I’m sitting at a kitchen table listening to a pimp explain to me the Interracial Rate practice in porn, how he can charge more money on behalf of his client to work with a black man (and get it), is not racist. Because it’s just porn. I nod and smile.
I could say, I won’t do the scene with your client because she’s a Jew. And as of now, I don’t work with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, or Xenu-worshiping Scientologists. But if I did, I’d charge extra money…Let’s call it my Inter-Faith Rate. And this won’t be discrimination because after all, it’s just porn. But I don’t say this. I don’t say anything.
Porn pimps charge a service fee from the studio. Then they charge a service fee from their client. Sometimes, they charge the client other fees: a housing fee if the girl stays at a “model house” with other porn starlets in his stable, and a driver’s fee to shuttle the girls back and forth to set. As the economy shrinks, government agencies ratchet down, and piracy runs amok, studios and directors go bust all the time in Porn Valley. Even the talent pool struggles to earn a living. But the one segment of the porn industry that continues to thrive among the carnage is the porn pimp. The pimp never has to shoot a single frame of film, and he makes money whether the video sells one unit or thousands. It’s the same strategy Levi Strauss used during the gold rush of 1849: mine the miners. By selling supplies to the miners, Strauss made money whether they stuck gold or not.
There’s one particular agent in the Valley who spiked his flag at the top of the flesh pile. The Vulture-pimp. Like the vulture, Nature has evolved him to be bald so that the tainted meat he feeds upon doesn’t stick to his head. Vulture-pimp has cornered the market for most of the top-level girls, and he does not hesitate to pull girls from shoots or slap lifetime bans on talent, directors, or even entire studios from access to his stable.
Vulture-pimp seldom visits sets. Instead, he sends his two envoys, Emissary Fear and Emissary Greed, all over the Valley, even to sets where he has no direct interests. Regardless of how people feel about Vulture-pimp, he is efficient and keeps his relationship with everyone he deals with as all business. He is the most powerful man in Porn Valley, and because of fear, he stays that way without breaking a sweat on his bald head.
The species of porn pimp perched across the table from me, however, is not so evolved. He’s reputed for sampling the meat he purveys, often getting disease stuck to his plumage, tainting his stock and himself.
The stills photographer and the director enter the kitchen. The director says the pretty-girl stills are done. He tells me I should get ready because she’s now doing her “girlie things” (douche, enemas, birth control). I drop a Viagra and chase it with a Red Bull right there in front of everyone, making no pretenses of hiding it. Then I walk to the set.
Kino-Flo diva lights focus on a sofa. This is the set for my scene, the scene that took place before mine, and the scene before that. There’s a musk of sex in the air. It has the woolen sweetness of a fresh-turned field of topsoil and manure. I give the sofa a few passes of Lysol until the surface is nice and wet. You learn to carry Lysol with you when you’re sick of mystery lesions appearing on your skin the next day, or antibiotic-resistant staph chewing holes in your flesh. I wait for it to dry. I wait for the Viagra to make my dick feel heavy.
The director and my scene partner, a Milf, enter. The director says, Action, then aims the camera at her. She closes her eyes and does a dance, but it’s not a dance for anyone present in the room.
I squint my eyes, softening her wrinkles for a glimpse of what she was like at her apex: She was new to the business, signing autographs for fans at her booth in Vegas during her first porn convention, giving fans who’ve lusted after her all year their first glimpse of her. That night, a team of hair and makeup artists fussed over her. She stepped out of the elevator and crossed the casino floor. Hips swung, men stared. Her body, a weapon, severed thoughts and sentences before their first full stop. Out of the casino and into the waiting limousine that zipped her down the strip to the red carpet of the award show. Fans and photographers fought for attention. Flash bulbs popped. Later, awards in hand, she bounced from limo to club to limo, never once having to bother with money.
As the night continued, the number of people in her orbit increased. With each appearance, she generated angular momentum the way a figure skater draws her arms in close to increase her spin velocity. Or like a collapsing star.
