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Porn Stars Are The Saddest People

By Peter Hardwick

(“Peter Hardwick” is not my real name but my stage name and, of course, nom de plume. I’m 29, a college graduate who comes from a liberal (read: my parents were former hippies) but exceedingly polite midwestern family; my folks say they’re proud of me but then again they may just be nice. I am single but looking, something that is hampered to a substantial degree by the fact that I currently work in the adult film business and have made it my career, at least until I can get enough work as a journalist (which is what I did before this gig) or until I’m no longer being cast or in the unusual event that the porn business suddenly goes caput, which entirely a possibility given the advent of the internet and the monopolistic behemoth that is PornHub, who don't pay a damn thing for anything they post. Anyway.)

November, Part I

Monday, November 4

   So it came up with my agent again today and I think the reason I'm finally going to do gay porn is that while I'm thoroughly heterosexual there have been times--ok many, many times, where I've filled holes that, were I not being paid to fill, would never under any circumstances do so, times in which I've had to all but disassociate myself and my body from what I'm doing to the extent that I'm either not there in part or at times not there at all. So I guess what I'm saying is that a hole is a hole, getting blown is getting blown. Plus it pays A LOT more and if I'm going to get paid for putting A-Rod in a shit-swilling hole might as well come out ahead. Wow just read what I wrote--come out (on) a head, what the fuck is wrong with me.

Tuesday, November 5

Ok, never doing gay porn again. Just not for me. A hole is not just a hole, a suck is not just a suck. When you’re plugging a manhole from behind, it’s just not the same. It’s the difference between being at home and visiting someone else’s house, it’s still a home but not your home, it's not where you belong.
No, actually, it’s not like that. I have to be honest here, if I can’t be honest here I can’t be honest.
  The whole thing completely threw me off balance. This guy, Brent, started sucking me—which was pretty fucking fantastic if I’m honest (let’s face it, most women are as halting and clueless as men are when it comes to giving head to the opposite) but when he turned around, bent over and A-Rod went deep, a weird panic rose up in me. It was the feel of it that threw me. Not the dick but the hands, grabbing onto a man’s hips, stony, blunt, adamant—was just so different. Too different. You can sink your fingers into a woman’s hips, there’s some give, some softness to the firmness. It wasn’t about “natural” or “unnatural”; it was that it was so strange and unexpectedly different I totally forgot what I was doing, what I was supposed to be doing, like the actual, step-by-step method and technique of fucking. Like I’d suddenly been stripped of my Union Card.
  I was so off balance I began to feel like I was losing track of myself, like I was this different person all of a sudden—or more precisely, a different thing all of a sudden, some unfamiliar machine that was designed to make widgets but was now tasked with making smidgets and the function did not compute, things began to go sideways in a way I couldn’t have anticipated.
  On the drive home, all of this really threw me, really sent me into a downward spiral. Not the fucking a guy part but the sense of identity that seemed to vanish, that seemed to get turned off or turned down. Loss of identity can be a good thing in small doses, you can lose it in a good way, like losing yourself in a song or TV show or dancing but this wasn’t that. It was a stark, blunt reminder that this is who I am: Mr. Professional Hole Plugger, a guy who can’t be who he is without sticking his dick (which he’s named) in some stranger’s insides, a guy who’s done his job just long enough that it’s become inseparable from the rest of him, attached to him like his self-named rod. It’s like I've turned some corner that I never saw coming but that I always knew was there, lurking, just waiting for me to catch up to it, just waiting to surprise me at a moment of weakness or vulnerability. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night—sweating, panting, bristling with alarm—and see everything in my life with a kind of preternatural clarity, understanding things as they really are and not how I want them to be or hope them to be, seeing people for who and how they really are. There’s that old cliche “the truth hurts” and when I wake up like that, it’s not just panic and alarm that disturbs me, it’s the pain, the psychic pain that manifests itself into something physical (for me, it’s my throat closing up), that actually changes and attacks my body. I’d never had a moment of clarity like that during waking hours and I’m beginning to wonder if this kind of thing is going to happen more often or if it was a one-off, if I’m destined to be constantly gripped by the capital-T Truth day in and day out or if I can get some kind of relief from myself.

