Subject: Birthday Videos from My Father When people see my VCR, they ask why I still have it. I even have a bunch of tapes next to it; just some of those great old movies that if you find any of them on TV you have to watch the rest of it. I bet you could name at least two in the stack. Sometimes, I watch one with that old grainy feel, and click it in and push down the buttons, and you have to fast-forward through the previews. Sometimes I show my friends something that you can’t find anywhere else, not on any streaming service or any Blu-ray. I have a few old shows that I found. It’s not like I think VHS tapes are like vinyl, or that I’m some kind of preservationist. I don’t have some huge wall. I just have a VCR and use it sometimes. But there’s more tapes that I keep in the back of my closet in a fire safe, along with another backup VCR that I bought, just in case. I want to make sure that nothing ever happens to them. And I’ve only watched half of them. I’ve never shown anyone any of those tapes. Those are just for me. On my tenth birthday, I got a big present, all wrapped up nice in a big box, and when I opened it, it was full of more presents, each individually wrapped and tied with a ribbon, and each ribbon had a little card that said “Happy 10th Birthday” and “Happy 11th Birthday” and so on for each one of my birthdays each year. I thought it was maybe some collection of novels good for different ages (hey, that’s a good idea) but I opened the first one with a big ten on it, and it was just a blank black VHS tape, like we had old home movies on. I waited to watch the first one by myself that night, because I figured out right away what they must be. My Dad must’ve recorded them all because he knew he wouldn’t be around in person. He had the time to think about it and the time to decide to record something for each new year. I looked at the long row of wrapped tapes and thought about how much time he must’ve spent on them, and I bet he wrapped each one himself, too. On the first tape, he seemed nervous and shy, getting it set up, working the camera and unsure how to stand in front of it. It was weird to hear his voice and see him looking at me. It felt like we were meeting face to face, but I thought about him back then alone with a camera, thinking about me. He looked young. “I can picture what you look like,” he said, “and I hope everything is going okay for you. And I’m proud of you. You’re a great guy.” He smiled, and he looked like he was imagining me on the other end smiling back. And I was. “And, uh, maybe it’s been hard for you or maybe you’ve gotten into some trouble… but you’re still a great guy no matter what. And I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to help you. But maybe these tapes can help you for the future. Maybe I’ll… I’ll try to think about everything you could be dealing with.” Then he grabbed the camera and walked it into his bedroom. He said he was going to show me how to make a bed, and that I should do it every morning. I watched and listened as he said that if you can get the day started on the right foot then it’ll stay going that way, and that if you have everything together enough to make your bed then that’s at least something. “You can do the pillows like this or like this… doesn’t matter. Just so it’s made and looks decent.” It looked good and only took a couple minutes, and he looked happy to be able to show me something through the VCR, and he seemed like he was kind of imagining me on the other side in the future. I liked his smile. Then I could see him come up with an idea. He says he’s going to show me how to shake hands. Of course I’m thinking that it’s something I’ve already done, and şişli travesti then he says that. “But I’ll probably be a little late with whatever we talk about, on here. But that’s okay. I still want you to hear it from me.” He says it’s important and part of being a guy. He holds his hands up and shows them coming together. “And you look him right in the eye,” he says, looking me right in the eye through the TV. He shakes hands with nothing, and I do it back at him, feeling a little weird. “Now listen. I want you to find some guys,” he says. He tells me that he grew up without a dad or any brothers or uncles or cousins, but he found guys that he could talk to. “Sometimes you can only talk to a guy, and you need one who’s older and who you can trust and who isn’t going to make fun of you… so, look for guys. And, I’m sorry that you can’t just come to me. Hey, Happy birthday, buddy.” And that’s how the first tape ends. And I did what he said, over the years. I found teachers and coaches and guys I just called a friend. And it was good to just be with them and talk with them and get confident and comfortable. I talked with them about stuff, and they could talk back. But they weren’t my dad. I’m not going to tell you everything he said and did and in what order on what tape, because maybe