a Bad Man, Aren't You?
Oh, he was a bad man. He had been terrible since the day he was born, before
even then perhaps. He had cried constantly as a small baby, masturbated
obsessively as a young teen, and become the kind of man as an adult who
only truly enjoyed himself when he was hurting other people. Now, he wanted
to know, what was so wrong with that?
badness, after all, had taken him to where he was today, sitting in his
car in an empty parking lot with the dog of his brain running in a circle
on a chain in the yard of his mind. Because these days, he was King Shit
of Turd Hill, a paid propagator of evil, a guy unabashedly enough in touch
with his, well, bad, really, self, that he made a living off of it. He thought
that perhaps everyone else would do well to go and fuck themselves.
He was a pornographer, and he was not ashamed.
In fact, he was terrifically proud. He told those who stood around him while
he worked that porn stars were like game pieces, and porn sets were like
chessboards, and he was like the god who moved them around. He would add,
after a pause, But in this game, somebody always gets fucked in the ass!
And then he would laugh, and everyone else would laugh right along with
His life was hilarious, actually. Put that in your
mouth, put this in your vagina, put the other thing up your butt. The variations
were endless. It was their willingness that staggered his mind. The people
in front of him were as malleable as freshly pulverized meat. Having been
punched by their mothers, screwed by their fathers, and screamed at by their
lovers, they stood limply before him and just did whatever he said.
do you do when you have done it all? This was what he wanted to know
today. Because living this life so pornographically, he had, of course,
grown bored. He had started to lose that sense of doing something so wrong.
He had found himself longing for that feeling of playing the roulette
wheel. And that was the point at which he had begun to push at the things
that were around him.
First, he had suggested that the men and women
choke each other by the throat. Then, he had requested that they go to
the bathroom on one another. After that, he had directed them to take
more of each other inside of themselves than they were capable of taking.
He added a midget, a plastic pig mask, and a shotgun. For a while, it
But eventually, the new bad would become as bad
as the old bad, and that was never good enough for him. Being bad had
always been a part of him, but somewhere along the way, it had overflowed
the banks of his personality, and seeped throughout all of his private
life, and taken over what he saw of mankind. He had got a little numb,
He had tried telling himself there were a finite
numbers of holes in the human body, that there was a limited degree to
which you could shove at someone before they zoned, that there was a maximum
level of depravity to be reached where the playing field leveled out at
the bottom of the pit. He tried telling a man who worked for him what
was going on in his head, but the man only barked at him. Now, where would
he go? He had no idea.
Because he had been raised on horror movies and
practical jokes in the middle of a rotting house drowning in the racket
of horrifyingly loud and overbearing women, and he did not want to go
back to that way of life ever again. His mother and his sisters were the
kind of morbidly overweight women who spat when they spoke, forever sweaty
and smelling, upset in countless kinds of ways, and he still disliked
all of them deeply for it.
Growing up in the midst of those females caterwauling
around him, he had distracted himself with the newspaper photographs of
fatal car accidents and the stories of famous serial killers. He had dreamed
longingly of what it felt like when a man's head was torn from his body
at 60 miles an hour. He had fantasized fervently about what a stalker
saw while snuffing out another expertly bondaged woman beneath him. That
was his escape.
He hadn't known his father, didn't care to. He
hadn't talked much to his mother or sisters, didn't care to. But drunk
in a bar one night at 23, he had overheard someone declare that pornography
was the last, true frontier left in the modern world. And when he heard
that, for the first time, he had felt a sense of motivation. So, he had
moved to Hollywood.
He was married twice, during his decade-long
tenure in the world of sex and smut. Both his ex-wives were also ex-porn
stars, formerly beautiful women who had crawled out of the garbage bin
of pornography and right into his wide-open arms, as if from their point-of-view
that appeared to be some type of refuge. Neither marriage had lasted more
than a year. He had a son he didn't see, didn't care to. He was alone.
He liked that. He did.
Because what people did not understand was that
his life had been like a fucking war. His whole long life, he had acted
like a fucking general in a fucking war, and now, he thought, he wanted
a fucking medal. What the fuck? he thought, slapping at his thigh
in the car. Because there was no difference between what he had done and
what the guys in 'Nam had done, really. His question: What happens
when people do whatever they want? The answer: They kill each other.
And the truth of pornography: Porn is hell.
Hadn't he dodged those flying shots, slid in
the slime of other people's fluids, gotten close enough to the human body
to see into the pink fleshiness of its gaping insides? Hadn't he carried
a lucky charm for his own protection, hadn't he seen what most people
wouldn't, hadn't it changed him forever and all that crap? I have Post
Traumatic Porn Disorder, he said to himself in his car and laughed.