The director, holding the camera with one hand, tosses a dildo at her with the other. It lands on the pleather cushion with a slap, snapping both her and me from our conjured-up private fantasies. What’s before me now is the tragedy of an Ingres left to crack and fade in the sun.
She flops onto the sofa, smears lube on the dildo, and plunges the phallus in and out of the rent between her legs with the enthusiasm of unclogging a toilet. I let a few moments pass before I step into frame. The scene begins. No clever dialogue filled with double entendre or sexual innuendo. I open my fly and let the cock loose. Nobody tells her to sink to her knees and put it in her mouth. Nobody has too. Both of us have played these roles many times before.
After she does me, I go down on her. She tries to kiss me. I stop her. I turn my head and her lips slide across my jaw. Some girls I kiss, others, no. Kissing is personal. Never mind the fact that I just rimmed her asshole. Whore logic.
We both press “play” on our pre-recorded outbound messages: I pant, she moans. I sit on the sofa and she mounts me cowgirl. Our bodies meet but neither of us are in them. I go to my fantasy land. God knows where she goes. Every three-point-five minutes we switch into a new sex position without being told. Our whore clocks are well-tuned. My fantasy plays out: Today, it’s Libyan thugs gang raping a journalist who resembles my mom. What the fuck is that about? The rest of the scene plays out in silence.
The scene is over and she’s talking to me…something about the end of the world prophesied to come in a few weeks, but I’m not really listening…Instead, I’m staring at what looks like a cigarette hole burnt into her hoodie…What must it be like for a woman to live with power over men rivaled only by God for the first third of her life, build her identity over her looks, only to feel it slip away as time tumbles by…feel the shift in how people treat her, as though getting old is a contagious affliction? Maybe it is. Shit, at mid-life, what do some of these girls–girls that weren’t even born when I was their age–see when they look at me? Do they squint their eyes to imagine me at my prime? Less fat? A bit more hair? Doubt they even see me…Fuck, the scene ended ten minutes ago, and I’m still winded. I know why.
The woman says something about how nice I am, and how nice I treated her, and how very nice it was working with me. She mumbles something about picking up her kid. She hugs me and leaves with the pimp. I wait for a few minutes. Then I step out the door and disappear under a sky the color of wet flannel.
I’m on the floor of my parents garage squirming and wailing and screaming as the man who gave me life is doing his damnedest to take it back. The concrete floor feels hard chafes my skin, and the walls are filled with sharp tools. Tools that ten minutes ago would be fun to play with, now look like they came from the Inquisition. Both the floor and the walls serve to keep me in play as I’m driven end-to-end by the tart sting of my father’s belt. The garage door is open. I could escape, but I don’t. Where the hell would I go? It’s open, and the neighborhood kids, who normally would be loud as they play, are silent. I’m sure they are listening. If they are, they’ll hear my father screaming, asking my why I still wet the bed and how my parents wasted good money on a child psychiatrist, and how that money could have gone to more important things, and how it doesn’t make sense that I can be so smart and flunk a grade, and just what the hell is wrong with me? School tomorrow will not be fun.
The belt snaps across my chest, catching me between breaths, and I fight for air that does not come. Instead, I’m rewarded with dust coating my tongue. I shake. Across the garage, I see a pair of gardening sheers. All I can think about is how I long to know their weight in my hands. And how hard I’d have to push to make this moment stop.
When I wake up, I go to the bathroom. It feels like I’m pissing shards of broken pottery. Chlamydia. Again. Which means Amanda has it. I can’t count how many times I’ve got the clap over the past decade. That, and Strep, Staph, warts (those have to be frozen off), ringworm, pink eye.
She tells me, This is getting old, and, How my work choice is endangering her health and even her life, and, from now on, I either wear a condom on set or I can forget about sex with her.
I tell her that wearing a condom on set, with the exception of maybe two studios, is not an option. It would be career death. She reminds me of the time I had unprotected sex with an HIV positive girl, then came home to have sex with her. How we both took batteries of HIV tests for months on end. How I risked her life and she stood by me anyway. There’s nothing I can say. She’s right. Always is.