you’ll think that’s not as important as something else or maybe the wrong year to do something, and anyway some things are just between him and me. But I put in a tape and he’s in the woods on a little pier by a pond and fishing. He’s wearing this camouflage vest and hat. He’s got a big red tacklebox. “Hey buddy,” he says, and it feels like I’m there with him. “I wish we could be together for real out here, but…” He looks kind of weird and almost annoyed, but that passes, and he gets excited to tell me about fishing. He demonstrates some stuff. “Now, let me tell you where fish come from…” he says. He explains that female fish make eggs inside them and lay them all over, and that male fish make something called sperm inside them, and they come along and spray it over the eggs, and that makes them turn into little fish when they hatch. He said that I probably already know this and a lot more, but that he wanted to tell me. “That’s where everything comes from. It’s weird, but it’s natural. And you and me and everybody else in the world; that’s where we all came from.” Then he shifted into real birds and bees talk. He held his hands up and had a finger going through a hole. At that age, it was weird to think of my penis or his penis or anybody’s doing anything like that. It still kind of is, when Ithink about it, when I think about life the way you do when you were younger. But I was glad that he told me. A different tape starts with him in the bathroom in just a towel, no shirt, and he says that he’s going to show me how to shave. His body is manly, and it makes me wonder if I’ll look like that and when. He explains what to do. I look at the hair on his body and the hair on mine. I notice the way the towel bulges out. He gets shaving cream and puts it on like a white beard and starts swiping it off in smooth lines like shoveling snow. When he’s all done, he gets close up to the camera and moves it to point at the shower. He says, “Now make sure nobody else gets this tape. These are just you and me alright?” He takes off the towel and stands there, naked. I was kind of shocked of course. I never saw anybody like that except for a split second at the beach, and I knew not to stare, and in a magazine once where the guy was like a bodybuilder with a huge hard dick, fucking some woman who was the main point of the photo. The guy was kind of just… beylikdüzü travesti also there. So seeing my dad like that, just a normal guy with a normal dick, when I think back it made me a lot more comfortable about stuff later on. He said, “I had a job when I was younger where there was these open showers for after your shift, real dirty job, and I was kind of terrified. But every guy is just this, and it’s no big deal.” He turned on the shower and told me about scrubbing under your armpits and in your crotch where you get really sweaty. He told me to use a washcloth and scrub out my ass; that just wiping when you take a shit isn’t enough. He told me to make sure everything is all the way dry before putting clothes on. He didn’t even seem embarrassed about it all. I wanted to be like him. I was always embarrassed and shy and nervous and confused. He was relaxed and naked. That year, after my birthday, I watched that video more than I had watched the others. One night, I’m in bed just staring at the ceiling for hours, and I can hear voices downstairs. I look over at the door, and my dad is standing there. He doesn’t say anything at first, and neither do I. He walks over to the bed, and he says “Hey Buddy” kind of quiet. I can’t believe that he’s really there in person, and he’s wearing this camouflage vest and the hat he was wearing in the fishing tape, and he sits on the bed and puts his hand on my chest and my knee is against his back and then there’s this crash downstairs and loud voices and then I’m alone. Have you ever had a dream that takes place in the place where you’re sleeping? You’re not somewhere else or walking around somewhere; instead the dream is about you in bed like you actually are. It’s like everything is true except one part that is the dream. You think it’s only in the movies but I get it some time. It took a bit for me to realize that it must have been a dream, and that he wasn’t really there. There’s a tape where he got a friend to hold the camera for a driving lesson in his truck, and one where he cooks eggs and does laundry. And on each one he asks me a few questions, like “What do you like to do and why?” and “What do you want people to say about you?” I can tell that all the tapes are from the same short time period, and sometimes I look up what was happening back then while he filmed it, what movies and music were out then. It’s like he’s stuck in the TV, but a new door opens each year. So… I just had my birthday. All that day, all through the party, while I was blowing out the candles and eating cake, I was thinking about the new tape from my dad, sitting up there