On the first Friday of every month, a thin mustached man wearing a trench coat and a pair of dark reflective sunglasses came through our door with a shiny black briefcase packed with VHS tapes. He was a man of few words, and our exchanges were brief. He would place his briefcase on our dining table, unclasp it, and ceremoniously spread open its contents with a gesture that said, I lay it all out before you. His voice, normally stiff and remote, expanded into a high-pitched squeal if I requested a movie he had been chasing after but had not yet acquired. It delighted me to provoke him, not out of malice but because each time his toad voice erupted, I pictured him breathlessly trying to outrun his fellow smugglers through the subterranean corridors of the black market, the tails of his trench coat like wings in the wind, clutching the illegally filmed videos of movies screened in foreign theaters, where the shadowy bare heads of female viewers, sharpening their teeth on Red Vines and popcorn, filled the bottom of the screen. Besides, he was in on the joke. It was all a show. I was matching his performance with a false theater of my own. We both knew that deep down, the only thing I wanted was to rent The Phantom of the Opera over and over again.
“Again?” my mother would ask, her voice drawn out, thinly disguising her concern.
“Again!” I would command, my eyes wild with pleasure.