Videotape

It was years ago when I was still a teenager. A couple of friends of mine and I were hanging out at this middle-aged woman’s house. We had been sitting around the living room for hours and no one had bothered to turn a light on after the sun had gone down. So we all sat around in the dark, clustered somewhat obscenely around this women as though we were attendants of some sort, our long shadows cast as a group by the light shining in from the kitchen in the other room, all our faces obscured from one another in the dismal gloom.

Presumably emboldened by her third or fourth glass of wine, the woman suddenly spoke up and asked us if we wanted to watch a porno tape that she had in her bedroom. She tried to make this suggestion come off in an innocent sort of way, as though she had only just thought of it at that moment, but it was clear that she had been mulling it over and waiting for the right opportunity to bring it up. I stared at her with a deadpan look and said, “I’m guessing it’s hidden in the wall somewhere.” I could see the glint of light in her wine, the dry papery skin all cracked around her lips as she took another sip. I could smell her perfume like burnt flowers.

But my friends seemed eager to find this tape. They were all over the bedroom looking for it. They peeked behind the pillows and the dresser and a loose fold of the beige wallpaper all decorated with cute cottages and picket fences. They pulled out the drawer of the night stand table, rifling through the playing cards and cheap jewelry, reaching back into the recesses behind the drawer. A sweet medicinal smell lingered in the air. They all stood around, almost too big for the lamplit room, and discussed any other places the tape might be.

I wanted no part of any of it. I felt like the woman was using this tape to lure us into some sordid seduction scheme that would lead from the tape to more wine and then possibly to pills and then to who knows what. So I just sat on the bed. The woman had a black and white cat that looked much like my own. It jumped up onto the mattress and I petted it and talked to it and just forgot about everything else as my friends continued to tear the room apart around me.

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