Then, he thought, I want to go home.
He wondered if he was turning into the Lord of
the Flies, if he should be muttering, The horror, the horror!,
if he resembled John Holmes during the Wonderland murders. He felt like
the driver in a car accident between a cock and a pussy, sporting a necklace
made of human ears, his only award a double-kill. Those things lived in
him, care of Porn Valley, USA. Welcome home, Fucker!
The funny part of it was that everything
had started out so innocently. He had found a cheap apartment in Hollywood
and bought himself a stack of porn magazines. He had made a friend--got
to talking to the drug-dealer down the hall, actually, while getting high
one day--and that guy had a friend who wrote porn scripts. He had never
heard of such a thing before, but he had believed that he could write
the greatest porn movie ever made.
He drove to the offices of a man who made adult
movies, somewhere out in the San Fernando Valley. The guy looked like
a loser, with his comb-over and saying he had been in the porn industry
since before it was born. That was a turn-off. But behind the guy's desk,
a locker door had hung open, vomiting out old porn scripts. And the guy
had said, Hey, you wanna try making one of these fuckers? That
was how it had happened.
He was scared shitless, the first day. An actress
whose name he couldn't remember showed up two hours late, drunk. A guy
sitting on a crate turned out to be the male talent. They started taking
their clothes off as soon as he picked up the video-camera. He barely
spoke a word. Forgot to focus. Most of the footage was awful. He loved
Because there was nobody telling him what to
do--nobody, even, who knew what he couldn't do. And as long as there were
two people, or three people--or better yet, four or more people--fucking
in front of him, he couldn't hear the past banging around inside of his
head at all. It was amazing how distracting real life could be when you
were looking at what was in his face every day. This life, he thought
at the time, It is very hypnotic.
But somehow, somewhere along the way, he had
been dulled. Blunted by his own process, today, he feared, the thrill
was gone. Two weeks ago, this great likelihood of this very possibility
had sent him crawling back home to his mother's house, the only place
where he knew things would be exactly the same as the day that he had
left them. The first night there, he slept in his mother's bed with her,
lay there listening to her breathing for four nights running. It wasn't
sexual, but it had helped him comfort himself.
Sex, by then, held no meaning for him, anyway.
Sex, he thought, down under the covers next to his sleeping mother, was
the missionary position and doggie-style, and douches and enemas, and
reverse-cowgirl and double-penetration, and anal and double-anal, and
gangbangs and bukkakes, and take your clothes off, please, and bend over
there, dear, and I need a little bit more of that, honey, and can you
pop for me now, man?
There was nothing left for him, anyhow. For him,
he thought, there was alcoholism, and the shooting gallery, and stuffing
everything up his nose, and popping everything else in his mouth, and
getting clean only to wind up fat around the gills, and realizing that
if a man's first creation was his feces, then it made sense what he created
was shit, so this was his manifest destiny, and his self-fulfilling prophecy,
and it was, rightly, obscene.
You gotta love me!, he had thought, lying
next to his sleeping mother, but he had wanted to cry. His mother always
smelled to him of what he, himself, had smelled of for as far back as
he could remember, but it was only when he was with her that he knew whatever
bad thing he was, or would ever become, it began and ended with her. He
had left the very next morning, before his mother woke up, for the first
and last time missing her.
A long time ago, for him pornography had been
like what he thought falling in love would be like. Girls with tiny ankles
honorably armed in monster breasts. Guys with tan muscles bravely wielding
huge cocks. They weren't just having sex, either. They were executing
acts on his behalf. And it was as if he was right there between them when
they did it, pulling them apart as they struggled to give him his shot.
He had found it touching that they would let you get in there with them
like that while they sweated.
Sometimes, it turned out, a girl would cry. She
would be hopped up on meth, her suitcase-pimp would have bitched her out,
she would be upset because everybody laughed when she did something embarrassing.
(Farting, crapping, quiffing--the accidents of the female body were never-ending.)
He would put his arm around her and say something about being sorry, or
proud, or tell her everything would be fine in the end.
The guys, it turned out, were just as screwed
up. They spent all of their time obsessing about the scars on their bodies,
showing off the latest tattoo they had gotten that referred to the latest
heartbreaker they had survived, so vain that it made them almost charismatic.
(Those guys were ruled by their own penises, left to sit trimming at their
own pubic hair.) He steered clear of them, but his heart went out to them
over the distance, nevertheless.