Saturday, November 9

Ok, I bitch and moan a lot, “Poor baby screws beautiful women all day and gets sad about it! Boo-hoo!” Okay, fine. That’s understandable.
  But here’s the thing: it’s just a job. I’ve been doing it for six years now and let me tell you, it is a fucking job. (you’re really starting to hate my puns and play on words, aren’t you?) Sure, at first it was thrilling and exciting (then again, most jobs are), the newness of it gave it a bright shininess, the sense of anticipation each day, each scene, the fascination of learning a new skill, that exciting charge of anxiety when you’re in a completely different world and don’t yet know what you’re really doing. But like Sarah Polley wrote in her movie “Take This Waltz,” (highly recommended) “New gets old.” New gets old, real fast. Not to put a too fine a point on it but fucking for a living is really, really repetitive, the kind of endless, mindless repetition that gives you a new-found sympathy for jackhammers and well drilling rigs.
   Yes, it’s usually a different woman (or women) each day I work but what I do doesn’t change all that much, unless the director needs something unusual (will never understand the whole, “Okay, now raise your leg like a dog!” stuff and some of the weird gymnastic-like contortions the ladies have to put themselves through—that shit ain’t natural or comfortable) or we’re in a different location, like outdoors—but even then, you’re just plugging a hole outdoors or in a loft or on an empty beach. It always feels the same (except for the aforementioned foray into gay porn), the time always passes the same way, I always find my mind drifting off after being in the same position for a long time.
I know I’ll never persuade anyone that porn can be just as boring as any job, but damn if it isn’t true.

Wednesday, November 12

Had a mini flashback today. There’s something that has happened in my job that still, to this day, makes me nauseated, though over the years its impact has waned somewhat. It’s a move that has become commonplace, even routine with some directors but one that I will never understand or like or, frankly, get over.
  The first time it happened, I’d been working for about six months, learning the ropes, honing my craft when one day Heather G. decided I needed to be introduced to it. Everything was going great, just the usual stuff at first, sucking, licking. We had good chemistry (it’s called acting), and things were starting to get intense when Heather told me to fuck her in the ass. No problem. So there we were, doing anal, smooth and gentle at first, then on full blast when she gave me the signal, when suddenly she stopped and pulled away, turned to face men and started sucking me. At first I was like, Whoa, that’s hot, but then it hit me. Sucking her own shit. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing—or more particularly, what I was smelling, a sickening melange of spunk, shit, sweat and body oil assaulting my nose, my entire body—and I had to clamp my eyes shut and look away, a momentary and complete separation from myself and what my body was seeing, doing and smelling, an out-of-body detachment the only thing stopping me from puking all over Heather. I’d never seen that particular maneuver before and I couldn’t fucking believe she did it—and she could tell, her laugh, which up to that point had been playful and flirtatious, suddenly ornery and taunting, as if she were begging me to break scene and blow chunks just for the perverse satisfaction of it. Turns out she’d watched my reel and decided to introduce me to it. This is the kind of initiation one gets in the adult film world. When we were done (read: when I sandblasted the shit out of her face with swimmers), gave me a cajoling smile and burst out with the kind of laughter where you know they’re not laughing at you but with you, even if you haven’t caught the joke yet.
   But still. Just thinking of it now, how often it happens, how fucking awful it must be.

