Naked and Famous

By M.T. Kosub

imi Hendrix and I are just getting to be friendly when my alarm clock starts buzzing.  I decide I can ignore it as long as he does.

“The hardest part of being a porn star has to be filling out your taxes,” I tell him.

“No jokin’, baby?” he asks, down tuning his strat.  He hums for a bit, trying to harmonize to his voice, then down tunes some more.  He’s not really listening to me.

“Oh yeah,” I tell Jimi.  “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this audit.  I run my own business on top of all the other stuff, where I’m basically just an independent contractor.  This whole thing is going to be a mess, and it’s just such a bad time for it, too, I’ve got relationship issues, I’m behind on production…”

“Well now,” he says, “ain’t no time that be a good time for bad times, if you know what I mean, but hey, at least we still got our guitars.”

Jimi’s right, of course.  He’s always right.  He’s so wise, and-

“WAKE UP…TO ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL DAY!” is what my persistent emergency backup alarm clock tries but fails to tell me.  Instead it comes through in stereo with the other alarm:  “BUZZ buzz BUZZ buzz BUZ—”

I spring out of bed only half-awake, forget to take off the sheets, and do a crazy stumble-hop across the room.  Like a drooling mummified kangaroo, I make for the dresser that has the offending parties on it, without bothering to register that all the drawers in it are pulled out and jammed with clothes.

Heedless of my peril, I finally get close enough to clutch the dresser for balance.  It only takes a moment before it starts to fall on top of me.  This is not good.  I nearly lose a leg, but manage to trip and stumble backwards just in time, slamming the back of my head against the wall.  At the exact same moment, the dresser crashes to the floor and the alarm clock plugs are ripped from the wall socket.  My guitar shivers on the wall mount above me.

I bet Jimi never even owned an alarm clock.

As I start to reassemble my reality, I notice that I have a sudden unexpected visitor.  Ah, my old monthly friend: we meet again!  No no, please, pop in whenever you like.  Why shouldn’t you?  No, of course, if I wanted to schedule your visit I would be on the pill.  Completely understandable.

I stumble toward the bathroom.  Thinking.  Taxes.  Girlfriend.  Work.  Angst.  Tired.  It’s still dark outside.  The hall clock reads 4:31.  Who can I punch?  I give some careful thought to this.  Unfortunately, there’s only one other person in the house right now.  He’s an awful lot bigger than me, and since I’m his sister some sort of retaliation would probably be inevitable.

Luckily, at the end of the hall is the gigantic Fozzy Bear that my (sort of) girlfriend won me at an amusement park a couple weeks back; I kick him in the gut a couple of times before throwing him over the stairs.  Ha!  See what your girl thinks of that, Fozzy!  I would have hit you with a moldy tomato too if I had one.

Hot water.  Shower shower shower.  Shaving shaving shaving.  Hair hair hair.  Coffee coffee coffee bang!  Back to the land of the living.

What to pack?  Sea sponges for my guest.  My bag.  Laptop bag.  Proper laptop.  Tax forms.  Receipts.  Robe.  Slippers.  Extra outfits?  No, already in the car.  Let’s go.

I check the time.  It’s only 5:25.  I’m a wizard.

Driving.  5:33.  Time to call.  I pull out my cell phone.

“Hello?” asks a voice, barely even breathing hard.  I’ve gotten her in the five minute window before her morning workout and shower.  She runs a tight ship.

“Hey Bree,” I say.

“Hey Savannah,” she lisps.  I smile.  Bree looks pretty in braces.

Okay now.  Be cool.  “Are you on for the show tonight?”

“Yup,” she says.  “My plane doesn’t leave until tomorrow.”

She’s a pro soccer player, and also plays for the U.S. national team.  She’s been racking up the frequent flyer miles recently.

“Great,” I say.  “It’s gonna be a long day, I can’t wait.”

“Okie-dokie,” she replies, “just don’t forget to disinfect!”

She hangs up.

Okay.

Wow.

What was that?  That absolutely had to be mean on purpose.  That’s also a pretty destructive thing to say.  I understand she’s even less happy than usual about my schedule today, but that’s no reason to say something like that.

I have to put it out of my mind, though: I’m already at my destination.

Activate business brain.  This morning I’m doing a facial.  I’ll also do pop shots and a b.j. or two from time to time, though I never do male penetration.  I’ve tried to do male stuff even less than usual since I’ve been going out with Bree.  She doesn’t like the thought of “gooey man seed,” as she calls it, all over me.  I’m not really thrilled about it myself, it’s not a part of the business I particularly enjoy, but I don’t have any hang-ups with it, it’s relatively easy, and right now I’m not in a financial position to be turning down that kind of work.

I can also validate doing anything I don’t really want to do.  I think it must be one of my super powers.

I knock on the door.  It’s Steve, the producer.  I’ve only met him once before.  He looks agitated.

“Hey Savannah.  Early enough for you?”

“Steve,” I nod.

I reach in my bag and hand him a copy of my AIM medical report and a copy of my driver’s license.  He cross-checks my license number with the ID number on the report.  Then he shows me Danny’s.  All righty: sound the all-clear.  No quarantine will be necessary.

I walk past the set.  We are actually shooting in a bedroom today, which honestly really is fantastic.  I think from time to time civilians should go out of their way to actually have sex on a gravelly beach or in the piney woods or on a freaking stairway and then tell me how boring watching sex in a bedroom is.

My setup is in the study.  There’s one makeup lady, who greets me.  I can’t help but notice that while I’ve got just the one scene in the movie, there are no other girls here yet.

My spidey sense starts to quiver.

I sit in the makeup chair and the woman gets to work.  Sure enough, after a minute Steve walks up to me.

“Savannah, we’ve got this problem,” he says.

“We do?”

“Well it’s like this.  We were going to have J.J. Jones come in today, but she just called in that her grandmother died—”

“What’s the deal, Steve?”

“Well, she had an anal scene lined up, but we can re-write it so it’s part of your role—”

“I don’t do male vag or anal, Steve.”  Oh yeah, that reminds me – I need to figure out the abbreviation of “vaginal.”  On my website I always say “vag,” but “vaj” is way more phonetically correct.  It kind of has a dangerous, hipster look to it, too.

Vaj.

Err.  Steve is still talking to me.

“Savannah, this is a great opportunity for you; we’ll pay you double what you usually get.”

This reeks of desperation.  Steve sort of reeks, too, he’s a big guy and agitated and sweating this much is a bad move for him.  I debate telling Steve that desperation is a stinky cologne.  I also debate saying something like I ate three chili dogs last night (not true) or that I’m not on the pill (true).  Really there are a lot of things I could say that might make the conversation end more nicely, but I feel like I need to be firm.  I’m a veteran in this business, after all, and it drives me bonkers when girls agree to do stuff like this on the fly.  We really do need to start a union.  Sex workers unite!

“We can get it taken care of really quick,” continues Steve in a rush, “we can do the anal on the bed and move the facial to a location in another room, it’s painted completely different, that’s all we’d have to do to change sets-”

“Steve,” I say firmly, turning to look at him.  “I don’t do anal.”

The makeup woman finishes up and holds up a mirror for me.  Marvelous, if you like eyeliner and eyeliner and more eyeliner.  Which, actually, I kind of do (don’t tell anyone).  Yay.  I’ll be the prettiest girl at the ball.

“Savannah, if you did this, I would owe you huge-”

Steve is interrupted by the sound of Todd, the director, rushing into the house.  I’ve worked with Todd a lot before.  He has a tendency to show up a bit late, but he’s great otherwise; accommodating and efficient, and for some reason I like his goofball sense of humor.

He stumbles in wide-eyed, wearing a pullover with red-and-yellow block font that boldly proclaims “WORDS ON A SHIRT!”  I’m trying to keep a stern face and all, but I can’t help but laugh at him.

“Hey Savannah,” he says, brightening as he sees me.  “What’s up?’

