Thursday, February 09, 2006

On Discovering Porn in My VCR

I sent this one out as a private email almost a year ago; several readers may recognize it. I withheld it from public viewing on principle of good taste or decency or morals or some other such easily-disposable principle. My living arrangements and company have since changed, as has my interest in protecting the secrets of the "star" of this story, due to a complicated and uninteresting (except to scholars of the greedy and wicked), battle over my then-abode, involving threatened misdemeanors, illegal rent hikes, and forged eviction notices sent over blackberry's. Ah, New York life...

Several times a year I leave New York for a few days to do a trunk show for my mother's jewelry business. When I come back from these short trips, I inevitably find my room changed in a subtle but disturbing way. After the first of these trips, I came home and noticed a pair of my hostess's sling-back heels resting on the floor beside my bed. I didn't think much of it, as this used to be her bed, and I don't object to her taking a nap in it when I'm not there rather than having to arrange her cumbersome fold-out bed in the living room. When I turned on the TV, a small, bright red light in the lower right-hand corner of the machine flickered on. I guessed that this meant there was a videotape in the machine, which there was, one entitled "Niblets." My hostess works for a company which designs educational programs for schoolkids deriving inspiration from, of all things, mainstream Hollywood movies. She used "Shakespeare in Love" to launch an Elizabethan history seminar, and somehow wrangled "Elf" into a program for promoting awareness of the four food groups. So I imagined "Niblets" would be, perhaps, fairy tales brought to life by animated baby forest creatures, gerbil Cinderella and such. However, when I reinserted the tape and it started to play, instead of baby gerbils waltzing at a forest-critter ball, I got a giant black man sodomizing a disgruntled-looking blonde in the back of a van.
My hostess had not only been in my room and in my bed, she had watched porn in it--and then I understood that her slingbacks were not merely, innocently, resting on the floor; they were strewn there in that, "let me sexily kick off my slutty shoes and play with myself in my subletter's bed while watching jungle-fever porn" kind of way, the heel of one caught up in the lace ruffle duster and the other lying on its side. Only then did I realize that my sheets and pillowcases had been changed. What had gone on here? It occurred to me that she might not even have enjoyed herself alone in my sanctuary. At the time she was dating a real-estate broker who, she had once mentioned, was an excessive and boozy porn fanatic; a typical night at his Bridgehampton home, even a dinner party with friends, nearly always commenced with him sliding in a DVD from his vast hard-core collection for all to watch on his 90 inch plasma screen TV, disregarding the typically ungrateful response from his guests and lover while he broke out the box-wine. She had also obtained for me a job in his brokerage firm (see "Confessions of a Telemarketer, " paragraph 6), so this miracle of men was also my boss. When it occurred to me that the man who paid me every week with damp bills pulled out of his back pocket, might have lumbered in my bed in all his bloated hairiness and left personal remnants in my sheets, I found myself grasping for a pen or plastic take-out fork until I remembered that I couldn't actually stab out my mind's eye. Meanwhile on the tube, the interracial romance had come to an end and was succeeded by a couple in a bowling alley, another black man, this one with dreadlocks, pleasuring an elven redhead over the ball dispenser. This was one in several short films (hence the title?), most about fifteen minutes long, all shot in exotic locations and with multi-ethnic casts. All, in addition, seem to have been filmed with a low-grade camcorder, as the director/cameraman issued blocking orders from directly behind the camera. The performers would seem perplexed and had to turn their heads in uncomfortable-looking angles and look into the camera (and, illusively, disconcertingly, into my own eyes) to ask him to repeat his requests, unheard over the din of their own gamboling. This cinematographical quirk resulted in one amusing episode, in which a sleek Asian woman fellated a gentleman with a mullet, while the director barked complaints from behind the camera about the insufficiently-tousled state of her hair, the inadequately-feline arch of her back, her general lack of enthusiasm for her task. The harried actress silently withstood the onslaught of criticism until she pulled the instrument out of her mouth, and, still gripping it like a microphone in her manicured fist, bellowed directly at her audience, "Why dontchoo git yo' ass ovah heah an' blow 'im yo'self, limp-dick muthahfuckah?" For a moment I didn't know how to respond.
Many of the films suffered from noise and interference from "offstage," as when, in yet another van-sequence, someone started knocking on the side of the vehicle and jiggling the door handles, which panicked the cast and crew into silence for about three seconds until the picture froze and went to static and the next film began. Ron Jeremy himself showed up in one of the features, engaged with what looked like a half-asleep teenager, her head hanging over the bed's edge, while he uttered jokes about his bellyfat. She was barely awake enough to laugh politely.
I realized that I could not remove the videotape from my machine or even broach the subject with my hostess. Any action would admit to my knowledge of her taste in entertainment, which may be awkward for us, as well as cause her to wonder if I suspected her of engaging in inappropriate activities in my boudoir during my absence, also unspeakably awkward for both of us. Finally it would force me either to admit to my distaste for her indulging herself in my room and bed, potentially offensive and hurtful to her (who either harbors no qualms about such things, liberated Manhattannite that she is, or who simply made the mistake of not covering her tracks), or feign acceptance of the situation as normal in a swinging hostess/impressionable subletter arrangement, which might invite further unchecked debauchery in my own sacred quarters by her and unknown greasy men. I realized that I even had to rewind the tape to the exact spot where I had begun to play it, for if she came in again while I was at work and saw that the tape had advanced several hours beyond where she had left it, she would believe that I too was a closet porn enthusiast and think she needn't exercise even a modicum of stealth in her thrill-seeking. I could only leave it in the machine and expect that the next day while I was out, the red lightbulb would go off in her head and she would rush into my room hoping beyond hope that I hadn't watched the tape and found out her dirty secret, and, relieved that it was stopped at the scene where she had left it, remove the tape and hide it, never mentioning the faux pas. Then I decided to examine the mysterious storage box in the corner under the TV tray, which I had never been curious enough to open. Needless to say, in it were some forty tapes, all with names like "Behemoth," "Double-Stuff Chaos," and "Eileen Dover: Busty Cop".
A whole week went by, with that red light glaring at me. My hostess, who usually only spends one or two nights per week at the apartment, stayed there the entire time, with nary a word about the displaced object, let alone the anticipated removal of it. Only at the end of the week when she was gathering her things to drive over to her house in Sag Harbor did she breeze into my room while I was watching TV, eject the tape, and toss it in the mystery box to include with her luggage, all right in front of me and without a word. I could only play dumb and marvel at her shamelessness.
This has happened three times since the first occasion, despite the permanent removal of the mystery box. I come home to the red light giving me the eye, I see that my bed is either more rumpled than I left it or newly-clothed and neater than I ever make it, I press play to witness some grisly sex-act, and wait in vain for my hostess's sense of the appropriate to kick in. The VCR in the living room, where she officially sleeps, never has the red light on. Apparently, only in my own sweet bed and on my television can she indulge her libidinal fancies. As I write, the red light is hovering in my periphery like a burst capillary, and I have to figure out what to do about it before tomorrow, when my mother arrives for a visit.