Friday, November 14

Going to the gym can be an exercise in depression, pun somewhat intended. Part daily routine, part vice, the gym is as near to a second home as I have, the rush of endorphins, that strangely electrifying feeling of sweating until it pours down your face and body. I know I’ve had a good session when my socks are soaked. But sometimes, despite the infusion of endorphins, despite that brief, fleeting feeling of invincibility that comes from pumping iron and ripping off set after set of inverted sit ups, something happens and all of that good goes away, vanishing as if it were spiraling down a drain right in front of me and I’m left with a feeling of emptiness and the kind of melancholy that can’t be pumped or thrust or chased away. What happens is, I’ll see an attractive woman sans wedding or engagement ring and find myself being drawn into the idea that we could actually be together in a real, substantial, long-term relationship, that my job wouldn’t get in the way, that despite all experience to the contrary, that she and I would have a shot. But then I come to my senses and find myself working out harder, faster, digging deeper, suddenly possessed by a fury and an anger that seems to come from out of nowhere, working faster and hards to the point of almost injuring myself.
  There's this weird dichotomy with being an adult film actor depending on whether or not you're male or female. If your a guy and you’re dating a porn star, you gain some kind of weird prestige amongst your peers, you’re instantly thought of as a stud, a conqueror who's done the impossible, your status suddenly elevated, the object of envy and awe. A woman who dates a male porn star (speaking from experience) is seen differently by her peers: she's thought of having something wrong with her or is some kind of deviant, she's derided and ridiculed—there’s none of the back-slapping, “Dude! You dog!” that guys hear. With women, once the initial intrigue and titillation passes, there comes a point where her friends begin to wonder, at first silently, then later on not so silently, if there is something wrong with her, the implication being that you can date a male porn star but you can date one for too long, that it’s not a relationship you can take seriously.
   I’ve come to the conclusion that even if I quit my job I would either have to build an entire universe of lies about what I used to do (re: where I got all my house and money) or be upfront about it and take the risk that nine out of ten times it’s going to matter—it’s really, really going to matter. The “Ideal” woman for me would have to be a wholly self-employed orphan with little extended family and a complete social leper or hermit or have the kind of friends that really, truly didn’t care what her boyfriend does for a living and that would support her no matter who she dates as long as the guy doesn’t treat her like shit. Because, frankly, the only other choice is to date another adult film actor and that’s a non-starter. Even if I met one that knew what “non-starter” meant, that wouldn’t be enough to make me eat where I shit, metaphorically speaking.