“Good morning Todd,” I say.  “How are you?”

“Cookie, I tell you what, if I was doing any better there’d have to be two of me just to handle it.  Are we about ready to rock out with some cock out?”

“I am, for the part I said I would do.  But Steve wants me to do anal.”

Todd is confused.  “But you don’t do anal.”

Ah, so the truth outs: Todd is not part of the covert anal campaign.  This makes me happy.  Did I mention I like Todd?  I leave him to battle it out with Steve, and I go find Danny.

He’s sitting in a pair of boxer shorts by the bed, working on a book of crossword puzzles.  We exchange pleasantries.  I obviously don’t work with guys much, and I’ve never worked with Danny before, but I agreed to it because I hear he’s a really nice guy and has a good reputation.  The truth is that most guys who last in this industry are; none of them really have fans, so they’re really nothing more than hired dicks.  And in San Fernando, dicks are a dime a dozen.

Danny’s a young guy, and as I talk to him I find out he’s struggling to make a relationship pan out with a nice girl I’ve worked with before.  I like him almost immediately; he seems to genuinely be in love.  I feel obligated to cheerfully try to reassure him, which I think must be the big sister in me.  I guess the thought of having a little brother who actually listens to me from time to time is pretty cool.

Really, though, I should be spending my down time taking care of business.  Getting ready for this audit on Tuesday could very possibly kill me, and I also need to work on my website; I need to have my new content finished by the first of each month, which is three days away.  I can’t bring myself to end the conversation with Danny, though.

“Danny, if you think you can make this work, you should go for it,” I tell him.  “If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but no one will think less of you for it.”

What I don’t tell him is I think dating civilians is much easier to do, by a factor of about ten, but what do I know?  My parents met through the business, and they’re still happily (sort of) married, enjoying early retirement in a condo out in Florida.  (They’re such a cliché.)  Meanwhile, my own civilian relationship is looking pretty grim.  In fact, now that I think about it, it’s making me feel kind of pukey.

I think there are two possible pukey phases to a relationship: the pukey feeling when you suddenly realize it may be special, and the pukey phase when you suddenly realize it may be ending.

I think I’m undergoing both pukey phases at once.

(I say pukey like this is universal.  Other girls of course may experience other sensations: I’ve heard “hiney tingles” and “giggle syndrome.”  Ladies, if these happen to be the sensations you experience when you’re nervous instead of wanting to throw up, I hate you and I hope that you die in a fire.)

“Savannah?”  It’s Todd.  “We’re just about ready.”

Danny gets up.  I get on the bed.  Danny’s scene calls for him to (literally) give his penis a pep talk so that he can “splooge on my face” (my line).  I’d like to thank the Academy in advance.

Then there’s a problem with one of the cameras.  Danny painfully reins it in, and suddenly for some reason he feels I should know that he ate nothing but egg whites yesterday, and promises that this is going to be like, totally, an amazing massive cumshot.

My heart is suddenly aflutter.  Can you imagine anything more titillating?

I really, really shouldn’t have to take crap from Bree for this.  The Red Dragon roars, but I keep her in her cage.  Danny knows I’m a professional, and just wants me to know he’s doing right by me, that’s all.

The scene is underway.  I close my eyes and smile.  Here we go, one two three four five six are you serious?  Danny wasn’t lying.  I’m smiling.  I do not want to be smiling.  Let’s please cut the freaking scene.

“Great job guys,” says Todd, “we got it.”  Laughter and praise for me and Danny fill the room.  I blot my face in a towel, wrap myself in another one, and pad triumphantly down the plastic-covered hallway to the bathroom, arms raised like Rocky.   Everybody applauds as I leave.  I had this pipe dream when I got here that maybe I could get through this without too much damage to my hair, but such is life.

I take my second shower of the morning.  It’s not so bad.  The bathroom is well stocked, and the showerhead is amazing.  I need one of these; it’s like something from a spaceship.  Once I’m clean, I leave it on to massage my back while I grab my cell phone, which is waterproof, and make a call.  (I feel the need to be relentlessly efficient.  Taking it to extremes, I know.)

“KCAL Broadcasting.  How can I help you today?”

“Is Karen Meyers there?”

“One moment.”

In what takes considerably longer than a moment, Karen Meyers gets on the phone.  Karen is a reporter who’s doing some four-part story on the state of the porn industry.  I suspect this is related to the rumor that Big Picture Entertainment (a fast-growing, locally-based porn conglomerate) is going public.  Since I’m self-employed to some degree, and since I tend to sound intelligent on occasion, I get asked to give my opinion on these things from time to time.

“Hello?”

“Karen, this is Savannah.”

“Hi, Savannah!”  Karen is always very bubbly when I talk to her.  Anyone this bubbly makes me instantly suspicious.

“Karen, I’m going to be free for the next few hours if you want to knock this interview out.”

“Sure!  Let me just make sure Dr. Reilly can come.”

I already know Jill Reilly can come.  She’s always free on weekdays from noon to about one-fifty; she’s a women’s studies professor over at Cal State Northridge.  Jill was a GA teaching a sociology class when I was going there, and we used get into explosive, fantastic arguments all the time, to the point where we kind of became friends.  We generally tip each other off when news people want to get a live panel for some porn angle, because we trust each other not to get too nasty.  This is the first time we’ve done a recorded interview together, though.

“Savannah?  Dr. Reilly said she can swing by at noon.”

“All right Karen.  I’ll see you then.”

I amble out to my car in my robe and slippers.  I knew I might be doing this interview today, and I have several potential outfits laid out in my backseat.  I have to be careful about this: the angle for these stories is rarely “porn is humankind’s most perfect, transcendent vision and it will save the world.”  So naturally, I want to appear non-threatening and polite.  At the same time, I don’t want to look like I’m ashamed of working in my profession.  But then again, I don’t want to look unprofessional.

Some days I just can’t win.

What I really want to wear is an olive green angora wool sweater Bree bought me.  I love the feel of it, and I want her to see me wearing it on television.  I put it on so my brother could see it yesterday, and asked him what his first impression would be of someone wearing this.

“Swinging sweater puppets,” was his reply.

I finally decide on black slacks, small heels, and an open-collared white blouse.  Whatever.

I change inside, pack up, grab my receipt from one of Steve’s people, tell everyone goodbye, and then pop back in the car.  My cell rings.

It’s my mother.  Great.  I love my mother, of course.  The problem is, she’s an almost immediately annoying person.

“Hello?”

“Hi honey, how are you?”

“Good, mother, yourself?”

“Fine, fine, I haven’t heard from you in, oh, over two weeks now, I thought maybe something had happened to you.”

“No, I’m fine, mother.  I actually called you last week.”

“Did you?  I don’t know about that, I’m sure I would have remembered.  Anyway, I’m glad to hear nothing terrible has happened.  How are things going?”

“Going well, mother.”

“Now Savannah, you can be level with me.”  (My last name is a stage name, but yes, my first name really is Savannah.  My parents decided to name us after the city where we were conceived.  A beautiful idea, until they spent a grim month visiting relatives in Dachau.  Not much of a night life there.  On a related note, we just call my brother Rob.)  “How is it going, really?  Are you still behind on your debt?  You know, you might want to look into a limited liability corporate restructuring for yourself.  It really is the way to go.  You can write off getting your hair done, getting your—”

“Do we really have to talk business, mother?  How are you and dad?  Still enjoying Florida?”

“Oh, you know us, just a couple of old fogies hanging around the beach.  We’re happy, though, we just like bumbling around, finding new places to eat, watching all the new movies, and of course, we still fuck like jackrabbits—”

I drop my phone, and fish around for it, trying to keep my eyes on the road.  Where’d it get to?  There we go, it’s down by my foot.

“—and well anyway honey, we miss you and Rob, you know.  Didn’t you say you were going to come out and visit sometime?  Can you not afford it?”