I got a supply of Zithromax on hand from a stocking-up trip to Mexico–you learn to do that, too–and I self medicate. Amanda tells me she’ll see her doctor for an exam tomorrow. Can’t say I blame her. About anything. Every time we make love there’s the chance of a second-hand disease invading her body. Anything I say about continuing to risk her health—-her life–is nothing but a rationalization.
She’s not speaking to me, so I grab a book and head to the Starbucks on Vermont and Prospect. It’s the only place where I can read or write without interruption since Amanda moved her mother and her mother’s boyfriend into our one bedroom home.
So, Tim, the coffee shop’s Cliff Clavin who loves everybody and everybody loves, is there having a discussion with the other regulars. When Tim sees me enter, he walks up to my seat.
He says, “We got him.”
“Osama Bin Laden is dead.”
Tim sits in the chair next to me. “Yeah, our special forces team raided his compound and took him out. Looks like all is right with the world again.”
I say, “Too bad some Internet prophet is predicting the world is going to end soon.”
Tim laughs. “You believe that nonsense?”
I shake my head. “Of course not…tell me about Osama.”
I’m on my back, lying in a pool of sweat that oozed from the pores of three different people and some girl is riding me cowgirl, fucking me while some dude rims her asshole at the same time. On each up stroke his tongue caresses her taint, micrometers from the back of my shaft. I can feel his breath on my balls when he exhales. The girl bucks and brays. Every time the man’s tongue misses the girl’s asshole the wind from his tongue as it fans the air close to my dick. I grit my teeth and fuck.
“LICK MY ASSHOLE!” the girls says to the man.
And to me, she says, “Pound-me-with-that-black-cock! Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Don’t–”
Before every scene I drop a Viagra. Every scene. It didn’t always used to be this way. Before, it was only brought to set with me as insurance but the pill seldom left my pocket.
“–stop! Don’t stop!”
But this was before 2008. Since 2008, if you’re male talent, you’re only as good as your last scene. Profit margins are thin, and studios don’t have the chips to re shoot a failed scene if the male talent can’t get it up.
“Don’t stop! Don’t stop!”
All the awards you’ve won in the past, and all the relationships you’ve fostered throughout your career mean fuck-all, because chances are, the people you’ve won the awards with and bonded on set with are gone. So for the last couple of hundred scenes, I dropped a V.
There are no real directors entering porn anymore. No skilled lensmen to replace the ones who get sifted out through attrition. What you’ve got now is a kid who was flipping a skateboard just last week when some studio gets him on the cheap and puts a video camera in his hand.
The ass licker says something. The fuck if I know what he just said. Have you ever felt the baritone vibrations of a man’s voice resonating near your crotch?
Porn is a video game. You are not a human. You’re a character. But once you clear the level by getting the scene in the can, you never progress to a new level. It’s the same Goddamn level, the same Goddamn scene. Over and over and over again. And with new male talent who shoot their cocks up with Caverject in lieu of a learning curve, you cannot fail. Ever. So you gobble that magic pill, power up, and keep the ghosts away.
Today, if you haven’t already guessed, is a cuckold scene. Husband and wife have marital issues. The usual: he’s white and only Negro cock can satisfy her. But when I read today’s script, I dropped a second V.
The script originally called for the hubby and the wife to “make out on the black man’s cock” and “reconcile their marital woes by feeding each other dark meat.” I don’t play that shit. The script was changed. Now, the scene calls for hubby to get as close as he can without actual contact with me. If I had a third V, I’d have dropped that one too.
The director makes a looping motion in the air with his pointer finger. Time to switch positions. Hubby lies on his back, then the wife lies on top of him, also on her back. His head pops out over her shoulder. This new thing…this two-headed, four-armed beast with tits parts its legs and watches me with anticipation. I squirt lube in my hand and give the cock a few back-hand strokes to keep it up then I position myself between two pairs of legs. Hubby gives the wife a reach around and rubs her clit. Then, he pries open her vagina for me to penetrate. Her innards are pink. His knuckles are hairy. Four eyes gaze into my face. I fight instinct and fuck it. In my mind, I’m plunging a stake into the heart of a monstrosity that shouldn’t be alive, yet is. As I thrust hubby grinds upward, in effect fucking me vicariously through the wife. His lips part as he stares into my face. I’ve had this look directed at me many times before…overt and unbridled animal lust…but almost always from women. He rubs the clit as I fuck.