Saturday, November 15

Had that conversation with my mom again, the one where she brings up the idea that I should be a realtor (“Have you given any more thought to getting your Realtor’s license?” as if she isn’t the one who first brought it up), mainly because she watches this “reality realty” show called “Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles” and thinks I could be a realtor. I have no idea what I’ve done in my life to make my mom think I could (or would want to) be a realtor but she seems to think it would suit me. Sure, an introverted, depressive realtor who used to fuck people for a living, that’d work out great.
   Also, I don’t live in L.A., I live in Malibu, which is a whole other enchilada from L.A.
Sometimes, if I’m in a dark mood when I talk to my parents, I’m tempted to tell them my mortgage (yeah, mom and dad, I OWN my fucking house and the mortgage will be paid off in two more years) is over five grand a month and I earn that amount every week, that my savings are probably as big as theirs, that I have a money manager and investments, stocks and bonds and that I own two small apartment buildings in El Segundo. (really just big houses that have been divided into apartments) But the fuck of it is having grown up in the Midwest, it makes it almost impossible to do that, my former hippie parents making damn sure neither me nor my brother or sister turned out to be a braggart or jerk, that we don’t flash stacks of cash in people’s faces, that we remained grounded. But just once, one time I’d like them to know that in nearly all modern metrics, I’m a success, that I’m thriving, that I’m at the top of my field and so what if that field is having sex on camera? Once my mortgage is paid off my investments will afford me the income and opportunity to do what I want, namely, quit this fucking job and start over.
   To state the obvious, it’s clear my parents are not as proud of me as they claim, which is understandable given present circumstances and sometimes I wish they’d cut the passive-egressive bullshit and just say it, that I’m an embarrassment, that their friends all know what I do and judge them for it, think less of them for it, that their friends have downgraded their parental skills as the result of one seed gone ‘bad.’ A few Christmases ago, I was back home and at the neighborhood Christmas party, word got out. Frankly I was surprised it had taken that long; my third year of doing porn and they were just then figuring it out. Anyway, that day my parents did a masterful job of shrugging it off, pretending like it didn’t bother them, declaring that they’d raised their kids to be ‘open minded’ and ‘free thinkers’ who loved and weren’t ashamed of their bodies—it was clear they’d been well prepared for this kind of moment, that they weren’t going to let it blindside them. But really, what parent wants to see their kid doing porn? Literally, could you watch your child fucking someone else?
   In the years since ‘the revelation’ when I’ve returned home, I’ve noticed how people look at me differently now. My mom’s women friends—well, some of them salivate, even going so far as to hit on me, some are openly contemptuous, some just look at me with this sad expression that seems to say, ‘how did he go so wrong?’ Of course, at the other extreme is my dad’s male friends. They are totally on board with my job, they love it when I come back to the midwest and tell them of my “exploits” (aka, MY JOB), and I won’t lie, it’s a thrill to drink beers with them and watch them living vicariously through me—and don’t get me wrong, I play that shit up, I embellish the hell out of the routine, boring mechanical aspect of my job. One time, our next door neighbor, Ralph, told me after several beers that he’d tried watching one of my videos online once but that he couldn’t do it. “I just kept seeing you as that 10 year-old kid who played with my James in our yard.” Understandable. In the same grade as each other, James was for many years my best friend, though in later years an occasional rival, the kind of relationship where we were “Stand By Me” buds as kids but grew apart as we grew up and our interests diverged. We always shared a bond from a quasi-communal upbringing, in our early years spending as much time in each other’s houses as our own and we could always count on each other when needed. Just thinking about going back home can make me anxious and queasy but every time I do I’m glad I did, the reactions from other people never quite as agonizing or depressing as they seemed in my head and while I don’t make it home very often, only