Book Blast! Made of Pixels – a memoir
Made of Pixels is a new memoir that will take you through a plethora of sensations and feelings. A true-life story that starts in the “ghettos” of old 1970 Bucharest and paints a very interesting portrait of that specific time when communism was still present. The story is not afraid to deliver the truth and it’s doing it by telling the author’s experience as it happened even though it’s not easy to digest every time. The memoir’s scope is to walk you through the lifestyle of that time, it’s a very unique story that has a bit of mystery, comedy, drama and romance.
Miss Gabriela narrates an easy to read book with lots of meaning. Find out how two girls struggled to live a normal life before and after communism.”
Check out a free preview of Made of Pixels below!
How It All Began – Made of Pixels
December 31. The last day of the year. The hardest day of an even hardest year. Especially if you spend it at work!
‘Have an easy shift, guys!’
Tired after the long day, but happy to go home and prepare for the New Year’s Eve party, the trainers and tech support from the day shift look somewhat sympathetically at their college from moonlighting.
‘Thank you, hopefully we will!’
‘Happy New Year and be rolling in money!’
“Be rolling in money” …the most common greeting in a video chat studio. Well, besides other things one may hear in such a place. Music to suit all tastes. Lascivious or shy moans, accompanied by bold, vulgar, or, on the contrary, romantic and passionate words. Anything to suit the needs of members who pay for virtual love, in all its forms. The cadence of the ridiculously high heels worn by the “fetish” models, along with the rhythmic noise of the belts and whips, fiercely handled by their gloved hands. Or the slaps on their cheeks, the front or the back ones, according to the wishes of those who pay for these kinds of on-line sessions. These are the members with guilty and well-hidden pleasures. Men who are wonderful husbands and fathers and who run companies with turnovers ending in six or seven zeroes. Free from the stress of their daily lives, they pay to become what they really wish in this virtual environment: prey or predator, slave or master.
Indeed, many things can be heard in a video chat studio. Laughter or quarrels, gossip whispered or shouted out loud. All of these are inevitable, especially in places which bring together a large number of women and large amounts of money.
Gabi sneered at herself, remembering the old times when she too was the target of gossip. And that she had gossiped too. That was a long time before. But, God, how much time had passed? Seventeen years? Eighteen? She was so young and naïve back then! And so poor! Recently divorce, with two little daughters, with no home of their own. Because the Romanian justice system, in its infinite wisdom, had decided that the house should be sold and her husband should get half of the money after the divorce. Although the same justice system pronounced the decree of the divorce out of his exclusive fault and entrusted her with the care of both children. Fair, isn’t it?
After trying a few jobs that kept her away from her little girls for too long, she decided to try video chat. That’s how she ended up being a model.
‘When the hell did all those years pass?’ she found herself thinking, when she sat in front of the computer, as a trainer.
‘Mistress Gabriela, how do you prefer to do this? We haven’t worked together before and I want to know all the unwritten rules’, said Robert, the tech staff designated for that night shift.
‘I only have one rule, my dear. No rules, as long as we don’t neglect the girls and everything works properly. That means we can go have a smoke, even if it’s not allowed. Do you smoke?’
‘No? That’s not too good for me. I smoke a lot. But I think I can compensate somehow…how well do you know the Fetish section procedure?’
‘Not very well.’
‘Well, here’s our deal. I’ll help all the fetish girls who ask for assistance. How does that sound?’
‘Sold!’ said Robert, laughing.
A moment later, he asked:
‘You really know them all, don’t you? The fetishes, I mean…’
‘I might have even invented some of them! No, no…I’m joking, of course. There’s always something new coming up periodically in fetishes. A new folly, a new sin…but I know most of them. Eighteen years ago, when I started working as a model, there weren’t even half of them.
‘Eighteen years ago? Wow!’
‘Yes. I was really wondering where all those years went a few minutes ago. But is it true what I heard? This is your last day here? Leaving already?’
‘Yes, I’m leaving. I want to do something else.’
‘How long have you worked here?’ asked Gabi.
‘Seven or eight months, I think.’
