We did two read-throughs of 'Stroke of Luck' that afternoon, everyone warming to their parts. Nearly everyone took off around four. Bekka, Ellen and I were stuck there until Mr. Golan either showed up or called. Willing to wait until his ETA, Dawn and Roach hung around, drinking sodas and watching the big TV in the media room.
"I haven't asked yet, how's the new place?" I asked as I walked through to grab a slice of cold pizza.
"It's great.... But it's really empty right now," said Dawn. "My room is empty except for those milk crates, and while you helped fill up the kitchen and living room, we don't have a TV or stereo, not even a transistor radio. It's too quiet. We always notice when the refrigerator goes on or off. I'm allotting $400 out of my check to get a TV and VCR. I'm gonna hit the nearest Goodwill to get stuff for my room. They have better stuff than Starvation Army."
"Roach, I'm surprised you don't have a stereo."
"I had a small el cheapo system, one of those all-in-one setups. It got destroyed, my dad hit it with a half-full beer."
"Editorializing on your taste in music?" I asked.
Roach looked at the ceiling. "No, he was aiming at me. I ducked and the can hit the stereo. It landed just right so that all the beer poured inside. My dad was tweaking hard. He'd been up for four or five days and was accusing me of stealing his beer. What was happening was he'd get a beer, open it, take a few sips, then set it down and wander off. Twenty minutes later he realizes he's still thirsty, but forgets about the one he opened and goes and gets a fresh one. Lather, rinse, repeat. He went through most of a twelve-pack that way over the course of about four hours. Well, the box is almost empty and he isn't drunk, so that must mean that I'm taking them. I waited until he was tweaking around in the garage, then gathered up all these almost-full beers and set them down on the coffee table in the living room, right in front of where he sits. He saw them, didn't catch a clue, and began accusing my mom of wasting beer. Later he was trying to get me to front him a couple quarters, even though he's already in the hole to me for $300 worth of dope fronts. I straight up told him, 'No. Go the fuck to sleep, Dad.' He called me an ingrate and wandered off to pass out on the sofa for eighteen hours. I didn't have parents, I had really shitty roommates."
"So uh, where are you sleeping, Dawn?" I asked. "Are you sleeping?"
Dawn said, "Yeah, I'm sleeping. Me and Roach are sharing his bed for the time being. We're not fucking, Roach said he didn't want to see me trying to rest on the floor, and he'd be a gentleman if I was in bed with him. He has been."
"She only sleeps three hours a night," said Roach. "She comes to bed at three, and gets up at six."
"I used to avoid sleep completely. I'm doing better now. I think I feel more settled."
I queried of Dawn, "So with no TV, how are you killing time in the middle of the night? Reading?"
Dawn said, "No, I just walk around. Encinitas is a pretty dead town at night."
"Girl, go to the library and get some books or something, but you can't stroll in Encinitas in the middle of the night. You're a bust waiting to happen, I'm surprised you haven't talked to cops already. The local law enforcement could give less of a shit about a twenty-three year old's legal right to go for a walk after Letterman signs off. They want quiet. You are an aberration, and thus trouble. Yeah, at 1:30 in the morning, unless you're leaving a bar, you have no business being on the street, according to the cops. Stay the hell inside, girl."
"Fuck them," said Dawn. "I know better than to have any shit on me at that hour, and I'm not tweaking around. I'm just out for a walk, so they can adjust to me. Better a walk than a drive, especially in Bekka's gangster squad car. How can I be a bust if I'm clean?"
I sighed. "They'll just.... They'll initially waste a lot of your time, checking your ID for warrants. The problem is.... Okay, say a rash of house burglaries start happening in the middle of the night. They're gonna treat you as a suspect, because they know you're awake and active at that hour. And they'll already have pegged you as a tweaker. When Bekka was stabbed, the cops in that town didn't investigate. The lieutenant in charge had met me, decided I looked like a criminal, and went no further. He just sat around waiting for me to fuck up in some manner. I brought him the perp on a silver platter, and he just hated me even more. I don't know if he just has a thing against punks, or what. But Encinitas cops are like armed lunch room monitors. They don't give a shit about justice, they want order."