Sweat from my forehead trickles into my eyes and burns, and drops of sweat fall, splattering onto the wife’s chest. She’s oblivious. She shudders as wave after wave of orgasms surge through her. Her foundation melts and her mascara runs in rivers down her cheek. She’s melting under the set lights, and I’m cooking away in a reduction of my own perspiration.
I’ve had about enough of this. Time to go to usual mental triggers to block out this eight-limbed Hindu demon and get myself to the where I need to. After a thousand scenes, ejaculating, for me, is mechanical. It’s as erotic and as personal as a sneeze.
I pull out and the wife drops to her knees and hubby drops to his knees next to her. Both of them, side by side with their faces angled up, mouths agape like ravenous baby birds. He’s in the line of fire, but there’s no stopping the tide. I soak them both.
I flick my cock, flinging a drop of come in wifey’s face. Once. Twice. On the third fling, hubby nudges her aside and catches it in his open mouth. His eyes roll back to slits of white and a torrent of ecstasy washes over his face. My stomach flips and folds inside my chest. The camera is pointed at them, so I jog the bathroom and hover over the toilet. I dry heave into the basin. The sweat from the sofa soaks me to the bone.
When I return to set, the girl is clean and dressed. Hubby has my dried come on his chin.
The director and the stills guy tells me how great a performer I am, and someone congratulates me for my nominations for Performer of the Year for both the TLA Awards and the Urban X Awards. I’m tying my shoes and pulling on my t-shirt as someone comments how they wish I was the male talent for the earlier scene, because the guy for that scene was high and couldn’t fuck, wasting half of the day. I’m not up for conversation, but when John, the lighting guy, wants to chat about a mutual friend, David Aaron Clark, who died of a heart attack last year, I snap out of my funk and sit. And we talk. Turns out, neither of us have resolved losing him.
I’m in Starbucks, having a conversation with Tim when a girl stops in front of our chairs.
Tim says, “Maria, this is Erik. Erik, this is Maria.”
Tim says, “Maria is great at reading people’s body language. Erik is a writer and he’s really smart.”
She smiles. I smile.
I open my book and read. But as they talk, I re-read the same sentence over and over again.
Maria says, “…and it’s really annoying that every guy I meet tries to get into my pants.”
Tim says, “Well, if it was the right guy and you like the way he looks, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind helping him with the zipper.”
She giggles and hides her face in her hands. Jesus, a woman’s giggle…cool water bubbling from a spring.
“Maybe not,” she says.
It’s no use pretending to read the book, but as soon as I set it aside I regret it.
“Well, what about my friend, Erik, here?” Tim asks. “You like how he looks?”
She says, “Yes!”
“You see that, Erik?” Tim says. “You see how fast she answered?”
Tim says, “Well, that was easy. What are you two waiting for?”
Maria and I both let out a nervous laughs. The girl is blushing and turns away, and my blushing would be obvious, too if my skin wasn’t dark. Tim smiles wide. He’s really enjoying this.
Having enough of Tim’s good-natured torture, Maria says goodbye and skips away.
Everyone in the house sleeps. Nobody is snoring. This is a rare moment of quiet, so I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to read without ear plugs. Then it happens. A hot and dull stabbing sensation pierces my chest. This is followed by a great squeezing, like a white-hot vice grip. The book slips from my fingers. My pulse thrums through me as though my entire body is a sub woofer.
Bang ba-BANG bang BANG BANG bang bang bang!
I tell myself to relax and that this will pass.
BANG!!! ba-BANG BANG!
It’s not passing. Two people in my livingroom…Amanda’s sleeping right next to me. I may as well be on Pluto.