‘And how the hell did you end up on the night shift? You were working only the day ones. And why on New Year’s Eve? Did you do something wrong? Or did you want to leave in style?’
‘Ha-ha’, laughed Robert, visibly amused. ‘No, I don’t think I did anything wrong…maybe just have the audacity to resign. These guys think they own everything just because they pay a little bit more than the other studios. But they don’t pay enough for these long and fixed shifts, anyway. Twelve hours, either only day shifts or only night ones. Speaking of which…how do you resist working only by night?
‘I don’t have a choice, Robert. I have an eight-year-old son at home, and I’m a single mother. I work only the night shifts, so I can be with him during the day.’
‘I didn’t know you have a child.’
‘I have three! Two girls and a boy.’
‘And what about the girls? Can’t they stay with him during the day?’
‘My girls are grown up; they have their own lives. Plus, Vlad is my responsibility, not theirs.’
‘I can imagine that must be pretty hard. How long have you been working only by night?’
‘About four years, I think’, Gabi said.
‘Yes…it must be really tiring. But why are you working on New Year’s Eve?’
‘Well, I had to choose between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I chose to have the Christmas off, of course, so I could be home with Vlad. He’s with his grandma now, with my mother, spending New Year’s Eve together…I’m here, at work, spending New Year’s Eve with you’, Gabi laughed.
‘You had to choose? Nobody gave me a choice, they just let me know that my last shift would be on New Year’s Eve.’
‘Veteran’s rights, honey! I’ve been here for five years already!’, said Gabi, laughing.
‘And how much longer do you plan to stay?’
They both burst out in a loud laughter.
‘How did you end up in video chat?’
‘Out of necessity, of course! Nobody would have done it if it weren’t for an immediate need or a drastic situation, especially back then. You know, this job worked really well for us, Romanians. More than seventy percent of the models on any site were Romanians then, just like they are nowadays. Because we’re beautiful, smart, we speak English, and we adapt ourselves on the fly. But above all, we all needed to support our families. For example, I was recently divorced and had two little children. It had become impossible for me to spend as much time with them as they needed, but also to pay the rent and the bills. Not to mention the little perks…trips, toys and new clothes.’
‘Was it a difficult decision? I mean…your friends, your family…didn’t they judge you?’
‘They most certainly did! But I was in such a difficult situation, that I didn’t care about it. In fact, it was harder for me to overcome my own fears and prejudices. But once I managed to get over these things, I have to say that this job really had a good impact on me. I had the chance to grow, both intellectually and as a woman. I became more aware of my sensuality. Probably also due to the bravado of the situation…a job that not anyone would be able to do, the feeling of aliasing…’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Robert.
‘How can I put this…I treated all this situation as if it were a role. At work, I was Cosminaxxx. That was my first nickname. I’ll tell you about the history of the nicknames in video chat. So, I was Cosmina at the studio, and I liked it. We didn’t even know our real names at work, we called each other by our nicknames. This somewhat contributed to that feeling of aliasing. At home, I was Gabi, I was the mother of my children, the one who cooked, washed the clothes, cleaned the house and so on.’
‘I understand. You said you were going to tell me about the nicknames?’
‘Yes. You see, there was this trend in the beginning for models to have a simple name, followed by xxx. Just like I was Cosminaxxx, there were Nadinexxx, Raymondaxxx, and so on. Then came the trend of “dirty” nicknames…Horny Bitch, Wild Slut, Deepfinger…speaking of which, I have to tell you a really funny thing. All the money was received through cheques that could be processed at a single bank in Bucharest. The funny part is, the cheques had the nickname written on it. Imagine the look on the clerk’s face when reading that Wild Slut has to cash out two hundred dollars!’
‘Oh, God, that’s hilarious!’ said Robert, cracking up.
When he finally managed to quench his laughter, he asked:
‘I was working at my first studio. It was in a large, three-story villa, in the center of Bucharest. All the houses were the same on that street! It was a rich neighborhood and the people there didn’t appreciate the loud music coming out of our villa, especially during the summer, when the windows were open. And I think that they didn’t like that there were boys and girls coming in and out of the house, day and night, either.’