For almost a decade, it had been just the three
of them, no matter how many people were actually involved. A man, a woman,
and him. The location had moved from warehouse, to townhouse, to apartment,
but the triangle they formed was always there, in its constant and complete
formation. And when the triangle stood up, he was on top. When it fell
down, he sat in the corner. Now he couldn't stand in the middle to save
his goddamn life.
Yoou've looost thaat loooving feeeling!
That was what the radio had been screaming at him one week ago. On that
morning, by 11AM, things had been going wrong already. His male porn star
was AWOL. His female porn star, meanwhile, was piling on layers of lipstick
on her mouth in the mirror, the radio wailing away at him from behind
He had gone into the back room, and he had tried
to figure out what to do. That was when the P.A. had walked up to him
and said, I can do it, his thumb hooked back over his shoulder
toward the set. This particular P.A. wasn't one he had worked with before,
but it wasn't unheard of that a production guy could turn porn guy in
a pinch. The kid was young enough, if not that good-looking enough--a
non-descript, longhaired, pocked-face, skinny white guy of the type that
populated the Valley's houses around them.
Do you have a test? he said to the P.A.
The kid took a piece of paper out of his back pocket and handed it to
him. And when he had looked down at the piece of paper in the kid's hand,
he had started to say something, but right as he did, the words fell away
out of his mouth, and something had shifted, and he had looked back up
at the kid and all of a sudden, not like some kind of a flash, but like
some kind of something, he just knew, and the kid looked at him, and he
looked at the kid, and there was something connecting what was between
them, and whatever it was, it made his old bad look good in comparison.
What he had wanted to do was to lean into the
kid's ear and whisper, Do it, because he got very dizzy in that
moment that the two of them were making to go POW!, and he was scared
that if he kept on looking at the kid, the kid's face would start turning
around and around like a roulette wheel, and the red and the black numbers
there would spin into a blur, and where the ball would stop, he did not
yet know. For the first time in a long time, he had thought, This is
living. And what he had said to the kid was, Yes.
He damn well knew, sitting in his car, the story
that everybody wanted him to tell. And it went, My mother put me in
a dress, while my father molested me, right after I had my first seizure,
directly before I gutted my first pet, those many years prior to my first
crime/torture/kill, which is longhand for saying, the bodies are under
the house, I think/in the crawl space, from what I recall/out by the edges
of the aqueduct, I do believe, but please!/God!/Lord!, Officer/Sir/Dad,
don't send me to the gas chamber, nevertheless!
But the truth of the matter was that, whether
you were a porn-maker, or a serial killer, or a gambler, your deepest
desire was to control that which could not be controlled, and so other
folks could chalk it up to the X-factor, or the XXX-factor, or the XY-factor,
but what you were chasing after was all the same, and therefore whether
you were looking through the lens of a camera, or down the double-barrels
of a shotgun, or across a roulette wheel, you had to be vewy, vewy quiet
while you were hunting humans, because the best thing about people was
that they weren't easy, and that was what made them great game.
It had just so happened for him that along his
life's path, he had discovered the world of pornography. And as it had
turned out, this world was a total one, with its own language, population,
commerce, and laws. And that made it the ideal playing field for extreme
sportsmanship. Because when you work a system, the structures do their
best not to fall down.
When he had looked down at the piece of paper
that the kid had handed to him, he had thought he had recognized the kid's
name. And that had set off a domino-like chain of thoughts inside his
brain, and he had thought he had remembered someone leaning into him,
months previous, and pointing a finger right at this kid in front of him,
in some other place at some other time, and telling him, There is something
very bad inside of that kid. And he had thought he remembered exactly
what that bad thing was. But in porn, it had always seemed to him like
there were a great many things that were better left unsaid.
That was what made it so easy, really, for him
to pick up the camera when the girl walked on the set and stood next to
the bed. That was what made it so simple, in fact, for the kid to come
in behind her and stand waiting in the middle of the room. That was what
made it so not hard, actually, for him to ignore whatever written plot-line
had supposedly led them there. Because this, for once, was going to be
his story now, and no one else's.
He had looked through the viewfinder, and he
had found the girl. She was a C-level porn-starlet at best--blonde, and
thin, and pale. She would have come into the business only recently, and
she would make something like a dozen movies, and then she would be going
right back to Fresno or Barstow or whatever dusty, outlying town she had
emerged from. And she would never do better than this anyway. And she
probably thought this would haunt her only if her stepfather saw her on
one of his porno channels one day.
And maybe, he had thought as he turned
the camera on her, she will be wrong about that.
Then, the boy and the girl had got it on. And
that was how he had set his own ball of chance running through the world
of porno. And where it would stop, nobody knew.