"What's this about Bekka being stabbed?" asked Roach.
"Yeah. You're in our old unit. Bekka nearly bled to death on the floor of your living room. She took eleven pints of blood and was still anemic. Some guy from LA who just didn't like us did it, a friend of a friend. I was the one who tracked him down, no help from any cop in any jurisdiction. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I don't hate cops, I just feel better when they're not around. Well, since I carry my own gun and solve my own problems, I guess I truly don't need the cops at all. They can't do anything to help me except stay out of my way."
"My husband, the cop-hater," said Bekka, wandering in from my office. Hey Lenny, give me the pipe. Is it loaded?"
It could probably stand to be topped off," I said, and handed her both the pipe and the vial.
Knocking dope into the pipe, Bekka spilled some on the carpet. She looked down at the small pile, twitched her lips, and ground it in with her toe. Dawn and Roach watched this with slack-jawed panic.
"What is it with you two and wasting shit?" exclaimed Dawn. "I've now seen each of you spill a good sized load on the floor, then grind it into the rug with your shoe instead of trying to pick it up."
"It's only drugs," Bekka shrugged. "There will be more."
I said, "Me personally, I don't feel like smoking or snorting carpet fiber. Dope that hits carpet is a lost cause, unless it's a big enough pile."
"Yeah, well, waste not, want not," said Dawn. "Whatever."
Roach said, "For me, one disadvantage of living up here is that I'm away from my customer base. If I'm gonna hold on to my dismantling job, they'll keep paying me with dope, so I'll always be slinging quarters in an attempt to balance the drug-to-cash scales. Where could I go to sling around here?"
"No clue," I said. "Shit isn't very popular in North County, for whatever reason. I'd go so far as to say I don't know a single tweaker further north than La Jolla Village, not including me and Bekka. And you two."
"Are you holding now?" asked Dawn. "We get our checks tomorrow, I'm game for picking up a couple quarters from you. Start building my emergency stash again."
"Don't worry about it. I'll keep you two high during the day, if nothing else. At night, tiny tweaker, you are faced with the horrible prospect of sleeping eight hours like a normal fuckin' person."
"But if you smoke a bowl with me before you take off for the day, that will carry me through for a while. Your shit is strong, but it also doesn't drop you when it starts to wear off. You just get slower."
Bekka said, "Lenny and I are spoiled. We've always had the money to buy in bulk, and the people we pick up from treat it like a real business. They never run out, and it's always possible to get a hold of them. At this point we buy three ounces of drugs at once for our own use, so we won't be concerned with running short. When we're down to about a half ounce left, we give 'em a call and go and get more. I can't remember the last time I worried about drugs for any reason. We're addicts, but our supply line is so strong that there are never concerns about scoring. And given how we stock up, we don't have to score very often."
"Jesus, you mean to tell me there's three ounces of shit floating around in your house?" said Dawn. "No wonder you're so profligate with it."
Roach said, "Damn. Three ounces of the stuff you guys get, and that's what you buy as personal. Why not deal? Your stuff rips."
Bekka and I looked at each other. "Been there, done that, got the peptic ulcer," I said. "No, that was my old career. I'm more relaxed making porn."
"Lenny was shifting three or four pounds a week, plus hundreds of Ecstasy tablets," said Bekka. "Sometimes I would help him. He was dealing to other dealers, a wholesaler. That was stressful enough. I can't imagine retail sales, and living with that headache. If I want the same type of adventure again, I can get the same sensation by sabotaging the brake system in my own car. Not so that they don't work at all, but so that they are thoroughly unpredictable."
The doorbell rang. I tucked the pipe in my desk drawer and answered the door. I was greeted by the sight of an average-sized man in his mid-forties, with a short graying Jew-fro and a Billy Joel concert t-shirt. He looked appalled at seeing me. "Mr. Golan?" I said.
"Um, yes," he replied. "Is Mr. Schneider in?"