‘There were boys, too?’ Robert asked.
‘Yes, because there were no rules and regulations back there. Nothing was quite legal. So all the models, both male and female, worked in the same location. The boys were on the ground floor, the girls on the first and second floors, and the management offices on the third. As I told you, our neighbors called the cops on us many times. Even the special units came every now and then. One evening, we were all on the first floor, drinking coffee and preparing for the shift. I already told you that we called each other by our nicknames, and we even got to the point of making fun of them. There was this kid, I think he was about nineteen years old, who had the nickname PENETRATEU. They had forgotten to put an underline or something between PENETRATE and U. We asked him, dude, what the hell? Is your name Penetrateu? What is that, some kind of Prometheus? And what the fuck is a penetrateu, for the love of the video chat god?’
We were laughing, he was laughing…we were all rolling on the floor, laughing! Poor guy was trying to explain that his nickname was, in fact, PENETRATE U, where U is the short for YOU. We were cracking up.
‘Dude, if there’s any space, it means that there’s no penetration!’
Another guy, who was the protagonist of another story I’m going to tell you and whose nickname was A-Gigolo, said:
‘I’m so tired! I’ve been painting walls all day long, worked for about ten hours today! You know, I’m a house painter by day’, he continued, somewhat embarrassed.
‘So what? At least it pays off by night, when you’re A-Gigolo!’
‘Guys, I shit you not, I’m so tired that I’m going to sit in the chair, in front of the computer, turn up the volume to hear the private show alert, and put on my sunglasses. If someone asks for a private show, I want them to think that I’m really cool, not dead tired.’
The platform we were working on had a very loud private show notification, something like a cowboy “YEEEHAW”, which could wake you from the dead.
We were all laughing out really loud. It was summer and the weather was hot, so our windows were open. You could really hear us laughing from quite a distance!
After a while, we all went to our rooms, logged in, and the night went on quite peacefully until around three in the morning, when we heard some loud bangs. The front door was shattered. The police had entered the villa. A-Gigolo was in the first room, and the cops stormed over him. Asleep as he was, when he heard the noise, he thought it was the notification for a private show and suddenly jumped to his feet, with his sunglasses on, and began touching himself on his hair, face and body.
The policeman standing in front of him was in shock. When he came to his senses and opened his eyes, A-Gigolo saw the cop and stopped, all of a sudden.
‘What the fuck are you doing, man?!’ the cop asked.
‘I’m playing Solitaire online! This is the Solitaire Club.’
We were laughing like crazy when he told us the story, all crowded together on the third floor, in the manager’s office, who had been announced that the police had confiscated all the computers in the villa.
‘But…was it legal?’ Robert asked, amused and shocked at the same time.
‘No, but what we were doing wasn’t legal, either. The cops came and confiscated the computers…the boss paid the bribe and took the computers back. There was nothing else they could do about it!’
Now, the cops don’t come anymore. Let’s give credit where credit is due, as they say!
‘Honestly, I don’t like my job anymore!’ said Gabi, turning serious all of a sudden. ‘Not because I don’t like being a trainer, because I love helping and teaching the girls. But you see, Robert, the studios ruined everything! They took one of the easiest, most pleasant and most beautiful jobs and turned it into a type of slavery!’
‘Why do you say that?’ Robert asked.