This last question is a dig, disguised as well-intentioned concern.  (My mother is very talented.)  Here’s the deal: mother keeps pushing me to do hardcore, which is making me nuts.  I mean, her heart’s in the right place, and it worked out well for her.  She knows I’m getting older and I might not want to do this forever, and she figures I should make more money and get a little nest egg going.  I do value her advice.  She’s been there.  But she just can’t wrap her head around how much I don’t want to do hardcore.

“I just got caught up in work, mother, you know how it goes.  But we’ll get out to see you soon, I promise.”

“Oh, well, we’ll see I guess.  How are things going with Brad?  Are we going to get to meet him sometime?”

“Who?”

“Brad!  You sounded like you were really getting along well.”

“Oh yeah, Brad.  Brad’s great.”

“Is he really?  No problems?”

“Oh yeah, he’s still completely cool.  Still working long hours at his graphic design company.  He really is an amazingly talented fella.”

Funny thing about Brad: he doesn’t exist.  He’s a creation of mine.  Male penetration is a thing I would never do in real life, so I don’t do it at work.  This is a philosophy that my mom, in fact, encourages.

The disconnect is this: with my parents, I’m still in the closet.

“Mom, I’m going to have to cut this kind of short, I’ve got an interview coming up.  KCAL is doing a local feature that I agreed to do.”

“Oh, really?  You speak so well, honey, I’m sure you’ll do great.  Aren’t you glad I made you take classes at college to get your degree?”

“I always wanted to go to college, mother.”

“Of course you did, dear.  Oh, your father wants to talk to you.”

“Right.”

“Hannie!”  Somehow my dad gets “Hannie” out of “Savannah.”  I hold the phone away from my ear and shake my head, smiling.  My dad doesn’t really talk.  He booms.  I don’t think he wants anyone else in the room to be able to say anything, or even to think, while he’s speaking.  “How are you, babe?”

“Doing all right, daddy.  How ‘bout you?”

“I’d be doing a lot better if you and that bozo brother of yours would come out here once in a while.  I miss you.  Your mother misses both of you.”

“Well, what are you doing in two weeks?  We might try and fly out for that weekend.”

“That’s my girl!  Us?  Nothing that can’t be changed, we don’t do anything that can’t be changed nowadays.  That’s the way we like it.  We’ll be pleased as punch to see you.”

“Is mom’s sister still staying with you guys?”

“Glenda?  No, thank goodness.  Her partner got a job offer in Atlanta, and they were out of here yesterday.  This Glenda, I swear, if she don’t know somethin’, you can’t tell her.”

I smile.  “You and Glenda?  Butting heads?”

“Naw, she don‘t bother me so much, but I feel bad for her kids.  You should see what those kids are growing up to be like with two butch queer mamas, Hannie!  It’s like they’re the goddamn children of the corn.”

I feel like my dad just ran over a puppy.  Did I mention I would like to have kids one day?

“Well dad, I’ll try and give you guys a ring again real soon, I’ve got an appointment coming up.  I’m sorry, but I’ve got to jet.”

“You bet, Hannie!  Always good to hear your voice again.”

Click.  Driving.  Studio.  Makeup.  Mike up.  I see Jill walk out of a room across the hall.  She waves at me.  I wave back.  Karen gives me a chirpy welcome and fills me in.

“This is going to be a pretty straightforward deal, Savannah.  We’re just going to let you and Dr. Reilly go back and forth for a while about the possible IPO that Big Picture is contemplating.”  Bullseye!  I’m a freaking genius.

We sit down, and the cameras start rolling.  Karen introduces me as a “porn star.”  To be honest, I always feel uncomfortable with “porn star.”  If I’m a star, it’s a borderline case at best.  I would prefer “porn actress,” but then again the acting is pretty incidental to what we’re trying to achieve.  Anything sounds better on the tube than “sex worker,” I guess.

Jill does one of her classic leadoffs.  “First, I would like to go on the record by saying I think any promotion of pornography as a legitimate business is unethical and inappropriate.  Hopefully we can show businesses that there is still some moral compass necessary for proper conduct.  Right now I am trying to be a part of that, in creating a petition for boycotting investment companies that would use Big Picture stocks.”

Karen throws it to me.  “Miss Seville, do you disagree?  Do you think pornography is accepted enough to be treated as a regular business?”

“Well, Karen, I do disagree, but I don’t really think the acceptance of pornography is the thing at issue with Big Picture, and hopefully I wasn’t brought on here just to argue the ethical dimensions of this deal.  To be honest, I doubt Big Picture will go public.  I mean, I could probably count up the number of publicly traded porn companies out there without even taking off my shoes.”

Karen laughs, and I even get a chuckle out of Jill.  I’m on a roll.

“Vivid, for example, toyed with going public for about a decade, and they’re similarly structured, plus they had a multitude of exclusive contracts with big-name girls and a much better market share than Big Picture.  But they never made the leap.  The fact is, while they scared shareholders to death, it didn’t take professors with petitions to do it.  Certainly, I believe that there is still an unjustified scarlet letter associated with my industry, but there are other stocks, like weapons and alcohol and cigarettes, which actually are damaging, that are publicly traded and are doing just fine.”

Karen leans forward.  I think she’s surprised that I can think.  I press on.

“The problem is that big pornography is just having a lot of problems that, say, the big-time music industry is having: digital techs and piracy are hurting the industry, and we haven’t really figured out how to react yet.  More big sites seem to be offering free content, yet it doesn’t seem to be helping subscription rates.  And we have the same paradox everyone else has, in that advertising is supposed to help us around those problems, but how do we implement it?  Frankly, there’s a lot of legitimate business uncertainty out there, and this is just not a good atmosphere to go public in.”

Jill smiles.

“Savannah, talking business nuance is a good way from distracting us from the issue, but I want to go back to what you said is unjustified criticism.  I disagree; I actually do believe that pornography is the most damaging legal industry today.  The idea that it is acceptable for women to be sexual commodities is incredibly damaging to our society.  There are some very persuasive arguments out there that porn teaches young men to hate women, and that it creates unrealistic expectations on our society for how women should behave sexually.”

“Dr. Reilly, all I can say is perhaps you should get to know the industry a bit better before you condemn it.  I could show you numbers that show that drunk driving kills one out of every hundred Americans, but I don’t want to play the comparison game because I don’t believe pornography is a bad thing.”

“No?”

“No, it’s simply an industry that appeals to people’s fantasies, and if you’re only concerned with power relationships in those, even then there’s certainly a wide variety.  There’s female domination, there’s girl-girl, there’s all kinds of different things.  I have yet to meet anyone involved in the industry that has made a mint off of rape fantasies, and I can tell you that such a thing is normatively abhorrent in our industry.  Also, if your behavior is completely influenced by pictures or images of sex, if you can’t separate your fantasies from your realities, I don’t feel like that’s anyone’s fault but your own.  That I have to say this at all seems a bit silly to me, really.”

“Does it?”  Jill keeps deferring to me.  I don’t get it.

“Well, yes.  I feel like I’m trying to defend heavy metal in the ‘80s or something.   I mean, I’ve experienced the industry as much as anyone.  I’ve grown up in it.  I don’t think that makes me an unethical person.  I know lots of good guys in the industry.  They’re not unethical.  My parents wouldn’t let my brother or I watch violent television shows growing up.  They said they would rather let their children see people make love than see people kill each other.  So I guess I can’t really claim to understand what you mean.”

“Let’s focus on your experience then: haven’t you found this is an industry that attracts some pretty bad people as well as well as the good, and pulls in a lot of young girls who don’t understand what they’re doing?”

“Well certainly, this is an industry with high demand, and whenever there’s such a highly deregulated industry, in that vein there’s going to be some shady entrepreneurs.  But those are typically rare.  Also, girls who enter this profession have to find a way to transport themselves to San Fernando.  They have to find a place to live.  They have to undergo tests for sexually transmitted diseases, which is normative in the industry now, thanks to places like AIM Healthcare.  They have to take care of themselves, find work, and learn the professional etiquette of this business.  They may be confused, but they are certainly not retarded.”