"You're looking at him. Come on in."
He followed me through the mansion and down the hall of offices to the media room. I left the office alone, as Ellen was conked out on my sofa. I made introductions, hands were shaken. Golan took in Roach and said, "You look a bit young to be here. What is your connection to Inana?"
"I work here," answered Roach. "I'm a stunt-cock. I'm nineteen, I'm of legal age."
"And what does a, uh, stunt-cock do?"
Snickers broke out. Roach said, "Well, I do the same things as any other male performer would do, only just part of me is ever on screen. And I can be expected to sub for one of the acting performers, as sort of a body double."
"He's Mister Eveready!" cackled Bekka. "Nothing keeps that boy down, he's always up."
"And you could drive nails with the damn thing," chimed in Dawn.
Golan asked Roach, "Don't you feel you're a bit young to have started in this business?"
"Not at all, sir," Roach replied. "According to research, I am just about at my sexual peak, physically speaking. I'm not asked to do anything unnatural. People here are friendly, I haven't run into a single person with a hostile attitude. And what I'm doing should come naturally to any human being, there's no great mystery or surprise to my job. I'm paid to have intercourse with beautiful women. As a nineteen year old heterosexual male, I can't complain at all."
"Was this work an aspiration of yours?"
"A-heh! No, being offered a chance at the position came as quite the surprise. I met Lenny through a mutual friend. Um, I knew who Lenny was, I'm a big fan of Inana's movies, and we got to talking. He offered me a chance to take the performer interviews."
I butted in, "He also had some natural advantages. A little bird told me the dude was hung."
Roach smiled and looked a little pink. "Uh, yeah, apparently I'm kind of a big guy...."
"Oh yeah," chorused Bekka and Dawn.
"Anyway, I passed all three interviews, and here I am. No, this was never some sort of dream job, I never knew the job existed. But I'm getting paid a comfortable living wage, I work fifteen hours a week at the most, and I'll be able to take some college courses in the fall. I'm not sure what I want to do with my life, I don't expect to be doing this when I'm forty, but working here gives me the time and income so I can figure out what I want at my leisure, you know? Who knows, I might decide I want a career in adult video, in one position or another."
"And he's very good at positions, too," smirked Bekka. Roach went a bit pink again.
Golan turned his attention to Dawn. He said, "I'm sorry, your name escaped me. Who are you, and what is your connection to Inana?"
My name is Dawn Nixon, and I'm the fluff girl and script girl for Inana."
"I believe I understand what script girls do, but what is a fluff girl?"
"She re-balances the blood pressure in male performers," tittered Bekka.
Dawn said to Golan, "Are you sure you want to know?"
"I think I can take it," Golan replied.
"Well, it's my job to get the studs hard and keep them hard. I do this by sucking their dicks. At the start of a shoot, I prep them, get them ready. If there are any cuts or interruptions in shooting, it's up to me to keep them ready to go. Most of my day is made up of waiting and watching. I wait for a guy to need help with his hard-on, and I watch other people fuck. It only took me a couple days to realize they pay me the way they do to make up for me being bored most of the day."
Golan said, "Um.... Okay. So you are paid to perform oral sex on the males that will be in front of the cameras. What do you earn?"
"$500 a day," replied Dawn. That's for a full day, too. I'm in the sound stages from nine a.m. to five p.m. The boredom is the only drawback to the job. I like to suck dick, so I figured it would be a fun gig. Well, I'm only sucking these guys enough to get them hard. And I never get to finish what I start, if you get my drift. Then they're in front of the cameras, and I have nothing to do. I need to get a library card, so I can bring in something to read. That will help a lot."
"How did you come to get the job?"
"Just like Roach, Lenny offered it to me. I was living in my car in Ocean Beach, total street trash. I met Lenny when I offered to suck his dick in the parking lot of a taco stand around two one morning. Him and Bekka got to talking to me, found out my situation, and offered a way to escape the hole I was in. They have been too kind to me, for no other reason than they're nice people. I'd gotten too used to assuming that anyone being nice to me had ulterior motives. Not them. I just got an apartment, and tomorrow I get my first paycheck. They told me the job had no stature, and I guess it doesn't, but everybody is nice to me. I'm gonna stick around a while, I know that. Can't beat the money. I just need to learn to cope with the boredom, then I'll be fine."