And yet, and yet, from that day to this one,
he had started to feel, well, bad, really. But it wasn't like he felt
guilty, or as if he had done something so wrong, or that all of it was
all of his fault, or if he had done this, well, then maybe that, or like
he had committed some kind of a crime. And it wasn't like he thought he
was sexually strange, or erotically perverse, or romantically sadistic,
or utterly without a heart. It was more like how he felt when he smelled
garbage while he was driving down the freeway, or was caught masturbating
by his mother, or spent too much time looking at himself in the mirror.
What do you do when you have done it all?
He held his hands in front of himself, and he thought, If only these
hands could talk, maybe they would have something to say. He looked
out the windshield to the train tracks in the distance. God, what have
I done to me?
Once upon a time, a male porn star had spent
all of his time in the adult movie industry with a handmade, falsified
HIV-negative test in hand, spreading himself willy-nilly across the eyes,
and mouths, and vaginas, and anuses of the girls he had sex with on-camera.
Today, who cared? Anybody could rent the video and watch while it happened.
The only thing left in its wake had been the
endless, ceaseless roar of supply and demand, more names and titles rattling
on into infinity, new guys and gals coming in through the OUT-door, nobody
ever stopping to ask anyone else too loudly, Aw, now why'd you wanna
go do a thing like that? Nothing, in the end, had proven more profitable
than the human brain's ruthlessly industry. And these days, the population's
immune-system was wearing down so fast that you slipped in the run-off
every time you stepped in the street.
It was this smotheration of other people's desire
that he had spent his whole life bearing. It was this arresting compulsion
to meet everyone else's most graphic needs that he had found that he could
not stop. Had it been so wrong to hope that he would become a better man
along the way? It had turned out, though, that being perfectly bad did
not bring a man's life full circle around to being perfectly good. Luck,
it seemed, eluded him again.
In the car, for the first time, he closed his
eyes, and he laid back his head.
All anybody will ever see of me are the flickering
scenes of porn videos screening across my eyeballs, and all anybody will
ever hear from me is an audio-loop of moans and groans coming out my mouth,
and all anybody will ever say to me is, More, as they smack their hand
into the windshield of my car as they crawl across the hood right towards
Inside his head, it felt like the dog of
his brain was breaking off its chain, and now he could feel the dog climbing
out of his head, and he could even hear it climbing onto the steering
wheel before him, and he could already taste the clickity-clack of its
toenails digging into the red and black squared numbers, and he saw when
he opened his eyes that the dog was stepping up its pace because the dog
was hungry, and what he realized right then and there was that, with or
without him, the dog would run on forever, and it would never be sated.
So today, he had to ask himself, finally, You
were a bad man, weren't you?, with the dog of his brain running on
the wheel of his car, and he had to answer, in all honesty, Why yes,
And then he stepped out of his car, and then
he walked down to the train tracks in the distance, and then he stood
there waiting for the next train to take him crisscrossing out across
America. And he told himself, I will touch every good person I ever
meet with my hands. And he wondered, as the rails began to vibrate
at his feet, if he was contagious.
While You Were Out
While he was out, the bombing started. She was at home because that's
where women always were when such things happened. He, on the other hand,
was out because that's where men always were when such things happened.
While you were out--that was how the note she would leave him would
have to begin now. While you were out the world exploded, and I, at
the time, was home, so I will be gone by the time you return.
When she was young, and as entirely impressionable
as the age had dictated, she had watched a television program about life
as it would have been in the town she grew up in had someone somewhere
managed to deploy a nuclear bomb upon it. She had found the experience,
appropriately, affecting, and she had never forgotten what she had seen,
or how it had made her feel, or the image of the mother wrapping her dearly
departed child in a sheet. It depressed her before she was even grown
up enough to do depression well.
Although it could not, in all likelihood,
be wholly attributed to the simple act of her having watched a television
show, something like twenty years of intermittent bouts with depression
had followed. It was not until three years ago, when she had met her first,
current, and, as of today, very likely last husband, that the gray cloud
of depression routinely exploding around her head had finally lifted to
rest just above her eye-level.
Now, though, of course, with the mushroom
cloud detonating over and over again across every television screen in
every living room across America, her husband was, in fact, out. Initially,
and perhaps in hindsight somewhat unrealistically, she had tried to deny
the cloud's existence, but every time she had changed the channel, the
cloud had come back, reintroducing itself into her evidentiary file. There
was no denying a rerun, she realized.
