iJackie

The studio wasn’t a studio in any definition. It was actually a home office. Jackie took her seat at the desk. Before her was an eMac computer. To her left a PC desktop with a twenty-one inch screen, behind her another PC with a more civilized monitor. As she sipped her coffee, she put the mini cassette into the camera sitting on its tripod. This was well before the days of palm size camcorders with digital media. This camera was something to be understood.

Detaching the Canon camera from its mount, she turned it on, and aimed it at a blank sheet of paper. She had to set the white balance if the colors were to be true. “You wanna do it here?” her father in law asked as he came into the room.

After a moment she said, “No. outside.” Filming outside gave the golf course as a backdrop. In the early days of the YouTube series, she always filmed inside, but the release of “Herb Superb” had shown the popularity of porch scenes. Her father in law carried the equipment out to the porch and she smoked a cigar, positioning herself for the shoot.
“Are you sure this shit is something I should even be talking about?” Jackie never discussed her personal life, and until recently, never smoked on camera. Even now, when she smoked, it was a cigarette, not letting her teen viewers know that she preferred Macanudo cigars. She rolled her own cigarettes, fueling the rumors that she was always rolling a joint. This was not true. She fashioned her cigarettes from Prince Albert pipe tobacco, saying if she were to be reduced to a cigarette it had to at least have flavor.
This was to be a wrap. The explanations and goodbyes. The conclusion of an effort that began three years before, when she strolled into the office while her father in law was toying around with a camera. She leaned over his shoulder, saw her image appear on the screen, and asked, “What do we have here?” That was the beginning of a series of short videos that garnered a audience of teen girls who hung on Jackie’s every word as she openly discussed life, sex, birth, and just about anything that popped into her head. It wasn’t until she noticed the little numbers under each video that she even began to take this new hobby seriously. The little numbers were views, and there were around thirty-five thousand a day! She was a phenomenon. The little wall flower from Austin had a following. YouTube was in its infancy, and if you had a computer, and a camera, stardom was just one viral video away.
There had been five goodbyes this month. She had lost all of her children. Even the planning of this film was an emotional roller coaster for her. All her other films had been spontaneous. Jackie would rattle off for about a half hour, and then retire to the “studio” to reduce the video to around two minutes and fifty five seconds, the attention span of a fifteen year old girl. There had been some trail blazing moments such as a swimming pool scene once. With a crowd of teeny boppers swimming around her at the country club, one adventurous young man asked, “Hey Jackie, you ever had sex in a pool?” She thought for a moment, looked at him, and returned, “Well, not with a guy!” On CAMERA, and many cell phones! That wisecracking YouTube star had been replaced by a weary, troubled young woman. She showed the mileage, and all the whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee just couldn’t hit the spot. What, just three years ago, had been a vibrant, jovial perpetual sixteen year old single mother was now a beaten woman, slumping on the bench, studying the twelfth green as if she’d never seen it before. She, and her father in law were alone here now, in what she referred to as their “Pretty Prison.” A mansion on the twelfth green of an Arnold Palmer golf course, filled with empty chairs, where not long before there weren’t enough chairs to go around. She’d written a song, “Broken dreams, and empty chairs, we’ll all face the fire down there, and I hope yours burns cooler than mine.” The fired burned hot this afternoon because the chairs were high chairs.
She finished her smoke and waved her hand before the camera lens, her signal that she was ready. Her eyes were tired, and red. Sitting where she sat, she had to look past the chairs into the very rooms where just a few months ago her children played. “We’re standing at the gates of the Alamo, dad.”
“That the way you see it?” he returned, as he removed the lens cap.
Nodding, and wiping her eyes she said, Yeah. That’s the way I see it.”
She lowered her head a moment, took a breath, composed herself. Then she sat a bit higher. She rubbed her face, dried her eyes, and a beautiful sixteen year old girl suddenly appeared where a battered twenty one year old had been just a moment before. The dull eyes became bright blue. A impish smile replaced the frown of a woman beaten down by a state government and then, taking a slight breath, she stared into the souls of her viewers, and in her best, sing song voice said, “Hi! I’m iJackie . . .”

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