If you overheard a phone conversation with my brother and I (or participated in it, like my dear sister-in-law), you might wonder about our relationship. We don't trade myriad details about work or plans or church. We don't delve into our feelings, or compare memories of our dad. These things come up, of course, glancingly, but really, overall, we talk about movies.
Movies we've seen lately--tonight we trade "The Escapist" for "Gone Girl"--and movies that we could, and frequently do, recite ad nauseam. Well-known schticks and accents, running jokes, cross-references. It's a friendly contest of sorts: who can keep it going, making each further reference obscurer but able to be followed; who can make the other break up in laughter; who can segue from Harrison Ford to "Ella Enchanted" to Mandy Patinkin and back again.
When we're around each other in real life, we act like normal people (mostly)--sure, movies comes into it, but all the usual conversations, too. But when we're on the phone, it's nearly impossible to shift away from film for more than a couple minutes. I feel and hear it, alternately, as we try otherwise. A few basic points are made, agreement or commiseration is heard, and then a Sean Connercy impersonation breaks in and we're at it again.
But I was thinking, as I hung up tonight: I don't see it as a problem to overcome. For me, casing the conversation like this is a throwback, an homage to when it was all we had. Back when we were at each other's throats living together, or sitting on the phone with nothing to say after he moved out, movies were what we had in common. The number of childhood afternoons co-opted by Lego reenactments of "Willow" and "The Ewok Movie" would reach into the hundreds. The dozens of phone calls involving the latest James Bond flick, or a re-found classic. This was how we grew up, how we learned how to talk with each other as a child and a teenager, a teenager and an adult, a single and a married. We have rarely lived in the same space, life-wise, and movies have always served to bridge the gap, dating from when Matt could agree that I'd moved up in the world by trading in my love for Prince Philip for Madmartigan.
For most of my adult life, my father and I had nothing to talk about. I would prepare for phone calls, filing away conversation topics we could safely sit on for a few minutes at a time. A call would rarely last more than 25 minutes. There just wasn't anything left to say, I guess. I don't have that problem with Matt. Our conversation bounces between real and recorded life, but there are not holes of silence, no skating around patches of ice too thin to risk.
We will talk about anything. Just don't be surprised when the real life stuff is interrupted--pleasantly, perfectly, comfortably--with Hugh Grant being bumbly, Sean Bean dying, or Sam Neill talking about talking dinosaurs.