When Paul installed a security camera in our cottage in Maine, I felt a celebutante’s dread that I would become the victim of a leaked sex tape. When I expressed this concern, he brushed it aside with a wave of his hand and said “It only records when we put it in ‘away’ mode.” In theory, this is true, but in practice it is false. The camera never records, because we never put it in away mode. But it is always on, a watchful eye streaming to an app on our iPhones with a five second delay. It is on demand déjà vu.
“Show me something,” Paul says as I walk into the kitchen.
I face the camera and give it a Kardashian caught without make-up look.
“No, I mean something good,” he says holding his iPhone up in front of his face while sitting on the sofa in the sun room and flicking his index finger and thumb, zooming in. He then offers some directorial advice “Do a sexy little dance.”
I perform my best Magic Mike moves.
“That was mechanical,” Paul sighs.
The life of a reality star is difficult and if being under constant surveillance were not enough, there is a microphone on the camera that is controlled by the iPhone app.
“Oh yeah, slice those limes,” a gravelly porn star voice, aka Paul, emanates from the speaker on the camera. “Now squeeze them, baby. Squeeze them real good.”
Correction, it is on demand porno vu.
When we are not home, Paul will occasionally say “I wonder what’s going on in the cottage,” which is my cue to open the app. I’m not certain what I expect, but every time I am chilled to see a creepy stillness, a kitchen table and four empty chairs in the shifting light of the late autumn New England sun, shadows in the shuttered sun room, the glint of sunlight on hardwood floors where the click of our footsteps have long since vanished. Perhaps even more eerie is the sound of our absence, white noise.
All of this makes me feel as if I am somehow cheating. Unless we have jumped off of a bridge on a snowy winter night and been pulled out of the abyss by a bumbling guardian angel, we’re not meant to see the world without us. But I do, and for all of the changes it has made to me, I am surprised to find it unaltered. The air does not quiver, as Isak Dinesen ruminated, with a color I have had on.
If our nearest possible alien neighbors were to poke their telescopes through the cloth of space, it would take at least twelve years for any images from Earth to reach them. This is the nearest “habitable zone” of planets, scientists say. The image of my sexy dance in a pair of boxers while slicing limes would echo through the cosmos, bumping into a passing comet and drifting over stars for more than a decade before reaching the blinking eyes of some extra-terrestrials.
I imagine two alien lovers discovering my ethereal sex tape and looking at each other in that knowing way, touched by the absurdity of the universe and this gives me comfort. They would glance at each other and exchange thoughts without speaking, as Paul and I often do, then smile, turn on the microphone and whisper a gravelly message across the void.