Jill smiles her calm little smile again.  She always looks so composed on camera.  She decides to come after me one more time.

“Perhaps not, but it does seem to be the case that since the rise in easy access to pornography, there seems to be more of a social schism across gender lines in how men perceive women, and that may negatively influence the behavior of both men and women and lead to a self-perpetuating cycle.  It may cause some of these girls you’re talking about to get involved in the industry, for example, when they may not be involved otherwise.”

“That may be possible, Dr. Reilly, but lots of things are possible.  All I can say is something I’m sure you understand very well, that correlation does not determine causation.  And again, the demand is there.  I will grant that a significant number of people in this profession are not well-adjusted people, and they do have psychological problems, but the industry will not go away.  Pornography built the internet, and it wasn’t on the back of a few perverts.  Ask anyone you know with a penis: they’ve looked at pornography.  And I know I’ve looked at pornography, so that means we’re over fifty percent of the population already.  To be honest, I wish Big Picture was more successful; I would like to see better business models with some regulations to protect workers in the industry, and I think opening up businesses to shareholders is one great way for that to take place.”

I stop talking; Jill has nothing more either.  She just kept pushing the same button over and over today, and I don’t know why.

Karen decides to close it out.  “Ladies, it’s been great to have you here to give us your viewpoints.  Any final thoughts?”

Jill goes first.  Again, she’s brief.  “I would just like to reiterate that I feel this is a damaging industry, and that any validation of it is just a mechanism by which people working in the industry can deny their complicity.”

Okay, that was a bit much.  Now I’m getting worked up.  “Karen, let me just tell a brief story that may help you understand what entrepreneurs in the industry like me have to go through.  When we leave here, I’m going to go home and update some information I have on PayCom.  Most people, I’m sure, are unfamiliar with sites like PayCom because they don’t understand the nuances of our industry.  PayCom is basically my credit card transaction aggregator, and—”

“What does that mean?” interrupts Karen.

“It means my business is too small for me to handle credit transactions in-house, so I use PayCom.  They charge a fifteen percent fee, though, because companies like Mastercard and Visa have a no-questions-asked accidental transaction policy, and when people charge pornography on their credit card they sometimes flip out when someone else sees the bill.  Then they go to their credit card company and try to deny the charge.  That means that companies like PayCom get bad ratings for fraudulent charges which limits their ability to do business elsewhere, and the cost is passed on to people like me, and—”

“Savannah, what in the world are you getting at?” Jill asks.

“This, Dr. Reilly: your tactics contribute to a bad environment for people like me.  You may not have a ton of effect on the ability for big companies to do business, or any effect on the demand, but you do make it harder for smaller professionals to be professionals.  Amateurs are flooding the market because of stuff you do, and the industry is getting seedier on the fringes because of it.  You need to be careful about how you treat suppliers like us.”

Karen looks at Jill, giving her the opportunity for a rebuttal.  Jill turns it down, and Karen motions for the cameras to be turned off.  I get up to say good-bye to Jill.  She apologizes immediately.

“Savannah, I’m sorry for that complicity crack,” she says.  “It was too much.  I’ll give you a free one on me next time.”

“Fair enough,” I say.  “I do appreciate you letting me have the floor so much.”

Jill gives me a funny look.  “Don’t thank me just yet.  But do you have time for lunch?  Wherever you want, on me, as long as I can get to my two o’clock class.”

I don’t really have time, and I’m afraid if I do go I’ll just say something mean.  I can also tell, though, that Jill feels genuinely bad for the cheap shot, so I agree to try and set something up for next week.  We haven’t done lunch in a while anyway.

There’s a fast food place down the road, and I pick up a chicken wrap and eat it as I drive home.  Okay.  Business brain again.  Call Lolly.  Get PayCom going.  Get website going.  Do shoot.  Go see Bree at the show.  Work out.  Tan.  Bed.  Got it.

I get back home.  Time for Rob to earn his money.  I walk into his bedroom.  He’s in his underpants, swinging one of his Japanese cleaver weapons around, chopping at an already-annihilated watermelon he has on top of a plastic sheet on his desk.  He sees me and screams a banshee yell.

“Tell Lolly she can come over when she’s ready,” I say.  He spins around and slices the watermelon, then slowly pushes his cleaver deeper inside as he leans over to talk to it.

“Die, you bastard,” he whispers.  “Die.”

Hmmm.  “You know, Rob, maybe you should come to the show with me tonight.  I’m thinking maybe your libido needs relieving of some swollen balls.”

He points his weapon at me.  “That’s funny.  I’m thinking maybe your shoulders need relieving of a swollen head.”

I close the door and walk to the study.  First things first.  Gotta deal with PayCom.  Grrrr.  I hate you, PayCom.  You weren’t even a very interesting story.

After just a few minutes my head hurts.  One of these days I need to bite the bullet and get a freaking accountant.

As I finish up with PayCom, Rob comes in, wearing a shirt and jeans.  He gives me an unhappy look and plunges backward into his chair.

“What’s the matter, Rob?’

“Just called Lolly.  She can’t do the shoot today.  They swabbed her throat for chlamydia and it came back positive.”

“What?”

“Yeah.”

“So she can’t do the scene because she thinks she might give me some chlamydia?”

“Well, uh, yeah.  It’s not a flower, you know.”

“Very funny.  That’s just weird, that it’s in her throat.”

“I’m very aroused.  That girl could swallow swords I bet.”

“How long before she’s clean again?  Clammy’s a short one, right?”

“She’s probably just medicating today, so I figure six days.  Six minimum is pretty standard procedure.”

Our scene was supposed to be up in three days, tops.  This just plain bites.  Lolly’s cool, I do a shoot with her at least every three months, and she just pops over whenever it works for both of us.   She said she’d be free this afternoon whenever I had time.  Now, I’m worried the afternoon might be wasted.

“We need a replacement, Rob.”

Rob sighs.  “I know.  I called around.  We can get Melissa.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Melissa’s always lit up on that hippie smack, she’s a fucking k-whore and you know it.”  This is true.  I do.  I’m not thrilled about Melissa either; to be honest, I barely know her.  I filled in for her once in a jam, so she owes me a favor, but we’ve never actually worked together.  Plus, Lolly’s one of my best friends.  She knows how to work with the Red Dragon.  (I really, really hate using this euphemism, by the way, but my brother calls it that so much that my brain turns to pudding now whenever I try to think of something else.  The lesson, as always: Rob’s a jerk.)

Anyway, working with the Red Dragon can be a tricky business, but it’s not impossible by any stretch.  There’s less flow when I’m aroused, though I am more sensitive.  I actually do think I even like to play a little bit more on my period, to be honest.

However, it’s doubtful as to whether Melissa is capable of grasping these nuances.  I feel obligated to call her and explain the situation.

“That’s cool,” she says simply.  “I have no problem with blood.”

Thatta girl.

We sit.  I figure it’ll probably be a little over an hour before Melissa gets here.  Back.  To.  Work.  Typing typing typing.  Behind me, Rob is working on redesigning my site to make it a bit sleeker.  Right now I’m updating all my little social networking sites and filling out some online interviews; I like to mix stuff up sometimes, change my answers.  These things are really fun.

We work in silence for some time, but finally I feel compelled to start talking.  I really am a horrible chatterbox sometimes, I guess.  “Hey Rob, I forgot to tell you, mom and dad called.  I said we’d go visit them in a couple weeks.”

I can feel him tense up without even looking at him.  “Shit, why the hell did you do that?”

“They’re good people, Rob.  You should try better to get along with them.”

“Are you feeling guilty again because you won’t let mom turn you into a cum dumpster?”

My brother secretly wants me to hurt him.  I know it.  “I thought you hated talking about mom.”

“You brought it up.  What do you want to talk about?”

“Does Melissa play the bass?  I think she does.”

