Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Video Lives Forever - Part 1

I don't have an adequate excuse for this one. A few years ago some friends and I all decided to see if we could write a story based on the line, 'I'm not a porn star.'

I guess I could say everyone was doing it. That's a pretty good excuse. This is the first part. There are two more (short) sections to follow.*

*This story contains strong language, adult situations (what's between PG-13 and R?) and university politics.

Video Lives Forever

Part 1

I’m not a porn star.

I did one movie. One. A long time ago when I’d moved to New York with twenty dollars in my pocket and no scholarship.

That didn’t matter though. It never did. There was never an excuse good enough when someone brought it up.

But it wasn’t often anyone did that. Most of the time it happened just the way it was happening now. From the podium I could almost see the whisper ripple through the stacked seating of the auditorium. I even knew where it had started this time. Front row, a mop of black hair and dark eyes that had gotten as big as eggs about five minutes into my lecture.

I didn’t look at him for the rest of the hour, but I saw the brief movement, the notes he’d been scribbling were a message to the kid behind him, passed with great dexterity back and up to the next tier. Further up where they thought I couldn’t see them as well the news moved faster, heads tilting together to whisper, not bothering with notes.

How many of them would run to their dorms after this and download Bikini Girls From the Lost Planet? Not big eyes in the front. There was no doubt he already had it.

I shook through the whole lecture and dreaded the end. I’d have to come out from behind the podium and there was no lab coat between me and all of these drooling idiots. And I’d have to stick around, answer questions directed at my chest and feel the eyes on my legs and on my ass, trying to picture the bikini they imagined under my skirt.

The small brown door near the podium opened and my savior poked his head in. John tapped his watch with one finger and then jerked his head toward the hallway.

I nodded in understanding and turned my eyes back to the students. They were all looking back at me, or at least some part of me. I wondered if they’d even turned to look at John at all. “It looks like we’ve gone over our time. Professor Horowitz needs his room back. If anyone has any other questions I have posted office hours in the biology department this week.” I hurried over to the door that John held open for me. I felt almost instant relief when it closed behind us and shut out the rising buzz of conversation in the auditorium. “You have amazing timing,” I told him, taking long strides to match his hurried pace. I could see the top of his head as he walked ahead of me and I had to fight the urge to stop him and smooth his hair down where it stuck up in the back.

He stopped partway down the tiled hall that led to the department offices and shook a large ring of keys out of his pocket. He flicked through them and until he found one with a pink key-guard and turned it in the lock. The lab opened and he held the door, looking down the hall in both directions but not at me.

I walked into the empty lab and turned to see him shut the door behind him and engage the lock. I set my lecture notes on one of the lab benches and leaned on the edge watching him.

He cleared his throat, his face looked redder than I’d ever seen it, even when he was embarrassed. “What are you doing tonight?” he asked abruptly. His eyes were glued to the window over my shoulder and clenched his pen in his hand. For a split second I thought he was propositioning me and I shook myself mentally. Even if I hadn’t known him for years I would have known just seeing him and his wife together that he wasn’t the kind that did things on the side.

“Putting together my notes for Monday, maybe heading over to lab six to check up on things for tomorrow,” I told him and hoped the composed tone of my voice would calm him down. With his white shirt and white lab coat his face was like a red beacon floating on top of his body.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and met my eyes. His hands were as red as his face, the thick fingers stood out with veins. “I need you to come to the Daedalus reception tonight,” he said in one breath.

I made a tight sound that wasn’t quite a cough or a laugh. My arms folded across my chest and I felt angry tension across my whole back. “Absolutely not. You know I don’t associate with anyone who’s engineering that shit, I-”

He cut me off with a short gesture. “Do you know who else is going to be there? Half of the Stevenson Grant Board. Name ring a bell? They’re the ones funding your stay here. So unless you’re hiding another sponsor under your skirt we have to go to this reception,” he said, some of the color leaving his face.

I frowned, more at the ‘under your skirt’ comment than the dig about funding. John had to know what everyone in the auditorium and half the campus knew by now but he had never said anything. I watched him put his hands in his pockets and fidget with his keys. John had a lot of bad habits, he bit his nails, he drank too much at parties, but he never fidgeted. He was worried about our funding and he hadn’t meant anything by it. I was just on edge. I cleared my throat. “Ok, we’ll go. You’d better not leave early and stick me with Miller. Then I’ll have to kill you.”

His hands pulled half out of the pockets, his thumbs hooked over the edges and his shoulders relaxed. He looked too relieved considering how much he enjoyed any party with an open bar. “Thank god. I don’t want to go by myself and Helen won’t go.”

It was part of the job that I hated but it was part of the job. I did my best to make light of it. “Then pick me up at seven and you have a date.” I gave him a little wink and he smiled back at me.

“Well, let’s start with lunch and see where it goes,” he teased and offered me his arm.


  1. Very good start! I honestly don't know where this is going.

    Have you ever read the novel Flicker? A great book about about the power of cinema.

  2. It's going somewhere weird but I won't say anything else yet.

    And I'm adding Flicker to my reading list.

  3. You have a way with characters. Just little things that i can not put my fingers on that makes them pop.

    Not much sci-fi yet, so I am curious where this goes....


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