On Friday I went to see the movie Moonlight with two people who I feel so affectionately towards. We curled our way down sets of stairs into the deepest part of Willard Strait Hall, where the smell of popcorn is so familiar and the reaching murals on the walls so humble. The man in front of me bought my ticket.
“I have a daughter your age,” he said.
I didn’t feel like anybody’s daughter while watching Moonlight. I didn’t feel like anybody at all. I’m guilty of getting itchy during movies– going to make phone calls in the middle, pouring everybody glasses of water. I love movies, but it’s hard to be still. However, when Moonlight ended, I uncurled my hands, unhinged my jaw, put my hair behind my ears; I became myself again. This movie didn’t feel like a plot—it felt like a life. The most incredible chicken wire you could imagine built the silhouette of the most piercing lifetime you could picture. I wasn’t caught up in the action. I was caught up in a person.
Told in three parts, Moonlight is the coming of age tale of a boy named Chiron, growing up gay and black and with a single mother in Miami. So many things made this movie too beautiful to blink during. The blue color imagery burned the back of my eyes, like finding an O in a page full of Q’s. The life of Chiron feels like a secret I’ve been sworn not to speak about. As I walked out of Willard Strait Hall, pressing my tingling fingers into mittens, I was thinking about silence. The moments of silence in Moonlight asphyxiated the audience. There was no synchronized gasp because there was no air left to grab at. The moments when the movie was all blue and no bang—no breathing—held me up against the murals by my neck. No one makes a movie silent by accident. The music cuts, and the set is still, and there is a boy named Chiron and a man with a daughter my age, and we are all existing in this instant of alike quietness.
Silence is stuck in my head like the songs you listen to in the summer. There are few moments of absolute absence in this life, so full of beating and being. I remember the silence of a cutout, incredulous laugh. Bad news too unbelievable to break. Silence while swimming in cool water. Switching the smoke detector off. Walking through blue doorframes. Slipping into sleep. Questions that go unanswered. What did I do wrong? Becoming myself again. Biting my tongue. Looking blue in the moonlight.
Silence tapped me on the shoulder and offered me a free ticket. Silence saw the reflection of itself in my eyes. Silence got trapped in between my shoulders, in the place where I have to write about it… I have to write about it right now. Chiron is something I can’t speak about, but because this life makes no sense at all, he won’t let me shut up about silence. I hope you see Moonlight, and I hope you read this and recognize me in all that hush. Being blue in the moonlight and thinking of you and being afraid to say it—afraid to break the silence—to break itself.