"For how long did you live in your car?"
"Um, just over a year. Lenny let me stay here in the studios at first, then fronted the money for the apartment. In fact, Roach is my roommate, it's a two bedroom. His parents suck, so he wanted to move out for a while. We're looking forward to tomorrow night, we can go shopping for the new place. I can buy clothes and a futon. And we're gonna eat a meal where the food doesn't come wrapped in wax paper."
"Are you and Roach.... Seeing each other?" asked Golan.
"Huh? Oh no," replied Dawn. "Roach is a kid, he's only nineteen. I'm twenty-three. But we're getting to be good friends. We've only known each other a week, but we're tight. And we both have enough trust in the other person that if one of us was to ask the other for a comfort fuck, the other person would do it. But no, we're not involved. I don't do romance."
Golan turned back to Roach and said, "Dawn said your parents suck. How so?"
Roach replied, "Oh, they do. They honestly couldn't care less about me. I stay out all night and they don't even notice. When I told my dad I was moving into a chi-chi apartment in Encinitas with a girl, he didn't even look away from the TV. My dad is sort of a failed outlaw biker. As near as I know, he's never held a patch with any club. Just as well, because his Harley spends half its life in pieces. He gets tweaked on meth and decides he's gonna 'fix' the motorcycle. When he eventually finishes, he'll have two bolts left over. Um, you can't do that with a motorcycle. So he takes the damn thing back apart, but he's still tweaking, so he doesn't have the concentration to remember how the damn thing is supposed to go together. It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.
"Mom is a scooter tramp.... Or would be, if the Harley ran. Her hobbies are meth, Royal Gate vodka, and going to court for DUI. She's learned to game the system to stretch out her case as long as possible so her license won't be suspended, but then she collects another DUI before the first one is settled, and starts the game over again. When I was in fifth grade she once packed me a lunch consisting of two cans of Burgie beer and a single slice of bread. I think she figured that any responsibility she had for me was over with once the gestation period was done. She had me, now she's done. I moved into the townhouse on Saturday, today is Monday, I figure around Thursday they'll start asking each other if the other one has seen me around. Oh well, I'm planning to enrage my father in a big way. I'm going to save up for my own Harley, an outlaw custom. Then I'm going to ride it to their house. My dad will ask me where the hell I got that from. I'll tell him, 'I bought it with the money I earned fucking beautiful women. That's what I do, three days a week, have sex with the hottest women in porn. Here, I brought you a video tape of me in action. And I'll bet yours isn't that big. Hey, want to go for a ride together? That's right, you can't, yours is in pieces. Dad, you're a lazy unemployed middle-aged tweaker, and being around you and mom is spiritual death. Me, I'm going to do something with my life. I don't know what yet, but for the time being I'm at least looking forward instead of staring at my boots. Give mom a hug and tell her I don't miss her cooking at all. Bye.' Divorcing myself from them like that will irritate my dad to no end. He would always tell me that I needed him. But his actions always told me that he was the last person I should turn to. If there was a dictionary definition for 'suburban white trash,' the definition should simply be my parents' wedding photo. Yeah, my parents suck, bug time. But now I'm free of them. Hooray for me."
Dawn walked over to Roach and gave him a hug. Roach hugged back. I was astounded: I'd never seen Dawn give anyone a physical display of affection, or even friendliness. Her attitudes towards sex were completely divorced from emotion or companionship. I wondered if her and Roach would, through osmosis, become an item. If they did, they had the advantage of already understanding each other's job, a problem Bekka battled with all her old boyfriends. That was something I'd never warned Roach about: when it came to dating, he had to be prepared to search out some incredibly tolerant and understanding women. I feel safe in saying that the greater majority of females in the world would not be happy dating a man who earned his living fucking other women, and really hot women at that. Who knows, maybe I could introduce him to Feather, a punk rock friend of Jane's from high school who was counting the days until her eighteenth birthday, so she could have her interviews at Inana and start making porn. I'd told her she had to grow out her hair and get rid of that damn safety pin in her cheek, or I wouldn't even bother with the interviews. Jane said Feather had taken me seriously.