a few times a year, every time I return I’m glad I did, finding myself surrounded by people that are almost universally more loving, generous and kind than I had expected. Whenever I make it back home there’s always a moment where I convince myself I’ll move back when I’m done with porn, that that’s the kind of place that I need to be, that it would be much easier to afford and subsidize anything I want to do—but as soon as I’m back in Malibu, I always slip effortlessly back into routine, back into my life. Besides, the weather—I mean, there’s no comparison, temperate coastal California versus hot and humid in the summer and freezing cold in the winter midwest. Never underestimate weather and climate in deciding where to live.
   But real estate? Real estate?

Sunday, November 16

   Billy Wildest died today. Cocaine overdose, which surprised no one who knew him. Like most folks in adult film, his pseudonym (a take on Billy Wilder) suited his job, director, and his personality, an amped-up coke-and-sex crazed debauched madman. He had a thick hedge of curly black hair with a few grey hairs woven through it that was naturally swooped back, giving the impression that he was constantly in motion, which he was in a way, always excited, always talking too fast and too loud, even his emotions in constant flux, every moment a victory or tragic defeat, taking every success and failure way out of proportion. It wasn’t that he was “larger than life” it’s that he took a lot of cocaine. Like, a lot. The first time I worked with him five years ago, he was snorting while I was doing my scene. Pretty much all I remember about that scene was this occasional snooort coming from Billy’s direction. When we finished, he was elated—really, really elated, like we’d just won the Superbowl or something, jumping up and down, pumping his fist, high fives everywhere. Before I could even get my robe on, he pounced on me.
   “Hey, Buddy, you are a GOD. That was fanfuckingtastic, you really brought the hammer, I fucking LOVED it! They told me you were new but damn you fuck like a fucking stud horse, like you been doing this your whole life! Hey, you wanna a bump?” He yelled at me, offering a snow-covered back of his hand.
   “Uh, no, thanks.”
  “You fucking kidding me?! You fucking kidding me?!” He eyed me sidelong, suddenly suspicious. “Are you fucking with me? ‘Cause I ain’t no snatch, I don’t take being fucked with too well. I mean, I offer you some of the greatest Columbian white and you turn me down? Fuck is wrong with you?”
   “See, Mr. Wildest—”
   “Billy! For fuck’s sake, call me Billy. I ain’t some fucking banker!”
   “I’m from the midwest—”
   “What, they don’t do coke in Des Moines, is that what you’re saying?”
   “No, it’s just that I was always taught to take other people’s feelings into consideration and if I don’t have any, that means there’s more for you.”
   He blinked a few times. His face twitched. For a moment his eyeballs seemed to spin in opposite directions, clockwise, counter-clockwise. “I LOVE this guy!” He threw an arm around my shoulders and escorted me away. “How about a beer, you take a beer?”  
   “I’d love a beer.”
   The next moment confused the hell out me. I realized much later he was acting out an oft-quoted scene from Blue Velvet.
  “What kind of beer do you like? ‘Heineken.’ Heineken?! Fuck that shit! PABST BLUE RIBBON!”
   In the world according to Garp, we’re all terminal, we’re all lost causes. Billy was the kind of lost cause whose end you could see coming, someone for whom you knew it was going to end badly, in an unnatural, unkind, untimely death—maybe it would be an overdose, maybe he’d piss off the wrong person, maybe he’d just go nuts and shoot a bunch of people with an uzi and get the gas chamber. (he brought a loaded uzi to the set once) There are a lot of eccentrics in porn, a lot of weirdos, a lot of truly fucked up people and in a weird Billy and the most wayward out-there folks are the ones who keep me balanced, help keep me from tipping too far in one direction or the other; you see what the extremes look like and it makes you work harder to not let yourself be thrown to the edges, to succumb to temptations, to fall into a hole you’ll never get out of. Witnessing a seemingly endless string of addicts, head cases and inveterate escape artists somehow makes it easier to maintain a constant vigilance, a kind of ‘scared straight’ for those who are desperately fighting not to become lost causes.
   Sadness and depression are my vices. All in all, I’d say there are worse things to indulge in than self-awareness and self-pity.

