The Porn and Peril of Long Island Teens
by Marni Borek
Phil's girlfriend Veronica found an old porno collection --including Deep Throat- in her basement. The tapes can only be played on Betamax.
The VHS replaced the Betamax. Phil heard it was a political thing, a fight about standards. But he was too young to recall the exact reasons.
Phil has an aunt out in Farmingdale who owns a Betamax she intended to make into a planter one day, but didn't. His dad needs him to drive to her house to pick up a Niagara Falls travel guide she said she'd return but didn't. Phil calls Veronica in the middle of Oprah to tell her the good news.
- - -
On Jericho Turnpike at the intersection of Oyster Bay Road, Phil and Veronica stop for Carvel ice cream. Chocolate and vanilla swirl. Phil wants a sundae but he's seventeen and is about to watch porno. Veronica skips the sprinkles because they get stuck in her teeth and she's planning to kiss Phil- no estimated time yet. She french-kissed a boy after eating Doritos once. Cheesy remnants and bad breath destroyed their 3-month/4 day relationship and she didn't want to mess up again. The ice cream makes her throat cold and thick. Imperfect conditions for teenage saliva swapping.
According to Phil's Dad it should only take 34 minutes from Syosset to Farmingdale at 35-40 mph. Phil compensates for time lost at Carvel by bumping it up to 50 mph. Veronica is impressed by his logic and sense of adventure. She places her hand on his thigh and grips the box of porno even tighter. They're both thinking the same thing: this is profound moment. The radio is playing something by Squeeze.
Farmingdale is a strange town. People drive Saturns like Mercedes and shop at convenience stores instead of supermarkets. The Walt Whitman mall-located in Huntington, one town over-is the only salvation for this place "torn over the blight of suburbia and long gone crop fields." Phil read this once in a school textbook. No one reads the poems engraved on the mall's façade. Phil tried once, but someone told him Walt Whitman was a fag, so he stopped. Veronica thinks all poetry is beautiful, no matter what. She also thinks Bloomingdale's is better than Macy's.
Phil's aunt is already outside when they arrive, waving the Niagara Falls travel guide like a flag. She figures this way Phil can make it back home in 42 minutes. Niagara Falls was a disappointment. The pressure of romance put her over the edge. Superman saved Lois Lane but the man she screwed didn't say goodbye and stole her credit card. She remembers this while Phil moves his mouth- something about the Betamax. She nods her head in agreement. She was going to make it into a planter anyway.
- - -
The Betamax was a gift from Phil's Mom. Right after she emptied the family bank account. By the time Phil's Dad found out, she'd already the fled to New Jersey and his aunt had purchased several Betamax tapes including Private Benjiman and Superman. She had aspirations to be something, though not necessarily a soldier or a newspaper reporter. In the meantime, managing the 7Eleven and practicing abstinence (at least trying) was okay.
Phil's aunt puts the Betamax in bubblewrap and tells him to be careful. He takes her hand and pumps it in agreement. His fingers are already sweaty thinking about porno. Naked screen bodies and a naked Veronica. Lost in his excitement, he misses the turn for Jericho Turnpike. Veronica knows a shortcut through Cold Spring Harbor if she can only remember which fork to follow. Even with the detour they'll be late. Phil grips the steering wheel tighter in fear. The radio is playing something by the Smiths.
Veronica preps for later, clearing her throat of sweetness with stale popcorn Phil's aunt gave them-leftover stock. The time to kiss Phil is only about 50 minutes or so away and she has to be ready. It's important to decide when and where to kiss him because it's not as good when it sneaks up. Teenage lust is controlled by measurements that don't always match up to porn.
- - -
The glow of headlights forces Phil's Dad out to the top of the driveway. He's not the tolerant type-- especially when his calculations are defied. He waits till Phil is within arm's reach and strikes his face just shy of the lower jaw. Veronica looks down and checks her watch. They're not as far off schedule this time. Phil's Dad heads towards the car to check for evidence of teenage foul play. Phil and Veronica scurry quickly into Phil's room and lock the door.
They lie across his flannel bedspread ready to watch Deep Throat. Phil's face is swollen and he can't feel his mouth. He tries hard not to cry because it doesn't make sense to cry and be excited at the same time. Veronica's not sure how what to do so she plays with picture adjuster on the Betamax instead. The film quality is very poor, but it is clear that bodies are moving against each other in a frenzied way that in this moment could be interpreted as anger. Cum shots don't change this.
Veronica watches Phil watch porno and feels sad. She removes her shirt and then her pants. Phil does the same. Phil's Dad is pacing in the hallway. They lie together waiting for something to happen, but feel empty instead. Veronica is warm and her hair smells good and her small hands are gentle on Phil's chest. When he starts to sob Veronica puts her mouth over his. This is not what she'd planned, but it's okay for her to bend the rules just this once. Things are always different the day after.
About the author:
Marni Borek lives in New York City, where she's trying very hard to produce short stories that pass the 1500 word mark. Her short stories have been appeared online in Hubris (www.hubrismagazine.com), Poor Mojo's Almanac (www.poormojo.com), DIAGRAM (www.thediagram.com) and TopWriteCorner (www.topwritecorner.com). Her work is also featured in the new print journal Si Senor. She's currently working on a collection of short stories. Main theme(s): meat, families and compulsive behaviors.