Thursday, January 01, 2015

Flatscreen (An Excerpt)

Editor's Note: In an effort to try something different, I decided to write a story that was unabashedly sexual, but I tried to avoid being smutty or gratuitous. Posted here is a segment of a larger work. It was seriously considered by one publication and I'm currently awaiting the decision of a few others. Some who read my religious writings think that I'm a goody-two-shoes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is the mid-Nineties. The radio plays “Waterfalls” by TLC on a nearly-constant loop and everyone has seen the video, too. The twin force of radio play and MTV heavy rotation continue their juggernaut as though the two will never come to an end. Record companies spend millions of dollars for four minutes of visual excitement, sometimes more.

No one has yet heard of file sharing programs or iPods, social media, or the possibility for making a fool of oneself on it. In sports, Michigan quarterback Scotty Dreisbach has implausibly thrown the game winning touchdown on a crucial fourth down play against Virginia. A particular service provider offers a free clip of the winning catch for subscribers only. Over a phone line, a four minute video takes two full hours.

"Hey you," I typed, big yellow letters on a purple background.

"Hey", she replied, smaller white text on a black background.

"How was your day?"

"Boring as usual."

I asked another question next, one I had stated many times before. She never seemed annoyed by it, but was typically evasive.

"When are we finally going to meet each other in person?"

"Soon, but in the meantime, I'll send you something."

In the days before the proliferation of digital cameras, smartphones, selfies, and photobombs, she used the tools available to her. The task required creativity and some physical dexterity. The thick glass panel of a flat screen scanner was the surface she chose. She sat naked upon it, straddling sharp rectangular corners in hard plastic. I imagined the process must have been terribly uncomfortable, or at least require a kind of nimble flexibility. Had she laid it flat against the floor? That was the only way I could reckon she'd been able to pull it off.

The image produced, squished against the perfectly level surface, had stretched external genitalia to an extreme, making certain portions of the female reproductive system appear much larger than they were in reality. I wish I would have kept the file around for the sake of novelty, bizarre as it was, but it got lost while transferring from computer to computer. Just as well. It would have only reminded me of her.

In those days, taking nude pictures required creativity and courage. Since then, the ease of digital technology has produced another moral panic, a fear that children are being sexualized by online predators, too young to have the good sense to abstain. Every generation produces its share of parental angst around a particularly troublesome fear. Today's conniption fit, sexting, is a product of the proliferation of digital cameras. Back then, pictures had to be processed by a lab at a drug store, a very public method which kept sexual images to a minimum.

I knew I was not the only person to receive a copy of this particularly revealing picture, which she offered to interested parties like some obsessive networkers offer business cards, though I was one of her favorites. I was merely one of many. She'd said I was one of her favorites, so that meant something at least. We spoke over the phone and online on a nearly daily basis. She had even offered herself to me, someday.

"Are you serious?" I'd typed.

"Sure, when the time is right."

She never went into greater detail than that. The trip would have required a lengthy car trip my parents would not have agreed to, and even if they had, my only other option would be relying upon a ride from the airport that I knew might never arrive. Amanda was not very responsible when it came to the passage of time and I knew I might need to wait helplessly, stranded with bags in hand for hours before anyone showed.

"So, did you get it?" I'd opened my e-mail window to find the attachment.

I wasn't sure what to say, honestly. There was something cartoonish about it, out of proportion, maybe even slightly swollen. Of course I found it arousing, mainly to be given something rare and intimate. Part of the appeal of the naked image is how it is constantly longed for but rarely presented. Even today, in an arguably more sexual epoch, playing hide-and-seek retains its luster.

"Do you like my big clit?"

I indicated that I did, but wasn't quite sure how to process what I was viewing. She talked about sexual details the way that people speak about the weather. No boundaries. No restraint. I sensed she craved attention from men, and every one that entered her orbit was an ego boost.

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