Ellen wandered up, yawning and stretching, groping at my jacket pocket for a Marlboro. I handed her one and lit it for her. She took in the stranger, surmising this was M. Golan. I made the introduction and allowed Golan to take the conversational reins. He said to Ellen, "So Ms. Tyler, I was just talking with two of your, uh, fellow workers. Do you all know each other well?"
Ellen said, "Well, I know Dawn is coming off a very long rough patch in her life, so she's happy for the work. I know Roach is young, hung like a damn stallion, and is happy to be moving out of his house. Roach and Dawn are getting a townhouse together in Encinitas. Oh, and Dawn wishes she cold suck more dick at work, she's feeling bored. I don't know their birthdays or their favorite foods, but I know what's going on in their lives, and that's important, right?"
Golan asked Ellen, "So, have you and Roach, uh, worked together yet?"
"Yes, twice. That's how I knew he was hung like a stallion. Between him and Eddie The Jew, we're going to need to get some serious size queens on the roster. Anyway, yes, I have worked with Roach. For such a young guy, he has incredible talent. He is also a gentleman, something I require from every man I work with."
I said, "It's one of the requirements for working here. All of Inana's studs are gentlemen."
Ellen responded, "Vince is no gentleman."
"You may be confusing lack of manners with the fact that Vince is very, very dim."
"You may be right. Anyway, I like working with Roach. Our first loop together, he walked up, shook my hand, and introduced himself. He'd already been with the fluffer, and was rock hard while we talked. I finally pointed down and said, 'Look, I gotta take that thing for a test drive before we get in front of the cameras. You need to find out where my limits are.' We went off in a corner and rode each other, figuring out what worked and what didn't. I knew he was a complete novice, but he was trying to remain totally cool and professional. Yeah, Roach will have a steady job for quite a while here."
Golan said, "One thing I have noticed is the offhand manner you all seem to treat sex with. You treat sex the same way a mechanic treats a set of wrenches, totally impersonal. Has sex become such a mundane, matter-of-fact part of your lives that you have no more passion?"
Five people began talking to him at once, loudly. I stopped and stuck my fingers in my mouth, blowing a whistle. Everybody shut up. I said, "Okay, Skye, you first."
Ellen said, "Okay, I take a bit of offense at that suggestion. To me, sex is wonderful, it is a magic we all share. Sure, what we do here and how we discuss it is pretty cut and dry, but this is our business, we have to be matter of fact for the sake of clear communication. It's also to do with the person you're with. I can give you a detailed, blow-by-blow description of everything me and Roach did last week and it would mean nothing to either of us. But there's no way in hell I would tell you what me and my boyfriend do when we're alone. That is intimacy, and I can't think of anyone at Inana who doesn't value intimacy greatly."
Bekka said, "Where you're confused is by what we do. We do performance, not sex. Performance may look like sex, and sound like sex, and even smell like sex, but it isn't sex. I've pointed out before, rubbing wee-wees with someone doesn't make it sex, at least this side of high school. All we do all damn day is rub wee-wees. It is a physical activity that many people enjoy as a spectator sport, which is why and how Inana exists. We don't make love, we don't fuck, we perform. Do you see?"
Roach said, "I like what Bekka said about performance. I mean, I'm new at this, but even I knew there was no emotional involvement with your partners. That's something else that separates sex and performance, emotion. Connectedness. Like, me and Ellen? We're not lovers, we're co-workers. We're doing a job together. That may sound cold to you, but that's how things are. This is the entertainment industry. We're here to keep people watching, not explore our personal boundaries or whatever."