Tuesday, November 18

Busy day, seven holes to plug, a threesome and bunch of one-on-ones. You want to know how I know my job is boring as hell? I had sex with seven attractive women today and if you asked me who they were and what we did, I wouldn't be able to tell you straight off, I’d have to take a minute and piece together the fragments of my day from beginning to end just to recall what happened because it was, like most days, utterly uneventful, routine, unremarkable, another day at the proverbial office. The most interesting thing about today was the rented mansion we shot in, specifically its grand two-story foyer, its walls done in “Picasso” marble (I looked it up after I got home from work), a kind I’ve never seen before, a rich grey canvas veined with blacks and grayish blues, with hints of tawny strewn throughout. It was beautiful and strange. I imagine if they sold the house it would have to be to a specific buyer who was as moved and intrigued by that kind of marble. Great, now I’m thinking about real estate. Thanks, mom.
   So you want to know how I got into porn. I’m assuming this. I may be wrong, but that’s usually one of the first questions when the subject comes up. So…after escaping the midwest and graduating from one of the large public universities in SoCal with a journalism degree, I did the expected thing and immediately took a job in construction, framing and shaping the multi-million dollar homes that my mom would eventually end up watching on TV years later. The internship I had my last two summers of school had yielded nothing and my timing—graduating right when print media was being swallowed whole by the “freemium” digital miasma we face today—meant pickings were slim, especially in the face of an anemic economy. But I didn’t stop looking and networking and eventually, though a series of lucky breaks that made it seem destined in retrospect, landed a job at “LA Weekly,” writing obituaries and occasional pieces of health. I there worked for just under two years before the economy dove straight for the Marianas Trench and I was let go. Unfortunately the housing market that had been booming when I worked construction had cratered along with the rest of the economy. The jobs I was able to get just weren’t enough to pay the bills and, depressed and broke, I was about to retreat back to the midwest, tail between legs, when fate came knocking. Her name was Lea. One night I got a temp gig working as waitstaff at a fancy wedding, Lea a fellow drone hefting trays of large drinks and over-cooked entrees to an increasingly drunk wedding party. About two hours in the party went sideways, the large amounts of booze causing certain longstanding grudges and disagreements among family members to surface, the ballroom, within a matter of a minute, turning from festive wedding party to full-on brawl. I was in the kitchen getting a tray reloaded when a ruckus arose just outside the swinging doors. Those of us in the kitchen stopped what we were doing, gazes fixed on the doors when all of a sudden Lea, serving tray shielding her, burst sideways through the doors, spilling onto the floor and sliding to a stop near my feet. “Holy FUCK!” She yelled. I helped her to her feet. “The natives have gone full-on Lord of the Flies out there!” She was grinning, clearly loving the chaos. Seconds later, the fighting spilled through the doors, the presence of many sharp knives and other weapon-like utensils suddenly heightening the very real prospect of spending the night in the hospital for all present. Before I knew it, Lea was pulling me by the sleeve out the rear service entrance and into an alley where we both sprinted away from the hotel, without destination or any other purpose than to run. Eventually we stopped, panting, laughing. That’s when we really looked at each other for the first time. She was tallish, with a long face, pretty but not stunning or homely, straight shoulder-length blonde hair, lean but not anorexic, with a pair of features many might consider flaws but that I always find endearing, namely big ears and imperfect teeth. When she pulled her hair up into a pony tail, I couldn’t help but like the (and I say this fondly) satellite dishes on either side of her face and a set of teeth that looked like bowling pins about to fall. I know, I’m a freak, get over it. It’s what I like. At first I thought she was kind of thick in the hips until I realized it was just padding: she’d stolen no less than seven wallets from pervy male party guests who’d decided to fondle her ass, using the motion to gently guide the hand away from her person to execute a quick flick of the wrist, shielding the absconded wallet with her tray. She’d had to put them somewhere, so she’d stuffed them into her front pockets and when they were full, her panties. We were at the mouth of the alley when she started unbuttoning her slacks, which elicited an arched brow from me. “Here, hold these,” she said and tossed me three warm wallets that had been cradling her bum. “Hungry?” She asked, plucking bills and shedding the wallets. “Dinner’s on me. Or rather,” she looked at an I.D. in a wallet. “Steven A. Rizzo. Look at that face. What a schmuck.”