BANG!! BANG!! ba-BANG!!
My heartbeat pound in my toes…my finger tips…my eyes…my teeth…my ears.
How do you bargain with a God with whom you’ve got no rapport…A God that you’re certain you’ve got nothing he wants? Instead of pleading, my thoughts go to the absurdity of the moment: One instant, I’m a rational thinking man, a member of the human race reading the thoughts of another thinking being. The next, all thought fades…I just am. A panicked insect, alone and stripped of humanity, an animal that cannot run. The veneer of humanity painted over our instinct is thinner than you’d think.
ba-BANG!! ba-BANG!! ba-BANG!!
Salt drops well up in my eyes and pile onto each other until my vision is blurred, like looking through a frosted window at dawn.
Just as soon as it all started, it stops. The rumbling in my chest fades like a train that has just passed and is now a mile away. My mouth is dry, and my entire body is numb and tingles like a hand that’s been slept on.
It came and went. The entire thing was so…sudden. Human thought returns. Amanda still sleeps. I just lie there and contemplate it all. You’re a gazelle in a herd drinking from a still pool when jaws spring from the water and grip your chest. There were other animals bathing right next to you, but you’re the one plucked from the herd and dragged into the water. It takes you deep and twists you so that up is down is up. Then, the crocodile lets go.
I brought this upon myself. When you abuse any prescription drug you take your health in your hands. The prescribed dosage of Viagra for me was 50 milligrams a day. At the peak of my career when I worked three scenes a day, I took 300.
The first time this happened to me, I lived in denial. Who the hell thinks they can have heart problems in their thirties? Since then, I live with doom. When you look at it from the perspective of my state of mind as of late, maybe it’s the Universe giving me what I asked for so many times over the past few years…A way out…Until now, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to survive this…I mean, really, what’s the fucking point? The only joy I get from life is during those rare bursts of energy when I write and paint for days on end, sequestering myself from society while I create, often forgetting to eat. These burst are always followed by much longer stretches when I can’t get out of bed, let alone sit up to reach the keyboard or a paintbrush…My mind is my enemy hell bent on my annihilation. I’d give all of the highs back for a taste of normalcy.
And no, I never sought medical attention–for either affliction. Before you judge me, I’m one of millions–millions–of the working-poor class of Americans with no health insurance. As such, we tend to avoid seeking medical care until it’s too late.
It was well after the first time my heartbeat was on the verge of critical mass when I told some friends: Justin, a physician; Jeff, whose father was a cardiologist; another friend named Derek who escaped from porn purgatory; and my brother. It’s not easy being my friend. Just ask any of the above people. I avoid social situations, often lying my way out of birthdays, drinks, bowling, or hanging out with the guys to watch pay-per-view fights. It’s not unusual to go months, even up to a year without as much as a text message from me, and when you do see me I’m not really there. Who knows why I even bothered to tell the people I told, but I did. Maybe I really don’t want to die and T.S. Elliot is calling my bluff by showing me a handful of dust.
I told all those people, but I never told Amanda. You think it’s tough being my friend, try loving me. How would she feel that I told others before I told her? How would she feel if she learned of my affliction by reading this sentence. I wake her and tell her.
140,000 people that are here today won’t be tomorrow. Who is next in line? Maybe it’s the dad you shook hands with at PTA last night, or the person who held the elevator for you this morning. James Franco? Fidel Castro? I was a Boy Scout camping in the Shenandoah Mountains when one frozen and snowed-in night in the woods Mr. Capazolli, one of the scout masters, was cooking sweet-smelling sausages for the kids. Then he dropped dead in front of us. Just like that. It was as though someone flicked a switch. At an early age I realized I’m in the same line. So are you. They say the average man thinks about sex every seven seconds. Death perverts my thoughts.
The next day I write out my will. Then I print a copy of important contacts and put it in my wallet, and take a walk. I don’t have a destination planned, I just need to get out of the house and think. Decisions are made. Have to lose weight. I can never take Viagra again. Ever. No matter fucking what.