And Dawn said, "I.... Am an anomaly here. I am a highly sexual person, but never get to share it. I am physically attracted to men, I think dicks are awesome. At the same time, I generally loathe and distrust men. Roach and Lenny are exceptions, they're wonderful people, I love 'em. But overall, I have no use for men at all. I consider them loud, violent, abusive, shameless, and utterly free of a moral rudder. I wish I was attracted to women, but I'm not. I will bond with women, but as friends. I can't imagine a romantic attraction to a woman. I can't imagine a sexual attraction either, so romance is already out of the question.
"Mr. Golan, I am incredibly impersonal when it comes to sex. My enjoyment can be boiled down to calculating the distance to orgasm. And my own sexual interests are, um, unusual. Their very nature removes any chance of intimacy. But my own admittedly unhealthy sexual interests and clinical view of sex overall are my trip. I didn't pick them up from working in a porn studio, I've felt this way for a long time. These people understand passion, they know how to make love. If they didn't, they could never successfully do what they do for a living."
I said, "Everybody here knows the difference between fucking and making love. Do you know the difference? If you don't think there is a difference, then you shouldn't be trying to do either one. Like Dawn said, everyone at Inana knows how to make love. We all have that strength and skill. If we didn't, nobody would buy our videos, because they'd be as arousing as a medical textbook. When performers are in front of a camera, they're only pretending to have passion. After all, this is a job. But they have to know how to feel passion in order to fake it. There isn't a talented enough actor in the world who could do that. Our passion is reserved for the ones we love. Everyone at Inana are friends, but there is no exchange of passion, no matter how well we fake it. Two performers may have an incredible time on a shoot, end up fucking each other's brains out.... But it is a physical enjoyment only, and that is only skin deep. If we ourselves could not love, we would be unable to fake it in front of a camera."
Golan took in the people in his presence. Two punks, a goth-y hipster chick, a trial-sized tweaker bitch, and a blonde farm girl who seemed physically unable to not smile. All but one was in their twenties, and the exception was even younger. All treated sexual activity as a commodity, something of value in the marketplace. Yet all five would be genuinely insulted if you suggested that they did not know how to love another person.
Dawn elbowed Roach and said, "Hey Moe, let's cut out. I want to check out that Goodwill in Oceanside before they close." The two headed out.
I said to Golan and the girls, "Okay, to our place for beers, then to dinner. Mr. Golan, you can start your interview the moment I crack open an Anchor Steam. By the way, I noticed you didn't have your tape recorder running while you were asking questions."
Golan said, "Those weren't interviews per se. I just wanted to get a feel for the people who work at Inana. Youth is certainly one indent. I am also surprised by the level of intelligence among you. I wasn't expecting that."
"Why, are we supposed to be dummies?" I asked. "I've got a few idiots, in the form of some of our male performers. Nice guys, but simple. The great thing about them is that they're aware of their shortcomings in the brains department, and don't tackle tasks beyond their abilities."
"I believe Mr. Golan was implying that we must be thick as shit if we fuck for bucks. Do I need correcting, Mr. Golan?"
"Well, I, uh...." he started.
I said, "Hey Golan, have you ever done any work around the adult film industry before? People sometimes have assumptions and biases against the industry, stuff that is generally inaccurate, but they'll run into the one exception that lives the stereotype. Rampant drug abuse is one. Another is every studio's unending quest for of-age women who still look like they're thirteen. Fake tits, abusive management, mob ties, eating disorders.... The majority of studios don't have these problems, but if you look around, you can find ones that do."
I locked up my office and we started heading towards the door. Golan's rental was parked on the street. Before he walked too far away, I said, "Follow me, the black Fleetwood. If we get separated, my address is 816 Neptune Street, just south of the state beach parking lot. Anybody in town can tell you how to get to Neptune."
I didn't pay much attention to my rear view on the way home, and I wished I had. Somehow, somewhere, we had lost Matthew Golan of Time magazine. Well, shit. Not much to do: crack open beer, maybe snack on a slice of cold pizza, and give him an hour. He had the address, and was a big boy. He would find us.