“No, you’re thinking of Clarissa.  Melissa’s the psycho bitch Wiccan who thinks I’m always hitting on her.”

“That’s right, how could I forget?  Clarissa.”

“Are you still looking with some people to jam with?  I have a couple of buddies I can set you up with.”

“Actually, I was kind of hoping to get a band started with a couple of girls I know from college.”

“Oh yeah?  Who would you be?  What kind of sound?”

“We’d call ourselves The Moneymakers and make gutter-glam post-punk pop.”

“Wow, got it all thought out and everything.”  He pauses.  “That’s a pretty ambitious sound.  In fact, I’m not even sure that’s sonically possible.  Are you gonna be the lead singer?”

“Yeah.”

“Girls who can sing are fucking heartbreakers.”

“Well, maybe I’m a heartbreaker.”

“You are no such thing.  You’re a human muppet with tits.”

I give Rob a well-deserved pull of the hair.  He falls backwards out of his chair and sprawls on the floor.  When he looks up and sees I’m clicking on some stuff of Melissa’s, he begins to frown.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know.  I guess I’m kind of nervous to be working with Melissa, I never have before.  I thought I’d be having more fun this afternoon.”  Am I complaining?  I feel like I’m complaining.  I hate complaining.  I close Melissa’s stuff and go back to my social networking sites.

“Sorry,” says Rob.  “Stuff happens, I guess.”

“Yeah.  You know, I bet being a porn star is a lot like being a farmer.”

“Oh, unquestionably.  You know, I banged Melissa once.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, when I filled in at Paul’s company that one weekend, she was doing a scene and we went out and got drunk afterward.  She’s a terrible horny drunk.”

I shake my head and laugh.  “Then you two are kindred spirits.  So because of that she thinks you’re always trying to hit on her?”

“I guess.”

“This is great, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear, that I’m getting my brother’s sloppy seconds.  What was she like?”

“What?”

“Hey, you can’t just drop that bomb on me and then give me nothing back.  You have to let me know what she’s like.”

“Hell, I don’t know.  I was plastered.  I screwed her.  That’s it.”

“Come on, Rob.”

“Jesus.  Okay, when I put my arms around her, it was like I was flying.  Her pussy tasted like a beautiful fruit sorbet, all the colors of the rainbow.  Does that make you feel better?”

“Crap.”

“What?”

“Identity crash.  I guess I was zoning out.  All of a sudden my personal interests on Friendster are different from my Facebook and MySpace ones, and I don’t remember what I was thinking.”

“You’re still on Friendster?  What the hell is their social networking share nowadays?”

Under one percent.  “Oh, around five percent, I guess.”

“Well then fix it yourself, that’s your own fucking fault.”

“I don’t need you to fix it, I was just thinking out loud.  And a lot of my subscribers still know me through Friendster.”

“Savannah, I refuse to make an age joke about you, no matter how easy you make it for me.”

Hmmm.  This looks wrong.  “I don’t even know why I would put this…do I like masturbating while eating hot fudge sundaes and watching Grey’s Anatomy?

“Who doesn’t?”

The doorbell rings.  It’s Melissa.  My Friendster persona will have to remain unfamiliar to me for now.

Rob answers the door.  I hear Melissa’s voice.  “Rob, before you say anything to me, I want you to know I’ve had it hermetically sealed.  Only women can go through the barrier.  If a man does I can’t be responsible for what happens.”

“You got a magic spell that gave you a cock-munching snatch?”

I walk out to break them up.  “Hi Melissa, thanks for coming on such short notice.”

She smiles at me.  “No problem.”

“We’ve got the den all set up for you to get ready in,” I say.  “You have everything ready, Rob?”

“Yeah, I prepped the third bedroom this morning after you left.  Let’s get this over with.”

“Rob, don’t start complaining.  I don’t feel good today.”

“I know.  You’re being punished for Eve’s mistake.”

“That’s bullshit,” says Melissa.  “How come men don’t have to suffer for Adam’s mistakes?”

“Are you kidding me?” asks Rob.  “Why do you think God gave men two ears?”

I lead Melissa to her setup area, and then decide maybe I should go have a little chat with Rob.

“Rob, I know you don’t like Melissa, but we’re going to be professional today, right?”

“Calmer than you are,” he says.

“Look, I don’t know why you have to be in such a bad mood all the time.  You get paid out the wazoo.  You’re my agent and my manager.  You get a cut before there is a cut and then you get a cut of what does get cut.  Plus I pay you consulting fees on top of the tech stuff, and you get free rent.  It’s not a hard life.”

Rob raises an eyebrow.  “Savannah, I have spent countless more hours seeing your naked ass than I have of all other women, combined, in the entire history of space and time.  Now, let’s say for a minute the shoe was on the other foot.  Do you think you would constantly be able to maintain your naturally cheery disposition?”

Boy, some days I really hate Rob.  He has a point, I suppose.  But then again, no one has splooged on his face today.

And it’s not like we can’t make that happen.

The shoot goes moderately well, moderately quickly.  Melissa seems to be enjoying herself, but I’m having a hard time tapping into that excited, passionate part of my head.  Just too much going on, I guess.  But I get through it, and truth be told I’m not too worried about how it will look.  Rob really is very good, he’s creative with his shots, and he can make up for me having a bad day.

After a while, we take a break, and head for our respective showers (number three and counting for me).  Rob goes to look at his work.  When I’m done I go check on him.

“How does it look, Rob?”

“I think we’re probably finished,” he says, clicking through some images.  “There’s a couple of great-looking shots already, plus for the stills I can photoshop a couple of these, your nipples are really gonna pop, you’ll look a lot more into it.”

“Cool, thanks.”  I sit down.  “So what do we have lined up next week, by the way?  Anything I’m gonna hate?”

“No, I got you lined up doing girl-girl all week, except next Thursday.”

“What’s next Thursday?”

“Just a stroke job with a little pop shot on the tummy.”

I tousle his hair.  “You really are a good brother.  I’m sorry I got mad.”

“No problem.  I still want to figure out exactly how many workable shots we have and make sure it’ll be enough for us before you let Melissa go.  Just do me a favor and keep her on her leash.”

I walk toward the den, Melissa’s staging area, ready to engage her in conversation.  She’s busy singing, though; I have Rock Band set up in that room, I’ve found it’s a fun thing for the girls to do during downtime.  Originally I did it for peace of mind, because I didn’t want anyone getting high or anything because they were bored, but sometimes I’m beginning to think it raises more questions than it answers.  Deep Purple, Melissa?  On a Thursday afternoon?

I look at her from behind for a minute as she purrs and croons, oblivious to my skepticism.  She rocks the mike.  Melissa is a highway star.

It makes me want to go play my guitar.  I don’t really have time for it, but then again I never do; that’s why I make myself play at least thirty minutes every day.  Finally I decide it’s practice time and head upstairs.

I’m content to warm up for a bit, doing the caterpillar over and over and calling out the notes, harmonizing with myself.  If I may say so, I’m not too shabby on the guitar.  (I have more nimble fingers than most girls, wink wink.)

The magic fingers fly up and down, down and up.  Easter bunnies get drunk at Easter.  Eddie ate dynamite…good-bye, Eddie.  Surprisingly, I find that Melissa’s Deep Purple has inspired me.  I find myself trying think of something else with power chords.  Power chords really are good for you.  They’re crunchable, and they’re tasty.

I plug into my amp and hammer out a few, but then lose focus.  Before long I find myself playing “Wonderwall” and thinking of Bree.  I probably like playing Oasis more than anything, which makes me feel old.  Shallow too, I guess, but what can I say?  It’s a great song.

Almost half an hour passes, and I’m about to go check on Rob again, but he beats me to it, knocking on my door.  “Savannah?  We’re good.  You can let Melissa back into the wild.”

I grab her paperwork and go down to do it.  You know, my hat’s off to Melissa; I feel like I owe her a friendship credit or something.  She battled the Red Dragon today and lived to tell about it.  I can even overlook her goofy addiction to ketamine.  She found a drug she liked, and doggone it, she stuck with it.