My first stop is Skylight Books. Then I walk down the street to Starbucks and look to my usual chair. It’s empty. I sit.
Soon I notice how quiet it is in the store. Bud, one of the regulars, walks up to me and stops in front of my chair.
Bud says, “Tim died yesterday.”
I say, “Are you sure? I mean…I mean…how? I just spoke to Tim two days ago.”
“He was in his office last night. He had a massive heart attack.”
The camera man films Jasmine Embers masturbating on a sofa. It’s a live feed, as opposed to DVD, meaning, you log onto the web cam site, pay the fee, and you get to see everything in real time right there on your computer. You can even type in comments to the performers, which they can answer back. You can help the girl pick out her outfit, tell her how to masturbate, and if there is male talent present, you can direct the scene, telling them how to screw.
Jasmine goes through the commands of the viewing audience, as barked out to her by an off-camera woman who reads them from a laptop. I wait off camera, next to the barker, stroking myself to keep the motor running while I wait my turn to step in. Jasmine is one of perhaps four black girls I’ve even seen on a set, let alone worked with, in the past few years. Jasmine would be my female counterpart in porndom. I first met Jasmine way back when I was a contract star. We were both on set paired up to work with other people, but when I saw her, time ceased to exist. Never has a woman triggered such a primal and visceral response from me. Never. She was the Golden Ratio expressed in flesh and breath. I had to have her. Whenever a major studio has a need for an acceptable black couple, we are always paired together. Black talent are by no means a plurality in the adult industry, but there are certainly more than just a handful of us. (Plenty of other talent should get a chance to work for the upper echelon studios, not just the same six of us.)
Over the past decade, whenever Jasmine and I see each other, we fall right into step. Like we’ve got our secret club: her and me against the porn world. She was the girl who played my little sister in the MOST UNCLEAN story. No matter what happens, we’ve got each other’s back. She requested me to work with her in today’s scene.
The girl’s pre-game warm-up is over and the barker taps me on the shoulder and I step in front of the camera and go to the girl. Today is to be the first scene attempted without Viagra in…God, I couldn’t tell you how long. This is a failed scene before I walked in the door…even before I woke up this morning. Not because of the girl. We’ve worked together dozens of times before and Jasmine is one of my favorites. Not because of the lack of drugs–well, not entirely. I am on set physically, but I’m just not there. I’m not really anywhere lately. I’m a Polaroid developing in reverse.
The blow job goes well. I manage to keep focus on the girl and the sensations from what she is doing to me. My dick stays up. The barker conveys a command from a viewer for us to switch to doggy style. The girl gets on her hands and knees–my God, what an ass this girl has–and I position myself behind her and insert. It doesn’t take long for my erection to wilt. After fumbling around in her vagina, I roll off her and walk off the camera. Jasmine picks up the slack by resuming her masturbation, and the camera stays on her.
Franco, the camera man, whom I’ve known a very long time, looks at me and frowns. He taps his finger to his temple, meaning, It’s in your head, dude.
I nod to the affirmative. I take a Tyler moment, then step back into frame. Jasmine takes me into her mouth but it’s no use. There will be no more sex from me today. I can only imagine that the fans viewing my live and real-time implosion are saying. The barker spares me the reading of their heckling.
The barker goes up to Franco and whispers in his ear. She then holds up a dry erase board with the message:
FAKE A POP SHOT IN HER MOUTH, AND STEP OUT OF THE FRAME!
Jasmine, still thinking of saving the scene (and me) says, “You can do it. If it helps, just pretend that I’m a white girl or a Latina girl or something.”
It breaks my heart that right now she believes my problem of not being able to perform is because of her. That she believes I don’t find her, the ne plus ultra of my feminine ideal, attractive enough because of the color of her skin. Our skin. That my struggling through this scene is my passive aggressive way of stating a preference of lighter skin and my boycott of black women. I want to tell Jasmine if we met under different circumstances, and if I wasn’t with Amanda, I’d move heaven and earth to make her mine. But we didn’t meet under different circumstances. And I cannot say any of this. The things left unsaid to people we care about, and the void those unspoken words leave, often have more impact that what is said. I take what the Universe has dealt. A true professional, Jasmine looks chipper for the always watching camera, but I know better. The weight of her sadness grows in the space between us. I wish I was dead.