   “Starving.” We eyed each other briefly, a tingle of mutual attraction, the wave of adrenalin carrying us along toward possibility, opening something before us that seemed momentarily limitless and powerful. We introduced ourselves. For some reason, she was impressed both by the fact I had a working car and didn’t have a girlfriend. We went to dinner at a dive, funded by a cadre of well-to-do Italian-Americans and I, to paraphrase the Offspring song, took her home and made her dessert. It was just as well, she didn’t have anywhere to go, her home the last few month a rotating set of couches belonging to friends and acquaintances. We got along great, her mischievous, wayward ways somehow meshing with my staid midwestern-ness. It was the next day, trading tales of financial woe, that she told me one of the occasional gigs she’d scrounged was crewing porno in the valley and a few days later, there I was, holding a clipboard while a few feet away two porn stars were rutting like deer in mating season. That first day I didn’t look much, concentrating on the contents of the clipboard (a script) but as I kept getting jobs I couldn’t help but look. It was weird standing over two (or more) people going at it, no so much titillating as discomfiting, a surreal feeling of dislocation, like I’d been dropped into another universe, a sex-filled naked universe, one where I didn’t belong. It made me wonder not only if I could get used to it but whether or not I wanted to. Ever since I’d moved to L.A. for school, there had been time when I’d been mildly ashamed of and filled with pride over my upbringing, the staid midwestern-ness that seemed to set me apart in the Big City—my manners and politeness, my lack of arrogance and jerk-ness, my treating everyone as close to equal as possible—also singling me out at times, setting me apart in a way that was isolating. All of a suddenly I was working at a job that not only seemed to be the antithesis of my midwestern-ness but was also rescuing me, saving me from having to retreat in humiliating failure back to that same midwest. Needless to say, it made me examine a lot of things. The need to internally (and sometimes, externally) defend my upbringing in a place that seemed to stand in contradiction to it suddenly felt like part of the luggage I’d carried with me when I left for college, part of the same midwestern-ness that both strengthened and confined me. In a matter of weeks I began to evolve, to grow, making a transition that I realized a part of me had been craving since before I came out west, that I’d needed something like this, that a big reason I’d come to L.A. in the first place was not to abandon my upbringing but to supplement it, to round it out, to fill in some of the corners, to expand not only my horizons but myself.
  One thing I learned about porn those few first weeks: more than most industries, it is definitely recession-proof and Lea and I worked fairly steadily, a two to three days a week, enough between us to scrape by, usually a hundred bucks a day each. She’d more or less moved in with me, which made things financially much easier. Working in porn certainly didn’t worsen our sex life; the days we were on set we inevitably ended up going at it, the sight of constant visual stimulation having a kind of delayed effect, hitting us once the job was done, usually on the car ride home. Naturally, our favorite movie soon became “Boogie Nights.” (That’s a joke. We couldn’t afford to rent movies.)
   I know, I know, get on with it, fast forward through all the talking and get to the sex stuff.
So one day Lea and I show up to a set and everyone is ready to go, except for the male lead, who hadn’t shown up. After an hour of waiting and pacing, phone at ear, the director, Grace M., had reached her exasperation point and after swearing for a few solid minutes, simply asked her crew, “Ideas?”
   “He could do it.” Lea. Suddenly all eyes were on me. A red tide swept up my cheeks.
   “No,” I said. “No.”
   “He’s got the tools.”
   “Ever done any acting?” Grace asked me.
   “You mean acting-acting or…acting?”
   “Does it matter?”
   Lea cocked up a smile bursting with oneryness. “You can do it.”
  “I mean…” With a look I made her to understand that I didn’t want to hurt her. She just smirked back as if to say, ‘what, are we married?’ She’d told me once the one thing that would make her hate me was if I lied to her; I was about to test that statement.
   “Why do I have the feeling you’re less concerned about my feelings than you are that you’ll be too scared to perform under pressure, with an audience?” Her lips corkscrewed into a big, smug smirk. Only a few weeks and she knew how to tweak me, how to spurn me to action. “You can do it. Just look at me, keep your eyes on me.”
  “Well?” Grace asked, taken by a bored insouciance, my indecisiveness and hesitation already wearing thin.
   “Um. Sure.”
   “Let’s get this boy a stiff drink!” Lea shouted.
  Honestly I don’t remember that first scene, just Lea’s green eyes and crooked, coaxing smirk. I think she was more into watching me than I was in actually doing it.
What Grace discovered that day was in the non-fucking scenes, my overwhelming nerves and uncertainty vanished, those shots and scenes a breeze compared to the sex stuff. The “acting-acting” part was such a relief to me that everything I did was done without any trace of tension or self-consciousness, natural, unaffected. It’s weird—it’s been like that since that first day, any “acting” I’ve had to do a breeze, the fucking part being heavy all lifting and back breaking slog.
   Sure, I felt bad about screwing another woman, although the $500 cash in my pocket they’d paid me provided a pretty good salve. When we got home that afternoon, I put on an extravagant display of how guilty I said I felt (which was a little bit but not much), how remorseful I said I was.
   “Oh my God, are you in love with me?” Lea asked, almost sounding as disgusted as she was incredulous. That I suddenly couldn’t look her in the eye told her I wasn’t. “Good. ‘Cause that’s not what this is and you know it.”
   It was true, it wasn’t a serious relationship and it was never going to be. She’d known all along, while I’d ignored and pretended that I didn’t know. “Grace asked if I wanted to work again. As an actor.”
   “You should. You’re good at it.”
   As they say, the rest is history. One job became many, from one day a week to two or three to every day for the next few years.
   To my surprise, Lea never seemed bothered by it. At least she gave no sign that it bothered her. One day six months later I came home and she was gone, no note, no message, nothing, her few things leaving gaps in the places they’d occupied. I’ll never know if it was the porn that made her leave but I suspect it was just time for her to move on and, like everything else with her, I was just then figuring it out.
Writing goal: use fewer adverbs.


Copyright 2021 by Andrew Wallingford