I decide to suggest that she stop by the show tonight.  She agrees, and this seems like a very happy moment for her; Rob has told me that since I play guitar and I’ve hopped on a couple of shows with my friend’s band from time to time, the girls I work with tend to think that I am a cool person who spends a lot of her cool days listening to cool music at cool places.  Ha!  I’ve got them all fooled.

Okay.  Guitar practice is over.  Rob and I decide to leave for the show early.  Before I forget, I go back to my bedroom and grab my other laptop, the one with the Verizon card, and put it in my car.  I do some charity work for a counseling group for girls in the industry, which right now just basically involves maintaining and updating their website.  Sitting in highway traffic is always a good time to work on it.

I decide not to tell Rob that Melissa will be going to the show.  I don’t want him to bail on me, because I don’t want to waste the drive behind the wheel.  When he does come to shows with me, it’s much better all around; I can do stuff on the way there, and then he can get drunk and strike out and I can drive us back home, and everyone’s happy.

For some reason, though, I feel weird thinking about working on the counseling site today.  I’m thinking about what Jill said.  This industry does have some problems, that’s for sure.  Am I deluding myself by thinking I’m making a difference doing work for it?  In college I used to do stuff for the Battered Women’s Shelter, should I go back to doing that?

This eats at me as I get ready to go out.  It doesn’t help that getting out is never an especially fun thing for me to do anyway; I guess I’m getting bratty, always being used to having someone do my makeup.  On a deeper level, going out is also a bit of a conundrum for me, since I do need to keep something of a persona in public.  This usually means I might dress slightly less conservatively than I want to.  And when I go to a crowded place, that means The Grope.  I can’t avoid The Grope.  I have to look good, because I need to look good.  And I want to look good.  But not quite too good.

I decide on jeans, sandals, a top with the appropriate amount of cleavage, and soon enough I’m ready.  I tell Rob we’re taking my car.  When I get in the passenger seat I step on a pair of glasses.  Ah, there they are.  They really blended in with the floor mats.

“Whose are those?” asks Rob.

“Huh, I don’t know,” I say.  Rob loses interest immediately.  Actually, they’re mine.  I have perfect eyesight, but I bought them because of Bree.  Time for more thinking about Bree.  Yay.

Bree had a huge crush on Tina Fey growing up.  Tina Fey probably hates girls like me, which makes me hate women like Tina Fey even more than I otherwise would.  What I always hated about Tina Fey was she could put on a pair of cat’s-eye glasses and make a bait-and-switch joke and she was suddenly sexy; meanwhile, it’s taken me years of practice.

Anyway, I got these glasses when I first starting seeing Bree, I thought maybe she and I could role-play.  But here’s the thing: Bree’s a virgin.  (I think.)  At least, she’s never had an orgasm.  I used to think this was some made-up thing, but apparently it happens.  And for some reason she doesn’t want to talk about it, and we’ve been kind of stuck in a spot for way too long in our relationship because of it.  And I don’t think I can figure out how to get her past it.  And can you tell that this really, really frustrates me?

I ruminate on this all as we’re stuck in traffic, even while I’m working on the website; I’m a great multi-thinker.  Soon we come to the venue: Dub’s is the name of it.  I have no idea where the heck we are.  (God bless GPS.)  It’s not a real big venue, the headliner is just this new chick band from Malibu that I heard on the internet, Four Alarm Oranges.  They play a kind of honky-tonk surfer rock, and that’s good enough for me.  (I’m addicted to live music.)

We park and get out.  I ask Rob for my keys.  Almost immediately, I catch some resistance from a pair of short brunettes who are walking by.

“Your daddy buy you that car?” one of them asks me.

Rob gets all up in her face.  “For your information, her pussy did.”

Pow!  Mr. Subtlety strikes again.  I leave him to it and walk inside.  Briefly, all the attention in the room converges on me.  Hi, fellas, my eyes are up here.  Ladies, please don’t burn a hole through the back of my head, thanks.

Everyone soon enough gets back to their conversations, and I take a look around.  Dub’s is an interesting venue; kind of a rusticated, country vibe going on.  On the left side of the place is a long bar with several televisions behind it.  Four Alarm Oranges aren’t on yet.  Right now it’s three shaggy guys I’ve never seen before.  Straight power pop.  Not too bad.

Bree is sitting at the bar.  She’s talking to a big girl next to her.  Apparently they’ve convinced the bartender to let them watch college softball.

“Hey darlin’,” I say, sitting next to her.

“Hey Savannah,” she says.  “This is one of my club teammates, Val.”

Val nods at me impassively.  I sense hostility.  Why is Val here?

They turn back to look at the television.  I don’t know why, it doesn’t seem too compelling right now.  The infielders are all talking to the pitcher, gloves over their mouths.  Maybe they’re having a conversation about how dumb outfielders are.  The outfielders are wandering around like a bunch of donkeys.  They don’t even look self-conscious.

“Now tell me,” I say, “are there a lot of queers in softball?”

Val doesn’t respond, but Bree turns to smile at me.  Lord, she looks pretty in braces.  Have I mentioned that?  “Oh yeah, it’s insane, I used to play it growing up but I decided to stick with soccer because the dykes tend to be more good-looking.”

This seems like good information to know.  (I think I secretly have a thing for athletes.)  I ask another question.  “What about the other sports?”

“Hoops, you have a pretty high amount,” Bree says, thoughtfully.  “Volleyball, tennis, golf, you run into more girly-girls.  Worse odds there.  Better quality though.”

“So,” says Val, butting in and giving me the thousand-yard stare, “you’re a porn star, I hear?”  I can immediately tell what Val’s thinking: I’m the human equivalent of a blow-up doll.  I know from experience it’s not going to be easy to change her mind.  I decide not to try.

“Oh, it’s a job,” I say.  “You know, Val, I was wondering if I could maybe talk to Bree alone for a minute?”

Bree nods assent.  Val gets lost.

I drop my friendly veneer and get serious.  “Bree,” I say, inching closer to her, “what’s the deal, babe?  What’s going on?  Why is Val here?”

Bree pauses.  I wait.  It takes her a while to speak.

“I don’t know,” she says finally.

It’s loud in this place.  I’m starting to feel a little pukey again.

“I just…I’ve been thinking a lot recently.”

“Okay,” I say.  Ordinarily, I would be all for this kind of thing.  But right now I’m not too thrilled to hear it.

Bree sighs and plunges ahead.  “Look, the thing is…I don’t know, it’s like the longer I stay with you, the weirder I feel.  I don’t know if this thing is right for me.”

Great.  Here we go.

After a minute she looks up at me; she obviously wants me to say something, but I don’t.  I just wait for her to work it out.  She’s got her game face on, but I can tell when she’s nervous.  It’s always in the way she holds her eyes.

She lowers her voice and goes on.  “I guess what’s been on my mind is…you’ve been saying you think what we have might be special, but what is it about me that makes me different?  Why me, I guess?”

Believe or not, I’ve thought about this.

A lot.

It’s because of all kinds of reasons, I don’t tell her.  It’s because you have all this fun energy, and you’re the most wide-eyed person I know, and about the most excited person I’ve ever met.  It’s because your laugh is infectious.  It’s because you get embarrassed at the funniest little things, and when you blush, it’s so freaking cute I want to die.  It’s because you have the weirdest sense of humor, it just comes out of nowhere, and, well…

And, well, I don’t say anything, and finally I just look down at my nails.  I don’t say anything, because really, I don’t exactly know why I love her.  But I’m pretty sure I do, and frankly, that’s kind of amazing to me.  I had been feeling like I knew all the ins and outs of relationships with other girls to the point that there was just nothing real meaningful or deep for me anymore.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, there’s just something different about Bree.

“I also just don’t feel…safe, I guess,” she goes on in a rush, staring back down at her own hands.  “I mean you have all these creepy guys you do business with, and that’s scary for me.”