‘Let me explain. Eighteen years ago, when video chat had just emerged, there were very few studios. In fact, there was some large places, like two- or three-story villas, and a few other two- or three-room apartments. That’s because people knew very little about the Internet back then and had limited access to it. There weren’t that many Internet providers, and the prices were quite high. In fact, there was only one video chat website. American, of course. If you were a little bit more open-minded and needed some cash, you went to the interview…if you could speak a little bit of English and knew how to turn on the computer, you were a top employee! They scanned your ID, made you an account and that was it. You could go online the following day! There was no schedule, no shifts, you just logged in and stayed online for as long as you wanted. You could even work both in the morning and in the evening, the same day. Going to work was a real pleasure. It was perfect! But, as time passed, the studio started imposing six- or eight-hour shifts, either day or night ones. The websites sprung up like mushrooms and quickly became a part of this abomination as well. By mutual consent with the studios, they started promoting the models that stayed online longer, because non-stop website activity was a godsend for them. The studios quickly learned that a model who is online for eight hours and works six days a week makes more money than a model who is online for four hours and only works three or four days a week. This is how the gold rush started. Their gold rush, that is, because the girls only wanted to work for the money they needed. Think about this…the video chat did not exist as a job, there was no legal basis for it, so there was no real employment. Neither the girls, nor the studios, payed any taxes. And neither the girls, nor the studios, had any legal rights. So how could you impose a work schedule to someone who is not really your employee? The girls paid the studios half of their earnings, and maybe it wasn’t quite fair for them. Because, without them, neither the sites or the studios would have made any money. Do you know that all the sites offered the models a sixty to seventy-five percent commission? The lowest was sixty percent. But as the number of models grew, the commission lowered incredibly much. Today, there are only two websites that offer a decent, seventy percent commission. From this commission, the model pays fifty percent to the studio. Alright, I can understand that the studio has certain expenses…the Internet connection, power, rent, maintenance and staff…but why force a model for whom you do not pay any taxes and from whom you take fifty percent of the earnings work more than she wants? Just because you, as a studio, want to get rich overnight?! You can cover those expenses from the commission of three models…but what about when you have eight of them? Or ten? The only thing that changed is that the government learned that video chat is a constant and inexhaustible source of money, and somewhat legalized this business. That’s why the studios have to pay taxes nowadays. But the models have to pay those taxes too, out of their own pockets, because there are still no advantages for them. Moreover, they are forced to be online for eight or ten hours. If they don’t work their weekly hours, we cut their salaries, or even worse…we don’t pay the salaries at all! But they have no one to complain to, because there is no actual contract between them and us, as a studio. There are no advantages for them, even though, I repeat, they are the essence of this business. Without them, nobody would earn anything. This is why I’m sick of my job as a trainer. Because I have to constantly disagree with myself in front of them.
‘What do you mean, disagree with yourself?’ asked Robert.
‘At first, I tell them that, in this job, you have to always be fresh, happy and carefree, only to let them know later that they haven’t worked their weekly hours and they don’t get any money until they catch up. How could you be fresh when you have the same schedule as a factory worker? How could you be happy and carefree when you’re not sure if you going to get your money?! That’s why I’m sick of what I do and I don’t like coming to work anymore! Sometimes, I feel like it would be better just to tell them to work from home, as independent models, to be their own bosses. I’d like to quit my job.’
‘And what keeps you from doing so?’ asked Robert.
‘Well, that would be a conflict of interests between me and the studio, don’t you think? And to resign…hmm…the concern of tomorrow, the illusion of a quite steady income…it’s probably just because I don’t really trust myself anymore.’
‘Oh, I’ve had some tough experiences. I managed to handle them somehow, but they had strong repercussions on my mind. Maybe it’s also the fact that I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic…I hate addictions…of anything! I smoke, and I love it. It’s an addiction that gives me pleasure, but at the same time, I hate it. The daily insulin dose reminds me of the other addiction, which I have to embrace, in order to live.’
‘I’d like to hear more about those experiences, if you don’t mind.’
‘I don’t know if you’re ready for that’, said Gabi, visibly amused by the candor of the young man in front of her.
‘I’ll take my chances!’ said Robert.
‘Well, we still have twelve hours to go…’ said Gabi, jokingly. ‘We don’t have those many models and I think it’s going to be a quiet night. It will still be a challenge, though.’
The studio was warm and smelled like pine and oranges. The Christmas tree ornaments were shining enchantingly in the dim light. A carol could be heard from one of the rooms. Outside, large snowflakes were dancing in the fairy night. In this setting, Gabriela’s voice delicately unraveled the clusters of a tumultuous life. A life made of thousands of stories…of thousands of pixels, we may say.
The dawn was trying hard to uncover itself through the curtain of snowflakes.