for me to unwrap and watch. It’s always the last thing I do. I never stay out late on my birthday, even if it falls on a Saturday. I do stuff on some other night with friends, but on the night of my birthday, I always do the same thing, alone, but not alone. I get the tape and unwrap it and set it up in the VCR, and there’s my dad. He says, “Happy Birthday, buddy!” His smile always makes me smile. He’s up at this cabin in the woods again, like from the fishing video and one other one. He’s drinking a beer and he kind of toasts me with it, raising it up and swigging a big chug. Then he just kind of pauses, like he’s thinking. “Okay… alright, buddy, this one is gonna be just you and me and maybe a little weird on this one. You know what I want to talk to you about this time? Man to man okay? I want to talk about jerkin’ off.” He tells me that I gotta already know everything about masturbation and sex and whatever else, but nobody ever told him so he wants to tell me. “I already told you about sex like for reproduction, istanbul travesti like scientifically,” he says, and he says he wants to tell me about it for another reason, “cause it fuckin’ feeeels good!” I laugh with him, and he talks about how Sex Ed and “the talk” is always just about biology, but should also be about how good it feels to share your body with somebody or to be touched or to look at stuff that is exciting to look at. “Now… I’m looking at something right now,” he says, and the camera swivels around to show his TV, down at the foot of his bed on a chest of drawers, and he’s got some old porno tape playing. I only see it for a second but it’s just at the taking-off-clothes part. Other than that, it just looks like any other old movie. “And my body is doing what it is supposed to, right?” And he is holding the camera and pointing it around his waist. His legs are bare and hairy. His socks and shoes are off. He’s in some baggy, plaid boxers. He grabs himself. I can see the outline of his dick. The camera zips up to his face, “oh, this shit gets me so hard, buddy. You can skip the rest of this tape if you’re not into it, but I want you to know that it’s okay if you’re into it. I had a buddy who told me it was okay. I wish I was there with you, buddy. I’d tell you everything. You could ask me anything.” He’s drinking, and sets the camera on something next to him. It’s like we’re next to each other. I’m lying down too. I have my TV and VCR on the floor. My room is kind of a mess, because I’m moving everything around, and I’m on just my mattress on the floor. And the door is locked. And nobody can hear. And it’s like I’m up in the woods with my dad with him sharing this with me. “I’m gettin’ hot here, buddy,” he says. He pulls his Tshirt up and inside out and off his head, a little awkwardly, and runs his fingers through his chest hair. I can barely hear the video he’s watching. The camera swivels down to show me what’s happening now, and they’re naked on a bed, and I see my dad’s hand gripping himself through his boxers, pulling. Now I’m getting hot. I am wearing what I sleep in, an old soft Tshirt and shorts, no underwear, no socks. I realize that I’ve got a full boner from this. I pull off my sweaty shirt. The air from my open window feels nice as it creeps in and tingles my skin. Dad is a little distracted, but he’s telling me that he used to think it was bad to jerk off and that’s why guys would call you a jerkoff. I always thought the same thing. “But one day, this one guy just started talking about it, so we all did too. Each guy thought that he was the only one who did it.” He starts telling me about how him and that guy were cool with it and started watching pornos together sometimes, and “one thing leads to another, right? You want to whip it out? so we just did.” I’m thinking that if he were there with me that me and him would do that sometimes. Then he says, “Maybe you and me would try it, if I was there with you…” Then I watch him. I can see all of him. He takes his dick out. He looks at it and then me. We stare at each other. He’s showing it off for me, like he never did before, and it’s hard now, for me to watch. I take mine out too. I hit pause. I hold it up by the screen, next to his, next to him looking. I stroke it long and slow and, with my other hand, hit play on the VCR. Now we’re both jacking together, dad and son, both men now, with the faint sound of sex below him on his side of the divide. It’s so hot. He’s not saying anything. Every once in a while he looks at me. I show off for him too, even though it’s a one-way view and he can only imagine me. I hold it for a long time, holding back and building it, easing off to last as long as him. Until finally he goes and I come too. We both moan and laugh and look at it together and clean up together and sit there together, stripped naked and wet and washed. “Bye, buddy. Happy Birthday.”

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