She drops to her knees and I howl as I deliver a fake pop shot into her mouth. She then lets saliva dribble down her chin. Isn’t ejaculate of course, but the camera doesn’t linger on it long enough to tell the difference.
When the camera cuts, it severs the connection between Jasmine and me. Franco packs up his camera equipment. Jasmine gathers her clothes and dresses in silence. I watch her slide on her underwear. Then her jeans and her boots. I stop watching her so I can dress myself and then I go into the director’s office.
The director, now sitting behind his desk, asks if I can finish out one position and pop for the DVD version of this scene. I tell him there is no way. He lets out a sigh, then slides my check across the desk toward me and says that he will keep me in the rotation and give me another chance later, if only by my reputation alone, but the next time I have to deliver a pop shot.
This is not true. I will never see this man again. That’s the way it is. My success ratio for scenes has to be 200:1. This is my first failed scene since the summer of ‘09 after I crawled blinking like an evicted shrew from LA County jail and a month-long Stoli binge.
He’s asking me what the problem was. This is the part where many other male talent, caring only for self preservation, place the blame on the girl, the heat under the lights, choice of lube, the sofa, Fibonacci numbers, anything rather than to take responsibility. They beg and plead to the director to keep them in the talent rotation–and to keep their failure silent from the industry lest they be banished to mope purgatory. But when you no longer give a fuck, you have freedom.
I say, “Jasmine is awesome, and this scene, in terms of difficulty, was a lay-up. I had an off day.” I slide the check back to him and say, “I didn’t earn this.” I don’t offer an apology, either. I just leave the house.
The sky is black. The air is warm. I’m walking down the driveway, thinking I should go back inside and find Jasmine and hug her and tell her how sorry I am, and that my failure had absolutely nothing to do with her. But I fear it may come off as a “Hey baby, it’s not you, it’s me.” cliché, so I keep going. I’m walking when something pushes against my thigh and a thousand sharp pains spear my crotch. This time it’s not Chlamydia. I walked into a cactus. I laugh and laugh and pluck the quills from my groin and thigh. A car passes, and the woman inside glares at the cackling black man in her neighborhood who is laughing and fussing with his crotch.
I get a text for a booking. It’s a re-shoot of a scene for jennifer dragon (spelled with lower-case letters), the contract star and director for Decadent Pictures. She directed me in something last month and wants more footage. Decadent is the only condom-mandatory studio in the porn industry. Its stance on condoms, proving porn’s long-standing “nobody buys porn with condoms” paradigm wrong, is commendable. They put talent’s safety first, and it takes balls to make a stand.
Not every male talent can work with condoms, however. Under the stress of a porn scene, when time and money are on the line, condoms make the job infinitely more challenging because at minimum, it reduces the sensation that may keep you aroused and in the moment. This, and the couples and female friendly, woman-empowered content they shoot demands male talent who are fit and attractive, and believable as choices for the females in their films. As a result, the list of Decadent’s approved male talent is shallow. These things present two problems for me. One: I just failed a scene since swearing off Viagra, and with a condom-only scene, what are my chances of success? Two: I put on a few pounds over the past few months.
I read the details: call time, location, wardrobe, then text back, confirming my availability. When I re-read the date is the 21st, Armageddon Day, I laugh aloud.
Today is Doomsday and I’m sitting on jennifer dragon’s sofa. My girl for the day is off doing her girlie stuff and the other cast and crew are sitting around me talking. It’s an equal mix of men and women, and most of us have been friends for years. It’s relaxing–even comforting to see some familiar faces–Mindi Hunt and Erin Masters. While the conversation goes on, I’m actually adding to it now and then. Sure, I’m aware that I don’t have a Viagra on me, how can I forget, but it’s not a great concern at the moment.