‘This is the first time I wish the shift was longer than twelve hours!’ said Robert, visibly moved. ‘You made me laugh and cry, and you took me through all possible moods!’
‘Thank you…I guess…’ laughed Gabi. Let’s wrap it up, it’s almost morning. Fifteen more minutes and we go home, Robert.’
‘I…I really think you should write a book about everything you told me tonight!’
‘Write a book? But I’m not a writer. Maybe I am a good storyteller, but that doesn’t make a good writer. Damn it, it doesn’t make me a writer at all!’
‘That doesn’t matter’, Robert replied. ‘It doesn’t matter that you’re not a writer. I think you should tell the stories to the paper the same way you told them to me. No rhythmic devices, no literary expression, just storytelling. Oh, God, so many feelings! A carousel of emotions! This is what you have to write about!’
Gabi looked at the young man in front of her. Looking much younger than he actually was, he was a mere child in front of his first Christmas tree.
‘It’s better to tell him the truth now, than to lie to him’, she thought.
‘I really don’t think this is a good idea, and not only I’ve written nothing but school homework in my entire life. I don’t have the time. Wait a moment, don’t interrupt me, please! I want you to know the situation as it is. I work twelve-hour night shifts, and during the day I have to take care of the child and the house, and sometimes…I also need to sleep. Then, a book also requires money, not only time. Money which I don’t have. Plus, diabetes is a chronic disease. You can live with it, but you don’t exactly wake up overflowing with energy. Do you see what I mean?’
‘Alright…but I have something to say, too. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to write the book. There is no deadline. About the money…I really wish you would allow me to cover all the expenses. About the diabetes, I think that if you managed to overcome all those things you told me about, you suffered irreparable loss, you were in an abusive relationship, you lost your children and fought to get them back, you lost your only love, but you still hope to regain it…forgive me, but I think this diabetes is just a small inconvenience you remember once a day, when you take your insulin shot.’
Hearing his fierce logical arguments, Gabi came to think that maybe that was her chance to do something that would take her out of her comfort zone and of the daily routine she had been stuck in for the last five years. She made up her mind and said:
‘Alright. But no terms and conditions. I write when I can, how I can.’
‘Sure, of course!’ he said.
‘But why would you risk your hard-earned money for this?’
‘First of all, I don’t think there’s a risk…I’m sure it will lead to something nice. Besides, I think we will all have something to learn. Readers will definitely identify with the stories in the book. So? Partners?’
‘Definitely! And thank you for your trust!’
‘Thank you for the opportunity!’
‘Let’s go, Robert. The guys from the day shift are here.’
When they got outside, Gabi shook his hand, saying:
‘This was your last shift here. It was a pleasure working with you. I wish you find a workplace that will make you happy!’
‘Thank you! May I ask you something else?’
‘Sure, ask me anything.’
‘You really couldn’t forget him, could you? It’s been thirty years!’
‘Never! I managed to somehow get along all these years, but I couldn’t forget him, since I see it every day in the eyes and smile of my first child, my oldest daughter.’
‘Does she know? Have you ever told her?’
‘No. I never found the right moment.’
‘What about him? Did you ever try to tell him?’
‘No! Never! Especially him! You see, when you love the way I do, you don’t want to put any burden on your loved one.’
Snowflakes were painting white flowers on their glowing faces.
‘And you still believe you will be together, after all these years?’ Robert asked.
‘Until the sweet and sour coming! Else, it just means I have denied myself all the happiness in vain. That all my life was a wild-goose chase.’
Robert shook her hand and said:
‘You know that means you have to write a second volume, don’t you? When you will finally be together again.’
‘Definitely!’ Gabi answered, laughing.
‘See you soon!’ he said.
‘I’ll see you soon’, said Gabi, before walking away.
She took a few steps, stopped, and looked up towards the sky. She let the snowflakes to cover her face, as if she was trying to recall a picture made of thousands of pixels.
The story continues in Made of Pixels Volume 1. If you liked this short story, we bet you will love the book. You can download it from amazon from here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B092W4YGYB.
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