The people who still went were mostly average-looking men who didn't own a VCR or a DVD player. One short Mexican man with a mouth full of metal said he went because he lived with eight other people and deciding on a movie to rent was impossible. No one seemed worried about what they would do if the place closed. "The world is changing," said one older man, shrugging. "I will have to change with it."

One regular, an overweight man who wore a leather cap and thick glasses and had a deformed left hand that he covered up with a glove, always made a lot of trips outside to make phone calls.

Mr. G. and Sharon were sitting in the lobby one night as he did this. They were bickering about nothing and completely disregarding the raucous sex noises coming from the theater, as they always did. Finally, Mr. G. asked the guy why he kept leaving.

"Customers," the guy replied. Mr. G. looked at him blankly.

"I can't wait to shove your big cock in me," the girl on the screen replied.

"He must be very sick," Mr. G. said, shaking his head, after the guy left. He turned to Sharon. "Did you see his hand?"

Sharon wasn't working that night, but she often spent her nights off sitting in the lobby with Mr. G. They would eat takeout together and sometimes Sharon would offer Mr. G. some of her food. "You're a good person," Mr. G. would usually say. But once, he followed that up with, "She's always offering food. Never offered me her body." Sharon ignored him. "You know I met Robert Redford once," Mr. G. continued, glancing over at Sharon slyly. "He said you were the biggest sexpot."

Sharon's eyes got wide, but Mr. G. was just kidding. Sharon often talked about how she once dated Redford. After she first arrived from Hungary, back in the 1950s, when she walked down Fifth Avenue, she said, everyone would stare at her. This was how she met Redford.

"Vhy do they looking at me? I don't know. I had long blond hair," she shrugged, then pursed her lips. "I saw a man in sunglasses, looking at me very much." The man then introduced himself as Robert Redford. Sharon said they dated for a year. She still kept a newspaper clipping of him in the ticket booth.

Other than Redford, Sharon talked about her cats. "I never thought I would have so many feelings about animals," she said once. The problem was, her cats had recently been stolen. The difficulties started after one of her neighbors complained about them, and Sharon moved them into the lobby of the Polk. At first the customers loved them. "For a week or so," Mr. G. said. "Then the customers complained about the smell. They were beautiful cats."

After that, she moved her cats into an unoccupied house where she knew the caretaker. But in October, her cats disappeared. Sharon was sure they had been stolen by a neighborhood woman, a "maniac," as Sharon described her, who lived in a cramped one-bedroom apartment with dogs, cats, rats, pigeons, and cockroaches. Sharon said the woman went around the neighborhood stealing all the animals she could get her hands on. Sharon even found a witness who saw a woman of her description entering the house with numerous cat carriers.

But not even the police would help Sharon. "They said, anyvay, this is not a crime," was what Sharon said. So Sharon started coming up with increasingly extreme solutions. "I am thinking, the FBI," she said one evening.

Another idea she had involved two big guys. She was sitting in the lobby as she described the scenario. On the screen behind her a guy was talking to a girl with a remarkable resemblance to Ginger Spice. "Coach said sex makes you lose your legs," the guy told the girl. "I need my legs."

"I need your eggs," the girl responded, somewhat inexplicably, before an endless bout of oral sex.

Sharon said she wouldn't have the men kill the cat thief, just scare her. "They take her somewhere and they say, 'Vhere are the cats? Vhere are the cats?' Then she will have to tell."

Eventually, Sharon also started feeding the stray cats around the Polk. One evening in early February, Sharon was outside, putting out cat food, and Mr. G. was in the lobby. "Since I came in I haven't sold a ticket," he said, "I'm heartbroken." It was getting close to 10 p.m. and he went upstairs to the projection room to turn the movie off. But he came back down a moment later. "I went to shut it off. Then I said, 'Why be a louse?' " He sat back down on his chair, crushing his hat. Sharon came back in, and a moment later, the movie ended and one guy shuffled out. Mr. G. started to go back up the stairs. "I'm afraid to be alone," he said to Sharon. "Wait for me here." Mr. G. said this to Sharon every night. Sharon would always complain, but she would wait. And the two of them would leave together.

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