The conversation drifts from gossip to the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs in the business. How many of the top level guys won’t/can’t perform without them and the new generation with their Caverject injections. I’m silent while this conversation is going on, but after while I speak up.
I say, “I’ll share something with you guys. Back when I was working at a clip of twenty or thirty scenes a month, I’d take a Viagra every once in a while…Mostly days when I’d do two or three scenes scheduled for the day so I wouldn’t fail any of them. Aside from last week, I can’t remember when I didn’t pop a V before a scene…That’s a lot of fucking pills. Anyway, I’m fairly certain I’ve had at least two heart attacks over the last year. At minimum, there’s significant damage done. If I take a Viagra today, you’ll have a snuff film on your hands.”
Someone laughs and makes an innocuous joke to break the tension, and the subject changes. I like these people.
When the girl returns, she goes through pretty girls on a white sofa next to a crackling fireplace. She’s all legs and smiles, and while she poses, the men on set are transfixed.
Someone asks me, “What are you gonna do with all that?”
“Braid her hair and ask her about her day.”
When the stills are done I take my place next to her on the sofa. My mind starts fucking with me. It screams, WAIT! You can’t perform without Viagra! Remember last week? You’re gonna FAIL!
The crew takes their place and someone yells, Quiet on set. The cameras are pointed at the girl and me. The boom mike hovers above our heads.
I point to the fireplace and say, “You guys ever hear of Richard Pryor and Michael Jackson? Never put a black man’s hair next to open flames!”
Jennifer calls, Action! The girl leans over and kisses me and the inner voice shuts up and the scene begins. We complete the scene, with condoms and no Viagra. The scene goes without incident.
I’m at a burrito stand with Ken, a screen writer who was a philosophy professor in a past life. Some girls take too long gathering napkins at a dispenser near our table. They try to be subtle as they stare at Ken. The way women react to Ken has to be seen to be believed. It’s as though he’s a Disney character and girls are woodland birds that eat out of his hand. He acts oblivious, but I’m sure he misses nothing.
Today, we meet to trade books. I give him a copy of JOURNEY to the End of the Night, a rare book for me in that I’ve read it more than once.
Ken takes a few bites of an enormous burrito. I don’t eat. My diet as of late consists of fresh fruit and grains. We catch up to what we’ve been up to. He tells me about a philosophy book he’s working on. Then I listen to another idea he has for a children’s book.
I say, “Shit man, that’s a great fucking idea. This would go right over kids–and for that matter, most adults heads, but you could go Nabokov on the colors thing–”
“Nabokov was a synesthete–”
“Yeah!” I say. “Your idea is fucking brilliant.”
Ken, in between chewing, says, “Every story you’ve given me to read for my opinion, I notice the same Nihilistic theme.”
“It’s not so much an intent…I’m just trying to figure shit out.”
Ken says, “There are modern-day Buddhist monks that spend a lifetime discovering newness of the bell.”
“They empty their minds…When you hear a stimulus…like a ringing bell, it’s great, but each successive time you hear it, the effect of the bell’s beauty is less. These monks, they meditate so that each time they hear the bell, even after a thousand times, the bell has the same newness of the first time they heard it. The effect is bliss. Bliss every time.”
I consider this for a few moments. I say, “So, it’s a discipline…”
“A lifetime discipline.
A woman, walking a Pomeranian, slows down as she passes our table. This is her second lap around the burrito stand. Ken winks at her.
I say, “Fuck that. You’re trading one sacrifice for another. And the stimuli are still the same. It’s still the same bell.”
“But it’s not the same. By definition, everything in life, no matter how mundane or meaningless, is a new experience, Erik. Each moment that passes has never been and never will be again.”
“Tell that to Prometheus…or Sisyphus.”
Ken says, “The rock Sisyphus pushes up the hill is a bit different each time. His thoughts while toiling with the rock are different. He is not the same man pushing the rock.”
“You’re right. Each day, there’s a bit less of him doing the pushing!”
Ken doesn’t say anything to this. He smiles at me, then gets up from the table to talk to the lady with the dog. When I figure it out, I smile too.