9 comments:

Voracious Reader said...

Ewwwwwwwwwwww.

Anonymous said...

"...for if she came in again while I was at work and saw that the tape had advanced several hours beyond where she had left it, she would believe that I too was a closet porn enthusiast..."

Several hours??

Larissa said...

damn straight; I am a scholar of life and thus must study everything that comes my way. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it, anonymous!!

Martina said...

I completely agree with Voracious Reader: this posting deserves the most-nasal and high-pitched of "Eeeeeeeeeewwww"s. Although not the first time I've heard this perverted kerfuffle (I think we bonded over this story at Vesuvius over amaretto sours), I loved this new rendition, with its endearingly-neurotic Larissa flair and uncompromising search for truth. As a voyeuse/scholar of life and its capriciousness, Larissa had to watch every minute of that porn tape. Social science would not have it otherwise.

Steve Bodio said...

Larissa-- I HAVE to link this! Has Michael/Ray (2B) seen it yet?

Larissa said...

link way, link away, Steve. You know I'm never one to turn down free publicity, but it is always a particular onor to be displayed on Querencia

prairie mary said...

It's so darn hard to know how to think about such collisions of standards. The mere issue of being able to protect one's privacy and belongings would be major for me -- which is why I was so relieved to actually own my own house. Of course, I've upset the whole town because plumbers and electricians around here are used to walking in and out of people's houses to do their work without ever having to confront a locked door. If one of them chanced to find such a video in my TV (They wouldn't, because I don't have any real porn, but I do have some arty stuff with nudity in it, which they wouldn't be able to distinguish from porn.), what it would mean to them was that I was fair game for attacks and abuse. Then I couldn't even drive or walk at night.

Which is not to say that I wouldn't ever watch any porn -- although the category implies that it's such poor quality as not to be worth watching. And clearly some people just don't see it as wrong so long as no one is hurting overtly. I love the story about the woman with the "wand" for a microphone.

Some of us have to pretend, even to our friends, that we don't know porn exists, but how are we supposed to come to terms with the stuff without discussion?

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