I don’t know what to say.  I can’t complain, I guess, but this sudden security concern seems a teensy bit overwrought.  (Does Val have something to do with it?  What did she say?)  I mean not only have I yet to be raped or murdered, I’ve had no really uncomfortable public incidents.  I’ll admit, some people do argue that I did have a stalker once, but that was really just a case of mistaken identity.  He thought someone else was me.  And I mean, was he really a stalker if he couldn’t even recognize me?  How sincere was he?  No one has been able to convince me I should count it.

“You’re kind of a public figure too,” I point out.  “And look, I’ve honestly never been afraid of anyone coming after me.”

(This, technically, remains true.  The girl my stalker did go after turned out to be a Krav Maga defense instructor.  Whoopsies!  I don’t know if having to get around in a motorized wheelchair has affected his deviant sexual proclivities, but at the very least now he really has to question whether it’s worth the trouble.  Plus, if I ever need to escape him I can just walk up a steep hill.)

Bree nods, then pauses, thinking it over.

“Yeah, that’s fair, and to be honest it’s probably not what’s getting to me,” she says.  “Maybe it’s just…I don’t know, I just feel like I’m kind of a novelty for you.  And I’d hate to think you just like me because I’m your type…and really I’m just not comfortable with what you do anymore.  I think of you with these girls all day, and I just get this feeling in my stomach, like it would just be embarrassing for me to try and take it to the next level with you.”

There are always so many things that I want to say to her but don’t.

Right now, one is that if she feels she doesn’t know as much as me about the mechanics of sex, that’s something we can work around.  It’s certainly not an unusual list to be on.

Another is this: when you’re a porn star, there’s sex and then there’s sex and then there’s sex.  The first kind is the sex that you have in front of a bunch of fat middle-aged men with a boom mike in your eye and a camera up your butt with some makeup-slathered pimply-faced girl that you’ve maybe talked with for three minutes previously; that’s one kind.

Then there’s the sex you have with somebody because you love them so much that you feel excited just to be in the same room with them.  It’s the sex that you look forward to because, more than anything, you look forward to finding out how you can physically make them happy, and you want to prove to them you can tolerate all their quirks and vulnerabilities.  And you love them all the more for revealing those things, because there’s something so real about it, so intimate and sincere, that if you took advantage of it, it would make your own heart break, and it makes you feel so, so good to know that someone could trust you with that.

Then, I suppose, there’s the other kind of sex, which I really am not an expert on, which I guess is basically just all the sex I don’t have.  It’s probably an awful lot not to know about, I realize, but hey, I can’t go around loving everyone.  I just wouldn’t get anything done.

But I can’t say these things here, at a bar, in front of her.  I don’t think I could say them at all, actually.  I don’t know why.

I guess part of it is because I care about her, I can tell how fragile she feels, and I know her well enough to know nothing I say is really going to do much good.

I also guess a pretty big part of it too is because I’m angry and I don’t trust the connection between my head and my mouth right now.  Yeah, that’s right, Bree, I get angry.  I wasn’t feeling too good to begin with today, either, and you’re not helping.  Is that okay with you, Little Miss Everything?  Do I have your permission to get mad?  Does it bother you that I can’t always be as level as you want?  Do I have to walk on water all goddamn day, every day, because of what I do, for you to be okay with me?  Screw that.  I have family problems, I have work problems, I’m not perfect and my life sure as hell isn’t either.  Why is it always me that has to put on the happy face around everybody?  Why is it always me that has to be the one who buries it?  Why do I have to take all the crap?  I haven’t done a thing to you, and I know what you think about me in the corners of your mind, and I’m always supposed to pretend it doesn’t bother me?  Well guess what?  I’m not made of stone.  I’m not Wonder Woman.  I’m not everything you want me to be, Bree.

And it has been one.  Hard.  Shitty.  Day.  And yeah, if I open my mouth, I might just say: go fuck yourself, Bree.  You tried to bait me this morning, and you know it.  Sure, try and make me the bitch.  Yeah, bring your ugly bull dyke friend and laugh about me.  Try to make it my fault you’re insecure.  Try to make it my fault that you lie to yourself, and that you’re afraid to feel good, and that you’re ashamed of yourself and you don’t even know why.  But you know what Bree?  I’m not going to yell at you.  I am not giving you the satisfaction.  I want you to lie awake at night and wonder why it was that you couldn’t handle me.  I want you to wonder what it is that is so wrong with you that you can’t accept someone who loves you.  And I am not going to give you any ammo to use against me.  None.

But even through my anger I recognize yet another part of me that also keeps me from speaking to her, and I think this is the part of me that might be more powerful than anything.  Simply, it’s the part of me that can’t deny that it would be wrong of me to ask her to try to change who she is to be with me.

Because I won’t change either.

And I’m not entirely sure why.

Bree looks in my eyes for one long, last time.  Neither of us says a word.

And then, just like that, she’s gone.

I sit at the bar, alone.  The band plays on.  Rob walks up to me.  Good old Rob.  He was probably keeping an eye on me the whole time.  I blow my nose.  My eyes are starting to water a little.

“Oh, there you are,” he says.  “Hey, I just saw Bree walk out the door with her friend.  You okay?  Do you want to leave?”

I blow my nose again and lie to him.  “Nah, it’s no big deal.”

Rob sits next to me.  “I’m sorry, sis,” he says.  “I think things might have gone better if she hadn’t brought that other chick.  When they left, she was just glaring holes in you.”  He looks around.  “I think it’s affected all the other women in here too.  They’re all kind of staring you down now.”

“Her friend’s name is Val,” I say.

“Oh,” says Rob, and thinks about it.  “Val is kind of like a cunt bomb.”

I laugh for a second, despite myself.  Rob is fantastic sometimes.

Right then I notice Melissa walk in the door.  At the same time, a skinny, greasy guy with a huge nose comes up and sidles up next to Rob.

There’s something about Rob that just brings it out of the gay guys, I don’t know what it is.  I guess he looks very metro.  (That Four Alarm Oranges is a queer band and has a bit of a queer following may be playing a role in the clientele tonight.)

I also do like to run quality control for Rob when he needs it, but I’m in no shape to do so now, and he’s not nearly drunk enough yet to need my help getting rid of a gay guy.

“Hey there,” says the guy.  “Can I buy you a drink?”

“No thanks,” says Rob.  “I’m not like that.”

The guy is undeterred.  “Oh really?  Are you sure?’

“Oh yeah.  Completely not gay.”

“How do you know?”

“Because,” says Rob, “when I’m attracted to men, it makes me angry.”

I walk away from that one and go over to greet Melissa.  She’s obviously tripping a bit, but at least she can tell that something is wrong.  I wish Lolly was here instead, but I go ahead and let it all out to Melissa anyway.  I blubber a bit as I do.  Melissa doesn’t mind; she listens as best she can, and shakes her head, and gives me a friendly hug when it’s all over.  I notice that her shoes are cute, and say so.  She smiles.

“It’s been kind of a long week, so I splurged on them today,” she says.  “Spent more than I should have, but it’s retail therapy, I guess.”

This is a little bit funny to me, and I smile.  A moment later, Four Alarm Oranges takes the stage, to much applause.  Melissa asks me more about Bree.  She wants to know how we met.  She wants to know what the good times were like, and the bad ones, too.  She wants to me to know that I’m better off without Bree.  She’s actually trying really hard to be my friend, I guess, and I’m very, very grateful for it.  How does the Jack White song go?  Are you my friend when I need one…I need someone to be one…I’ll take anybody I can get.

I slowly start to feel better, trying to bond with Melissa.  It makes me feel better about the work we did together today, too.  My site is kind of based on friendship, in a weird way; it’s supposed to be about authentic encounters with others, so I like to be friends with the girls I work with.  It’s also part of why I couldn’t really say anything to Bree, I guess.

