This piece contains spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame.”

The parking lot of the AMC Showplace in Hamilton was full beyond capacity on Saturday night. After driving around the lot a few times, I noticed that some people even made their own parking spots.

The front door handles were sticky from humidity and the windows were covered in fingerprints. As I entered the building, the aroma of popcorn and dirty carpet filled my nose. I found my way to the back of the extremely long line with the confirmation code for the tickets I purchased online on my phone screen.

In front of me was a man with his young children. His little girl was dressed in a Captain Marvel costume with the star lit bright in the middle of her chest. The man’s son wore an Incredible Hulk t-shirt and repeated the words “Hulk Smash!” until he was told to stop.

It was around their age that I saw my first Marvel movie. The summer of 2008, my younger brother and I pranced into the theater to see “Iron Man” for the first time. Little did we know, that film would spark something bigger than ourselves.

I’ve been a die-hard Marvel fan since I was a little girl. I’ve watched every single film multiple times and knew to never leave the theater until the credits were over, so I could catch every post-credits scene. I was devoted and invested in a world of fictional characters and fantasy.

I stood in a room full of other individuals with my same level of loyalty. Some, like myself, were wearing a sweatshirt and jeans trying to blend in. Others were covered head to toe in costumes or hero merch. The demographics of those present varied extremely, but in that moment none of this mattered. We all came to this theater to watch our beloved series come to an end.

I didn’t order popcorn or a drink. As a frequent moviegoer, the concessions are usually the highlight of the moviegoing experience. But with the three-hour and two-minute runtime, I’d be damned if I had to leave to use the restroom. I planned on staying in my seat from beginning to end.

I gave my confirmation code to the grumpy lady at will call and she pointed to the theater directly behind her.

“Five.” she said in a flat tone.

A dingy orange sign indicated the film was showing in each of the eight theaters. I followed it, and pushed through the red entrance doors.

Theater number five was already packed. There were no open seats between guests. Everyone sat shoulder to shoulder while they watched the previews and scarfed down stale-tasting popcorn. I found three open chairs on the right side for myself, my mother and my grandmother to sit. I sat in between them and clutched my black Michael Kors purse close to my chest.

The lights dimmed, and the theater got quiet. The movie began with Hawkeye teaching his daughter how to shoot a bow and arrow. About a minute later, she and the rest of his family disappeared. The aftermath of Thanos’ snap.

Over the course of the film, I was taken through almost all of the five stages of grief.

The denial set in after we were shown that half the population had remained missing for five years, that Hawkeye was now a ruthless assassin and Thor, after years of binge drinking, had gotten fat.

I was angry when Nebula’s past self was able to hack into her future self and inform Thanos of the Avengers’ plan.

Depression set in as I watched Black Widow fall down the steep cliff in Vormir, and saw Peter Parker and Pepper Potts cry over Tony Stark’s body as he slowly died. I was brought to tears when I saw the light inside of Iron Man’s Arc Reactor turn dark.

Acceptance came at the end, when Captain America sat on a bench after Tony’s funeral, old and having lived a full life. And I was brought peace seeing him dance with Peggy Carter, having the life he always deserved.

Grief was not the only emotion I felt throughout the film. There were multiple points when all I felt was joy — primarily in the final battle scene.

At one point, Captain America was standing alone, facing Thanos and his endless army. The next second, Dr. Strange and the other sorcerers open portals revealing almost every character in the Avengers universe. While holding Thor’s hammer, Captain America uttered two words:

“Avengers Assemble.”

The entire theater let out a shout of excitement. Some people high-fived each other, and many people, myself included, were already crying.

I was completely in love with the “girl power” scene. All the women came together for a collective badass battle against Thanos’ army. My mom and grandmother told me afterwards that it was one of their favorite scenes.

And most of all, I loved the multiple scenes of loved ones being reunited. Rocket and Groot, Gamora and Quill, Thor with his mother and Tony with his father, just to name a few. In that moment, many of the little pieces of this giant puzzle finally came together.

I’m so glad that my parents introduced me to this universe as an 8-year-old girl, and I’m even happier that 11 years later, I get to see this amazing journey come to an end.

I walked out of the theater wiping my tears with a napkin smothered in popcorn butter. I got into the back of my mother’s white Toyota Camry and FaceTimed my little brother.

His face popped up on the screen.

“Dude … are you crying?” he asked me teasingly.

I nodded and began to laugh as I saw myself in the right hand corner of the screen. My eyes were puffy and my face was stained wet with tears. I hadn’t cried this much over a movie since Wolverine died. (That’s a story for another day.)

He smiled at me. “Yeah, I kinda did too. Now please pull yourself together.”

We intricately discussed the film and our favorite parts on the 20 minute drive from Hamilton to West Chester. We argued over what we thought the best part of the film was, and what we thought would happen next. It felt just like old times.

Although I would rather not  have my emotions blasted into smithereens, I’m so glad I was able to witness the tremendous ending of a series I’ve been devoted to for over a decade.

The next day, my mom dropped me and some friends  off to see the film a second time. I cried again like it was the first.

lumpkibm@miamioh.edu

@briah_lumpkins

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