Saturday, December 01, 2012

Drew's Videotape

Drew discovered the videotape when he was eight years old. Banished to the downstairs by his mother and admonished to "Find something to occupy yourself," he pawed through the cardboard box of VHS cassettes in search of age-appropriate material. Beneath The Birdcage and Lethal Weapon 2 he came across an unmarked cassette, its black casing scratched but intact.

He loaded it into the VCR, adjusted the channel, and pressed play. The screen showed a woman peering out at him--or rather into a video camera like those his mother used on vacations, Drew quickly amended. "Hello?" said the woman. She was fair-skinned and plump with red, shoulder length hair. She wore a blue tank top and jeans. "I don't know if this will work. Can you hear me?"

Drew returned to the box of cassettes, determined to unearth a Sesame Street or Muppets recording. "But if you can, please listen. I need your help. I think you can help me, I don't know. Listen. I want to try an experiment." Drew's eye lit upon a checkered cover: Dr. Blockhead and Friends. He retrieved it from the pile of movies and studied the cover, ambivalent. "I want you to take this tape and record over it," said the woman. "Record yourself speaking. Say that you saw me: describe the video that you're watching right now." Drew slid the cover from the cassette and turned toward the VCR. "Then wait for a week and then watch this tape again. I know this sounds crazy, but...Listen. My name is Drew. " Drew paused at the sound of his name. "Drew Stein. I don't have any way to convince you to do this, but please, please--" The television screen went blue as the tape reached its end.

Drew hesitated, the Dr. Blockhead tape held before him. He looked at it, then at the blue television. He put the Dr. Blockhead tape on the floor, ejected the unlabeled tape, and went to the closet beside the stairs. Inside he found a massive suitcase which housed his mother's videocamera, before which he again paused. Then he recalled her imperative. Drew reasoned that while damaging the exotic camera would surely inspire a swift vengence, he could, in that sad instance, take refuge in the vagueness of "occupy yourself." Thus prepared, he tucked the tape under his armpit and dragged the suitcase into the living room.

Several minutes later, Drew had successfully plugged the camera into a wall socket, removed the lens cover, inserted the unlabeled tape, and (after much trial and error) pressed the button with the red circle which signified "record."

"Hello. My name is also Drew. I watched a tape with a lady on it who said her name was Drew Stein. She asked me to record myself saying this, so, here I am. Thank you."

Drew played the tape on the VCR to be sure that he had properly recorded himself. He was fascinated by what he saw: so tiny, such a high voice, such big hair. Ill at ease, he ejected the blank tape and shoved it to the bottom of the cardboard case, covering it with copies of his mother's exercise videos. He carefully returned the video recorder to its case and dragged the case back into the closet. Then he went to the kitchen and drank some milk.

Two years later, Drew again came across the tape, engaged in a similar search for novel entertainment. Having exhausted his penchant for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, he popped the mystery tape into the VCR, sat down, and hit play.

"Drew! Oh, Drew, you saw it! Thank you so much for trying this, I know how strange it it is. Listen, I got your message. You said," Drew Stein said, and then she repeated his two year old statement. "This works! Can you believe it?"

Ten-year old Drew was unable to answer that question. The image of the woman, and her quotation of his own words, had jogged his memory enough that he now vividly recalled that day, two years prior, when he'd been bored enough to drag out the video camera. His mouth hung loose, his eyes narrowed, and he leaned forward on the couch.

"Drew!" Drew Stein said. "It works!"

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