After it gets around to Princess that I am fucking her brother, she starts to tell me things in confidence.
I wish she wouldn’t (it’s pretty clear what I feel about her, and that feeling can be summed up in a few unprintable names) but it is a late night at the old Indian homestead. The lizards hump the fluorescent lightbulbs in the damp evening as we begin to talk. Our parents are already either sleeping or watching television so it’s just the two of us after dinner, disinterested in bombastic serials.
Princess is beautiful. I’ve mentioned it before, but I have to keep mentioning it. I say this as someone who is not a very visual person; her beauty is so profound that I get struck dumb by it. I understand what it means when otherwise strong men declare beauty as their point of weakness. For me it is an anchor that allows me to look past the voice and the affected mannerisms, that makes me eager to hear what she has to say. She is like Ernie’s enigmatic Lola from Hey Arnold, standing on the street corner in her pristine dress, looking into the horizon with liquid eyes.
We are on my grandfather’s rickety iron bed, and she folds up her legs into her round arms and stares at me. She’s got that undeniably powerful face that forces you to like her at the moment you look. For that moment you are her best friend. She loves you. And you love her.
“Is it nice?” she asks me.
“Is what nice?”
“Being in love,” she says.
I curl up against the wall and stroke my knees for a few minutes. At this point I have not seen W for nearly two weeks. The separation gnaws at me. It is pre-birth nausea. I want to leave and I cannot. The lizard from the ceiling is about to drop in my lap.
“I don’t know why you didn’t tell me sooner.”
I say nothing. Instead I ask her about herself.
(By this time I have heard of Fuckface. And nothing I heard — either from S or W —is positive in the least.)
“Oh,” she gushes. The syllable is left to rot in the air for a moment, and then she continues. As an emotional historiographer she is peerless. Her command of dates — when they met, when they first kissed, when they fucked — astounds me.
“I was twenty,” she says. “He was nineteen. It was amazing and awkward. We try everything. We buy the giant boxes of condoms at Spencer’s. He has this religious habit of making us bathe after we do it.”
“He won’t let me go into the puja room if I haven’t taken bath, washed my hair.”
I can’t help myself. “So what if you fuck in the shower?”
She shrugs. “Hard to do that here,” she says. I realize she’s right. The showers here are not contained. The entire bathroom gets wet under the anemic blast of water. Hardly a place to fuck unless one likes getting their skull smashed against stone floors or tiled walls.
Then she relaxes, splaying her arms behind them, reclining the wall, adjusting her well padded ass on the tough mattress.
“Once,” she says, pulling a thread from her nightie, “[Fuckface] came back home from the Sony store with a camcorder.” She mimes a videographer, coming at me with a lens as I back away, laughing. “He put it on the dresser and said, ‘Baby, let’s star in our own video.’ “
A deep pink flush curdles at the base of my neck. I do not like where this is going.
“Did you like it?”
“It’s beautiful to watch yourself,” she says. “nobody watches, of course, but us. But we are beautiful to ourselves.”
I try not to gag. I try to imagine me watching myself have sex. I am an ugly fat beast, I think, with legs I don’t shave as often as I have to. The grainy quality of amateur celebrity sex tapes might obscure my physical deformities, but what would I be seeing? Something warped, maybe? Not sensual.
(Cracked.com asked this question. My answer is simple: I would fight. Why on Earth would I fuck myself? I’d be more than repulsed. I would drink hemlock and watch myself twitch and die.)
Throughout this story, I fear the unspoken question: “Do you and my brother record yourself getting freaky?”) and I change the subject as quickly as I can. Soon we are in the territory of blandness again, at that point of conversation where she is no longer as arresting or brilliant, and where I can ignore her irritating songlike intonation.
The idea of making a sex tape lingers like leftover beast or fragment of my nightmares. For the longest time I wonder if this is something that normal couples do. Back in the States, I am extra-attentive the stereotype of Indian marital bliss, the polo shirt wearing engineer and his lovely marketing executive wife. When I see them together at the Best Buy I take a second look. Is he looking through the aperture, thinking about the tantalizing curve of her ass that the panties trace as they come off the shapely leg? She’s still frigid between the lips, though, because the foreplay has been shallow. They’re saving this for the camera, where she can feel a little used and he can feel a little won. She slaves over him because she is a good porn star wife, small tits and all. She smells a little ripe and spicy from the office. She hasn’t had the time to mask the ripeness with perfume, but her husband hates that stuff anyway. And then I shudder just thinking about it, because these formerly asexual beings have taken on such a charged cast I feel like I am intruding on something sacred even if the man is shoving his nose hair onto the camcorder lens.
The reality is a little more mundane. Paris Hilton takes phone calls while she’s busy being fucked by a man only slightly less bored than she is. Though I have not seen Kardashian’s tape, I can imagine that it is the same way. It is performance, not pleasure. Can it be anything but performance? I find myself obsessed with the question. I even consider writing a story about it. Part of a series on sex in India, about a woman whose slightly lecherous boyfriend suggests that they tape their sexual encounters, only to have her disgusted with what she sees and hears. Fearful that he will take this tapes and use them in ways that might ruin her reputation, she smashes the camcorder. I call this idea “The Smashed Eye”, and I never finish it.
But then one day I break. I ask W if he wants to make a sex tape. I cannot help myself. We’re blissful in his old house, a stop-gap measure for him as he finishes a stage of his life in this academic dead-end town. Somehow I need to introduce that element of sickening danger.
“Where did THAT come from?”
At least I have managed to perk him up. For a while, I have been a little less interesting than seasons one to two of the first Star Trek iteration.
I cannot explain; I know he will force it from me. But he will have to fight for it. I tell him that I hear that this is what many modern Indian couples do, and though I am not Indian, I want to know if he has he harbored these expectations for me. Has he not tell me about something he fears might turn me away?
Then I realize the obvious truth.
I am not ready to make a sex tape!
Before I can take my words back, ingest them, shit them out, scoop my brains out and prevent myself from speaking another word, I notice that W looks a little awkward.
“Is that what you want?” he asks. His uneasiness is the only response that I need.
“To record — us?”
“You don’t think we’re worth recording?” I ask. I am on his gay roommate’s couch. It smells too clean. I walk up to him at the dining room table and I straddle him, blocking Captain Kirk’s face.
“I don’t mind,” he says (but his voice is very feeble). “Do you want that?”
Though I know this tactic, I let him think that this is what I want, and I watch his bemusement. I enjoy it thoroughly.
“Not really,” I say, and because my hand is on his chest, I can feel his relaxation. And the thrusting is getting to him. He puts his hand on the small of my back, and reaches around to turn off the laptop.
“Who gave you the idea?” he asks, turning his face up so that I can kiss it. I push myself into him. I nibble at his ear.
“Your sister,” I say.