It’s a complicated thing to work out: when you compare the fake you and the inner you, which is the real you?  And why?  I think I’m probably both more authentic and more fake than anyone I know.

But I guess I view it as, there’s my persona, and then there’s me.  I enjoy stepping into my persona sometimes, but I also know who I am.  And I believe in what I’m doing.  If we can demystify sex, maybe we can remystify love.  Pornography serves a purpose, and I’m proud of that.  It can help us get to know what kind of things we like, but at the same time, it lets us know that it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Four Alarm Oranges starts to play.  Melissa starts to boogie.  She likes the band, which makes me happy.  In the minds of our fans, Melissa and I are connected.  They will look at my site, and then they’ll go see what Melissa has done.  I want there to be some authenticity.  I want people to think, at some level, that we are enjoying what we’re doing.  That we do care about what we do, some of us.  That we’re not putting on some sort of con.

Suddenly, a tough-looking, tattooed guy comes up to Melissa.  He’s a fan; it’s written all over his face.

“Excuse me,” he says.  “Isn’t this Thursday night?”

“Yeah,” she says.

“Well, shouldn’t you be eating a hot fudge sundae and watching Grey’s Anatomy right now?”

Melissa grins in synthetic recognition.  “You’ve been to my site!”

Hmmm.  Crap.

After a while I head back to the bar.  Rob is trying to hit on a tart little redhead, and is five times drunker than he was earlier.  I know this is the case because he’s into his “Not a Penis” t-shirt story.  I grit my teeth and decide I’m going to help Rob out tonight, even though I’m not in the mood for it.  If he goes down, for some reason I feel like he should go down swinging.

First, I should probably explain what I’m up against.  The “Not a Penis” line of shirts was an idea Rob had in college for spring breakers.  A friend of his mentioned that with the stuff people were wearing nowadays, someone could probably just put a penis on a shirt and make a killing off of it.

Rob, always seeking one-upmanship, immediately came upon the idea of t-shirts with penises in disguise, which proclaimed “Not a Penis” above them.  One shirt had a penis with funny-nose glasses.  Another shirt had a penis that was sunburnt and had sunglasses and a patch of suntan lotion where the nose would be on a person.  I think he sold about six total before he got arrested.

“Hey brother, how’s it going?” I ask, interrupting noisily.  Rob always drinks too much when we go out.  He’s his own worst enemy.  The girl gives me a cursory smile, then turns and orders something from the bartender.

“Savannah, check out what a great makeup job she has,” whispers Rob.  “I’ve got to ask her if she does it herself.”

This is not a winning strategy.  Neither is the “Not a Penis” story.  Rob needs a pep talk.

I nudge him back.  “Rob, I invited you out because I wanted you to remasculate, remember?”

“Ha ha.”

“What?” asks the girl, turning back around.

“Ha ha, I’m just laughing, she’s my sister, sometimes I laugh at her.  I must say, I simply adore your lady primer.”

I don’t notice what the girl says in response; the television behind the bartender suddenly captures my attention.  There’s a promo going on for Karen’s story, with clips of my interview with Jill.

Cut to me.  “Ask anyone you know with a penis, they’ve looked at pornography,” I’m saying heatedly.  “And I know I’ve looked at pornography, so that means we’re over fifty percent of the population already.”

Cut to Jill.  Cool as a cucumber.  “First, I would like to go on the record by saying I think any promotion of pornography as a legitimate business is unethical and inappropriate.  Hopefully we can show businesses that there is still some moral compass necessary for proper conduct.”

Hmmm.

I look back at Rob.  The redhead has left.  Rob is watching the promo with moderate interest; he’s got a friend in local politics, and in addition to doing some web stuff for her, he’s also helped her out on the campaign trail with some interactive media stuff.  I’ve never really thought about it, but I guess he’s probably somewhat familiar with the mechanics of interviews.

“What’s the matter?” asks Rob foggily, apparently already having forgotten about the redhead.  “Did a taped, edited convo?  Why didn’t you stick to your talking points?”

For some reason, I have a sudden flashback to my mother explaining to me that there’s no Santa Claus.  It’s a powerful memory, but for the life of me, I can’t remember why she was also naked and covered in baby oil at the time.

Sometimes I worry that I have a lot of unresolved issues.

It’s probably time to leave.  Rob doesn’t protest.  I try to help him up, but he almost falls on top of me.  I sit him back down.  Melissa walks by.  Rob waves at her.  She turns up her nose at him.

“Nobody likes a starfucker, Rob,” she says, and walks away.

“Excuse me,” I say to the bartender, feigning a winning smile.  I don’t know if he can hear me.  Four Alarm Oranges is (are? these band names always baffle me) pretty loud.

I try to get his attention again.  “Excuse me, can you help me out with my brother?”

“Why?” asks the bartender.  “What does he need help with?”

“He’s the designated drunk.”

“What?”

“He’s in retox.”

“What?”

I try another style of communication, and put my hand on his arm.  “You look really strong.  Do you work out?”

The bartender grins.  “Why yes, I do.”

Soon he has Rob off the stool and is helping him stagger toward the door.  From the corner of my eye, I see a bleached blonde woman being egged on by her friends to come talk to me.  This can’t be good.  These ladies have been talking in overdrive all night, and they’re all a bit older than the type you might expect to see here.  There’s no way this is going to end happily.

“Excuse me,” she says, “I know who you are, you’re that lesbian porn actress who was on the television.”

I smile politely.  The bartender seems a bit put out to discover my sexual preference and profession, but forges ahead stoically with Rob.

“I just wanted to let you know I think you’re terrible,” the woman tells me.  I have many unpleasant rejoinders that come to my mind, but I am careful to say none of them.  I just want the bartender to get Rob in the car so we can leave.

“What you don’t know,” she continues, “is that women like you are messing it up for all younger women nowadays.  When I work out at my gym, all the girls younger than me always talk about how they need to tan more, and they’re always talking about how they’re shaved or waxed down there, they’re all so insecure, it’s just horrible.”

We’re at the car.  The bartender helps Rob in, and then vanishes like a man fleeing a crime scene.  I say the only socially acceptable thing I can think of.

“Can I have the name of your gym?”

The ride home is a quiet one.  The Red Dragon is huffing again.  I feel wiped out.  I’ve seen better days.  I still have to do cardio and tanning (and take shower number four), but I’m used to doing all that tired; I call it my zombie beautification process.

I shift my brain to autopilot.  We reach the house.  Rob is a bit steadier now, but he still needs some help.  I lead him out of the car, into the house, all the way to his bed.  He climbs on top of it, and I tuck him in.  He snuggles under the covers.

We sit for a minute, looking at each other.

The room smells powerfully of watermelon.

“What is it?” he asks.  I sigh.

“I just don’t know anymore, Rob.”

“Don’t know what?”

“Anything.”

He furrows his brow.  “Tell me about it.”

I think it over.  “I’m not really sure,” I say slowly, “but I guess I have these questions I can’t figure out.  A whole bunch of them.  Like, is it unreasonable to want a deep relationship in the kind of life I lead?  And with work, is my ambition with all this stuff really to lead by example, and to be able to make enough to help girls in the industry back out at the end of the day?  Or am I just lying to myself?  Is wanting to help these girls back out even a good thing?  Or am I just spitting in the ocean?  Are there more important things I could be doing?”

Rob simply shrugs.  “I don’t know, either.”

“It’s just…I try to do things the right way, and I try to care about people.  But I worry that maybe that’s not enough.  I want to do good.  But where does the good go?”

He raises an eyebrow, as if the answer should be obvious.  “Well, it’s got to go somewhere.”

“Why?”

“Don’t you know?”

I don’t.  He shakes his head in disbelief at my stupidity.

“Because there’s too much of it not to.”

I think about it.  Then I kiss him on the forehead.

“Good night, Robbie.”

“Good night, sis.”

I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

____

M.T. Kosub is a wage robot by day and an interesting failure by night.  Complaints can be filed at kosub@hotmail.com


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