time I’d seen it at the picture show in twenty-five years. Once again, I was mesmerized. The opulent sets. The actresses’ lush costumes. The black and white elegance of the actor’s formal wear and their starched-stiff, wing-tipped collars. The tinkling china and crystal. The sparkling silver. The jollity of those in Steerage. The dancing. The laughter. The dreams of a better life.

     I was somewhat happy to be alone. If I chose to, I gasped out loud—there was no one to roll their eyes. I clapped when Rose spit in Cal’s handsome face. I laughed loudly too—there was no one I might embarrass. But I cried quietly. The beauty of tears is their salty-wet silence. I’d forgotten some scenes but remembered others with crystal-clear clarity. As the movie ended, as I always do, I watched the credits until the screen went black. In the background, an instrumental version of My Heart Will Go On filled the theater.

     I sat in the empty theater listening to the music, its lyrics resonating in my ears: “Every night in my dreams, I see you. I feel you. That is how I know you go on.” I thought of my mortality, wondering how much longer I would go on. The music conjured other thoughts as well. I thought that if I do go on, will love ever come my way again? Or will my heart be broken once again, its jagged pieces held in my hand waiting to be mended, repaired but never whole again? Perhaps, as long as my dreams continue, as long as I feel you, I know I’ll go on. However, I’ll never stop longing for that which was and will never be again…