The business was not how the average person who was not in the business would imagine it. Sheila wouldn’t understand, that was for sure. She never did.
Certainly, he hadn’t really understood how it all worked before he became a part of it. People don’t really know what they don’t really know is how he would put it. Yes. That was how it was. A case of not really knowing until you’ve really experienced it.
He was all about experiences now. That was all that mattered, really, when you added up your life: what you did. Not what you owned, or where you slept. What you did. And, now, starting again, commencing a new chapter in the only story that he could completely author, he intended on doing everything. Or at least everything that appealed to him.
Why not? He wasn’t getting a do-over. No return ticket to the fair. So why the hell not? Let them laugh about me, he figured, because when I’m dead I probably won’t be able to hear the mockery.
Take for instance his present circumstances. He looked at the unclothed boys – they were technically men according to their I.D. cards, but, hairless and smooth, they looked like boys, and that’s what everyone on the set called them. He looked at the boom mike in his hand, thick as the butt end of a pool cue, but way lighter and stiffer. The lights, mounted on poles and framed by fabric boxes aimed at the bed they were illuminating — they were the most intense shade of white he’d ever seen; although, it was true, he acknowledged, until recently he hadn’t really seen things very clearly at all!
Four months ago, if you would have bet him that he’d be in Los Angeles, California, on the set of a professional porn movie, albeit a gay one, that he’d be working in the adult film business – hell, he’d have wagered his IRA and called you crazy nuts.
He was really happy to be there, in the living room of a large, Georgian-style house on a neatly manicured cul-de-sac near Calabassas. But he wasn’t content. To do tech on a boy-boy shoot was not his goal.
This was merely a stepping stone to his greater goal, just as it was for the film’s talent, who reckoned an appearance in Captain Fantassdick: Volume 44 would somehow lead to something else: to bigger pay, to someone to take care of them and maybe love them, to more work in something else, maybe even a real movie. It wasn’t unheard of. Clark Gable had done it, supposedly. And Sylvester Stallone.
One thing he especially liked was the whole name thing. He liked that now everyone called him Mickey, because that’s what he said his name was, and because he was wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt the first day he “interviewed.”
That was hilarious, he thought; nothing like how he used to run his company’s human resources, weeding out the drunks and the Indians and the bikers with arrest records.
In this business you showed the production manager a driver’s license and explained how you knew the guy who knew the guy who knew they were looking for help, especially help that would accept $100 a day and no benefits. And then they told you you’re hired, and don’t be late, tardiness being a recurrent malady in the industry.
Now, as far as everyone else was concerned, he was Mickey. The new guy: Mickey. Full name would eventually be Mickey Maxx for the time when he eventually would do onscreen work, but plain old Mickey for now, which was cool, because he had grown so goddamn tired of his old name and his nickname, which definitely was not a good name for porn! Not compared to Mickey Maxx, anyway.
Everyone had a work name (for the credits) and a real name (for the bank), and he found it easier to remember people’s work name. There was “Marco,” and “Brick,” and “Hardy,” and crew guys with intentionally ironic names like “Frog,” “Slick,” and “Tiny.”
And of course the girls. It was so much easier to remember “Sasha Grey” than Marina Ann Hantzis.
The first time someone had addressed him as Mickey, he had a delayed reaction, as though hearing a familiar voice in unfamiliar circumstances.
“Yo, Mickey, you know where the switch is for this thing?”
“What’s up, dog? Howya doin’, Mr. Mickey? Everything all right?”
“Mickey, you wanna see the Dodgers tonight?”
“What’s up, Mick?”
“Mickey! Get out of the shot!”
Now he was used to it. Whatever he was before, whoever he was before, now he was Mickey. Or Mick. Or on rare occasions Mixmaster.
He had a beard now. Well, not exactly a full beard, but more than a moustache and bigger than a goatee. Premeditated scruff.
He wore contacts. He had lost nearly twenty-five pounds of fat that had accumulated around his belly and back from too many years spent sitting in that goddamn office, doing nothing when there was so much to be done.
He eschewed a wristwatch. He favored sunglasses, indoor and out-, for reasons stylish and practical.
He referred to women as girls, or sometimes tail, though not if a woman was present. He still had good manners and other useful remnants of his past life, such as business sense, and organizational skills, and a powerfully sensitive bullshit detector.
He was Mickey now, but he was also still a little bit of his old self, and he suspected that was how it always would be. Pretty much as predicted.
The stories – man, they had been so freaking accurate. So true.
It really never was too late to become what you might have been. You just had to be courageous.
Mickey (and that was how he thought of himself now, as well as what he called himself) found his courage in memories and marijuana. Whenever he felt an inchoate seedling of doubt growing in his gut, whenever he felt a weakening resolve to behave as wanted not and not as he was trained, whenever he felt tremulous, he reminded himself of the time he had wasted, just utterly wasted, with no chance of recovery, all that time going through the expected motions, knowing he had to change or die. Or continue suffering a pain that almost never left, except maybe during orgasm or Vicodin-assisted stage-four sleep.
The past was all the motivation he needed. And whenever the memories of his chronic melancholy weren’t compelling enough, whenever he felt himself slipping into recidivism, he smoked a few milligrams of cannabis sativa, brand name “Skull Bomb,” which he procured from a neighbor who knew the grower, a Canadian kid named Monroe. The weed reliably steeled his nerve and amplified his gratitude to be Mickey and not the man he was before.
The man he was before thought about pornography frequently. Mickey had a pornographic career.
The man before thought about fucking countless women who were not his wife. Mickey would eventually not only be fucking countless women, but doing unspeakable other things to them that he could never do with his wife. And, he believed, he would be paid handsomely for his contributions. (He would gladly volunteer his services, But don’t let them know that! he reminded himself.)
Before he needed permission, for, like, everything. Now, Mickey followed his impulses. This was what the texts he’d been studying suggested, which was weirdly coincidental, since this magical way of life was what he had wished for all along.
It was as though The Waytm had been custom designed with him in mind, his essential needs fulfilled and his persistent questions answered. It was so neat how everything worked out, he thought. Miraculous, in a way.
How quickly he had adjusted, he marveled. His dad had always said it, that human beings are the most adaptable of creatures. (The old man said this often. But the most memorable occasion was to explain the family’s habituation in the desert, in Arizona, which didn’t seem upon initial consideration to be a good place for human beings to survive.) It was true, he thought. So true.
First, he adapted to being married, being in that state of confinement. He had made himself into a conventionally good husband.
Then he adapted to his new living space, a one-bedroom “efficiency,” they called it, with the kitchen and dining room and bathroom all squished together. Grey carpet. Nothing on the walls. Everything white and plastic wood molding. Depressing, you would think. But no: he was not depressed. He had adapted.
You know what was depressing? A four-bedroom, four-bath, three-car, “neo-ranch,” with a $1,400 air conditioning bill May-August. Thinking of that place, where he had wasted so many of his good years – now that could get him down. Returning to his bedraggled apartment, in Hollywood, near the 24-hour Ralph’s, wasn’t sad to Mickey Maxx. The apartment was merely a place to sleep during what he had come to think of as his Transitional Period.
He had so many things to look forward to. Before, he had nothing to look forward to. Now, anything was possible.
“Action!” the director called out. Perched on the edge of a pale-green sofa, the two boys, one the star Chad Evans and the other a Puerto Rican newcomer with teeth in need of fixing, said their lines, about four of them, and commenced fondling.
The man now known as Mickey Maxx held his boom over the scene, out of the camera’s frame, which was tight on Chad’s famous blue eyes. Mickey looked above the set and away, toward his imagined future, happier than he could remember.