She had to admit, this was not what she
had expected. She had envisioned something more like a car's quiet glide
across the black ice of a night street, the slow fall of a supine body
onto a hospital bed, the poetic righteousness of a personal eclipse among
concentric circles of family members. To her, this endless time between
the beginning of the end and the end of the end, with no hand to hang
oneself from, was totally unacceptable.
So, she decided right then and there, she
would not have it. Instead, she vowed, there would be a brisk gathering
up of keys and purse, a savage putting on of a crisp blazer, a near dog-like
shaking off of every drop of doubt and fear to send them all flying out
into the unacknowledged nethers of her carpet. She would, in a sort of
Gloria Steinem meets Madeline Albright type of way, divorce herself from
every victimhood, ever, everywhere.
Although, unfortunately, that was not her.
She was the kind of person who needed days of prep time and hours of coaching
conversation before she could make any major move. She didn't live in
a constant state of paralysis, she was just highly aware that the sludge
the human brain floated in was composed of quicksand. Therefore, she watched
her step. Thankfully, most of the time her husband stood nearby her, holding
out wood planking.
Under these circumstances, she considered,
wood planking would serve her only as a stretcher. She wished she had
a groin that made her want to run out and buy a shotgun and a flag, a
chest that made her long to organize smaller women and smaller children
into protective lines behind her, a mind that propelled her into buying
copious food supplies while digging the perfect bomb shelter and simultaneously
barking savvy orders.
She didn't. Her usual approach to life's
crises, which typically took place somewhere between the office and the
kitchen, was to retire from her current position and go to bed. There
was nothing more therapeutic than fifty minutes of "Ricki Lake"
or a session with "Jenny Jones." Those people made her brain
feel like Wonderbread topped in Velveeta.
What did women do in wartime? she wondered.
Angela Davis hid a gun in her afro. Patricia Hearst had picked up an assault
weapon-although, she was brainwashed into doing so. Her own mother, for
her part, read "The Feminine Mystique" while vacuuming. She
held her hands in front of herself and tried to imagine what she might
hold in them.
She wished it was 1942. She wouldn't have
had to draft a plan back then because the country drafted one for you.
She would have been terrifically happy to spend her days making cans in
a factory, terribly overjoyed to spend her nights growing vegetables in
the back yard. Life was simpler when the world was anything other than
an omnipresent fog from which you could not escape. What kind of blueprint
were you supposed to draw when all the paper had been exploded? Today,
the world awoken, there was no answer.
So, she thought of all the things she had
never done. She had never organized a food-drive, or a fundraiser, or
a non-profit event. She had never become a supermodel. She had never run
naked through Harvard Square, and, of course, she had never gone to Harvard.
She had never even produced a small, fleshier version of herself upon
which to dote.
However, she had once climbed down a horrifyingly
steep cliff in the middle of a black night, led by her husband to a secret
natural hot-springs that only he knew about, somewhere in the middle of
a huge forest at the end of a long road, at the bottom of which was a
rock pool, so old that probably Indians had made it, whereat the cold
river water and hot spring water mixed, and right there she took off every
stitch of her clothes, which was very unusual for her, and then she held
her husband close to her in the water.
Was that enough? She had so many of those.
Christ, she had kept every last one of them in a locked box on top of
her dresser to enable re-visitations. And she had tons more too, involving
convertible car-rides and rock-bedded oceans and small pup-tents and handholding
street sprints and teeter-tottering sex-acts. What if no one ever stumbled
on the box, and opened up the lid, and saw what was in it? Was it, alone,
Today, she thought, maybe it was. Truth
be told, she thought, if it was not, considering everything that was happening,
now it would have to be. Maybe, really, the point was that if you had
a box filled to overflowing, and, at this point, she had to admit, a little
shyly, it was, and not just a bunch of old jewelry and some dust, that
was not a bad haul. Maybe, she thought, it was a fine catch. And, she
hadn't even had to hold up a bank.
A long time ago, when she had been very
young, younger than watching the TV show even, her father had died. One
night, he was there. The next morning, when she woke up, bloop!, he was
gone. After her mother had come into her room and told her what had happened,
she had walked down the family stairs to the living room. She had expected
to find a chalk-outline in the middle of the room to show where her father
had fallen. There he was, she could think forever, and be careful to not
erase it or tread there again.
That was not, she saw now, the way things
worked out. So, she decided, she would wait until the orange explosion
came searing through her home, and when the cloud of dust settled, she
would still be here. She went to the front window and pulled back the
curtain. "Fuck you," she said to the world. She didn't need
it. She had everything already. She went to the kitchen to write a different
note for her husband. Posted to the door, it would say, Welcome home,
dear, I am here, waiting for you, and I can hardly wait to hold you.