Tyrone’s success hid within the VCR. He revelled in how the tape was in plain sight, yet invisible. His parents did not know how to record.
Latin was not one of Tyrone’s favorite classes, but as he withdrew his cassette tape from the VCR, one latin phrase drifted through his mind: scientia est potentia. The ten-year old Tyrone solidified the lesson by whispering to himself: “knowledge is power.” He made sure to carefully lower the plastic flap of the VCR slot with his finger, to keep it from noisily slapping downwards. Then, giddy, he retreated from the living room to his own room, cassette tape under his t-shirt, shutting the door in a that practiced, silent way. It had taken him a good hour or so to figure out how to set the recorder on the VCR, and thus bypass his parent’s decree involving late night shows. According to the newspaper the show was nothing less than Rorouni Kenshin, also known as Samurai X- a gory saga involving the redemption of a serial killing samurai, according to a search at Shanti’s house on Altavista.com.
Ever since his Dad caught Tyrone looking at topless girls, he had been banned from the computer for anything other than homework. Luckily for Tyrone, the gatekeeper was his mother, and she cared less than the tyrant. “Mom, I need to use the computer, for homework.”
“Hmm? Go ahead darling.” Tyrone’s mum sat on the sofa, staring into space. She was holding a bra, clutching it in her hands. Tyrone tried not to look.
He went past the sofa into his parent’s room, and onto the computer. It hummed to life, and Tyrone depressed the “turbo” button on it- he did not really know what that did, but it seemed a good idea to keep it on. Of course, he made sure never to switch the computer to turbo for too long. After about half an hour, horrible thoughts of melting his computer surfaced, and Tyrone could not abide to risk it. The windows 95 logo creeped on by, and Tyrone waited, thinking maybe he could just call Shanti, but did not want to risk being overheard. Finally the desktop finished loading, and Tyrone connected to the internet. The 56k modem made that insane, high-pitched robotic series of beeps as it dialed its numbers. The white noise, like the other side of a phone line hissed, and settled. Tyrone was online.
He loaded up ICQ, logging in and received his messages. came that annoying sound. Tyrone killed the speakers, and turned around, in case his mom came in. A few seconds past, and with perked ears Tyrone heard no foot steps. So he continued. The messages were from Shanti. She was telling him you can put someones number into the 56k modem, and it’ll prank call them. The sound is horrendous apparently. She did it to Ben. Tyrone smirked at that, then had that vague falling sensation in his gut he sometimes had, when he thought of Ben.
Shanti was online. They started chatting.
<Tychou:> Yoyoyo sup
<Tychou:> Kenshin recorded
<Tychou:> so hmm well can we watch at your place?
<Digidigger:> hey hold on check this out.
<Cobaincobra has joined the chat>
: errrrrrr tear drop
<Digidigger> O_O sooooooooooo how is everyone?
<Cobaincobra> wtf lol
<Tychou>: Sorry, who is this?
<Cobaincobra has left the chat>
…BEN! Awwwwww. He run away.
SRSLY. we started talking again recently.
hes not so bad. Btw he feels really bad abt you guys stopped being friend.
<Digidigger> “by the way” noob.
omg nvm. Nvermind. So anyway you know what he likes anime.
His cousin brught some from the us.
<Tychou> Did he say wat it was called?
<Digidigger> Marcos or something.
??? bet hes just messing with you.
lets ask him to watch kenshin with us.
i dont know if thats such a good idea.
come on plz? Hes not so bad at all.
he hangs out with olly.
yeah but olly is a retard. Ben is alright. It was his idea btw. He wanted me to ask you. And not tell you it was him.
but youre telling me anyway…lol…
SO WE CAN ALL BE FWENDS GIGGGGGGLES.
Lol kidding dude. Come on dont be a baby.
im not being a baby. You should try and see it from my point of view.
BABY WANT BOTTLE? LOOOOOL.
k fuck it wateva he can come.
dont need your permission sonny. But yeah. ok. How abt saturday 4pm? You remember the way?
yeah ok. I gtg now, and do some stupid maths.
<Digidigger> Enjoy your stupid maths. TTYL xxx
<Tychou> …. k. Tc.
The day should have been anticipated with excitement, not daubed with dread. As the week rolled on and he gained on it, Tyrone thought- Shanti! How could you do this? You naive girl! You do not understand what it is like, the weight of what passed between me and Ben. He considered cancelling several times, making up some excuse and treating it like lost homework.
The deciding factor was a far more painful experience, overheard, through closed doors. Tyrone was a light sleeper. The shouting, early on Saturday, was enough to wake him.
“YOU THINK THIS IS HOW A MAN BEHAVES?” It was Tyrone’s mother, her voice muffled through two doors, but still high-pitched enough to recognise. She never raised her voice. The new sound was like a spear in Tyrone’s heart.
His Dad shouted back: “YOU ARE BEING PARANOID. LISTEN TO YOURSELF.”
“YOU ALWAYS SAY THAT AND I DO NOT, I LISTEN TO YOU, AND I THINK THAT HAS BEEN MY MISTAKE.”
“DO NOT TAKE THIS DAMN TONE WITH ME.” said his Dad. Tyrone left his bed, rolling onto the floor, creeping up to the door to get a better listen.
His Mum said, “You son of a bitch…do you think I am completely stupid? Do you think I will put up this? WITH THIS? IN OUR OWN FUCKING BED? My mother is SICK. AND IN OUR OWN FUCKING BED?”
For once, his father’s voice was quieter, and it shook, like foundations ought to not.
“Sisi, please, I would not do that, there is nobody else. This must be…I do not know, whose this is…it must be….”
“What? Tyrone’s? Or mine, you do not even know your wifes cup size now? I spoke to the guard, you son of a bitch- you like blondes so much?” Her voice was cracking.
Tyrone wanted to scream. He did not know what he would say. So he packed a bag, humming to himself the whole time. He packed some clothes, enough for a night, and he wrote a message on the table. “Sleeping over at Shanti’s”. He did not know if her parents would allow it, but in his adrenaline fuelled state it seemed a good idea.
Then he opened the door, creeping out on the balls of his feet, avoiding the tiles that he knew would clack. His Dad’s voice was so loud he thought he coul feel his stomach vibrating:
“OK OK OK. I MADE ONE MISTAKE.”
Then his mum’s “You…you…admit it? FINALLY? You son of a bitch the guard told me about the others too.” She was weeping. The sound seized Tyrone’s footsteps. He couldn’t move, pinned to the floor by terrible knowledge.
Then there was the sound of movement, in the foreground of his mother crying. Footsteps, his Dad’s, towards the door. Tyrone ran. He ran for the front door, unlocking it. As it opened he saw his Dad, topless, outside the room, the hair on his chest greying. He looked weak, tired, and the sound of weeping from inside the room framed him. Tyrone looked at him, and ran. Taking the fire exit down, ignoring the lift, he ran all the way down seven floors, and then out the lobby, out the door, he jumped the low fence in that way he practiced, and he kept going till his chest hurt.
Then he wiped away his tears.