The Price of Admission
I showed up on Andrew's doorstep right after work, having done three scenes in a distracted and fearful way. I rushed to his house as if to move too quickly to worry. I had a deep feeling that most other people would not understand my life and my work, even someone who seemed so much to like me.
I rang the buzzer and he let me in smiling.
"Hey, Shirl, you didn't call."
"I figured you were home. You usually are."
"It's fine. I'm glad to see you."
I sat on the couch. The computer on his desk lit the room with a dim, artificial light.
"Are you busy?" I said.
"Not really. I can do it another time. Just copying notes."
"I've got something to tell you," I said.
"What is it?"
"I've got some news. It may come as bad news."
His calm face turned to concern.
"Keep in mind this doesn't have to be bad news. It's something that makes me happy and something I enjoy. We both know it's good if I'm happy. I'd like you to be happy too."
"What is it?" he said again, now heavily concerned.
I started. "For the last year I have been in the sex industry. I've made a few videos. That has been my job."
I stopped. He was expressionless. I couldn't figure out what else to say. Maybe that was enough. The information didn't sound as bad as I thought it would. I was just stating a calm fact about my life. I knew that porn was a decent way of life, maybe he would too. I knew he leaned more towards the dirt in life. His bookshelves were filled with stories about criminals and convicts, even prostitutes. He had never been on the streets but he was interested. I became more confident.
"The job is not as dirty as you might think," I went on. "It's a job like any other. There are a lot of nice, supportive people working in the industry. It has actually been very good to me. I needed to tell you because I like you and was making myself sick not being able tell the truth."
Andrew was silent, staring at the floor. He abruptly switched his eyes to mine. "So you're a prostitute?" he said.
"No. Not at all. I make videos."
"Yeah, I've actually been fairly successful with-"
"If you're fucking for money, why aren't you a prostitute?"
"Because it doesn't work that way. It's more of a community of people."
"Do you fuck different men in these videos?"
"Yes, but it doesn't mean anything."
"How many different guys have you fucked?"
"That doesn't matter. I-"
"Sure it matters. You said you wanted to tell me the truth, so tell me. How many different guys have you fucked?"
"I don't know. I don't remember."
He stood up and pushed the chair so it fell and hit the floor. The sound was like a building collapsing.
"You said you've been working a year. So what, you fuck a different guy everyday? Oh, and I'm sure you fuck women too."
"How can I explain it to you. It's a job."
"Some fucking job. Who the hell does that? Vile and immoral people do that. Not you."
"I do. And you know I'm a decent person so that should show you that the industry's not all bad."
He let out a breath and I thought maybe he was going to ease up and accept the news. But then he walked hard towards me and I instinctively put my hands in front of my face, a father-daughter reaction.
"You're not a decent person, you're a slut. You're a whore."
I felt tears coming but I held them back. I tried not to cry very often.
"Jesus Christ," he said. "You've been lying to me for months. How does that make you a decent person. What the fuck do I know about you? Is Shirley Gilchrist even your name?"
"Yes. I've been up front about everything else."
"What's your name in your videos?" He said the word videos like it was a disease.
"Shirley...Shave," I said meekly.
That seemed to make him snap because he raised a fist and hit me hard in the side of the head. "A thousand different men. You uncaring bitch," he yelled. I stood up and began walking to the door. As I did, he hit me in the shoulder blade so it stung. "Where are you going?" he said. He followed me breathing deeply, stepping hard to the floor. I finally made it to the door and into the hallway. He slammed the door behind me.
"Fucker," he screamed. Then he hit the door.
I walked shakily down the stairs and to the street. The open air hit me like bricks. I was as high as after sex. Cynthia, the S&M queen, was right. Violence was as powerful a force as love. I thought about her and laughed for no reason. Just so I could think about something else.
I went to a coffee shop and ordered coffee. I added lots of sugar and cream and just watched the other customers. Sad men at the counter. Sad women serving them. Not a pedestrian on the sidewalk, just cars in heavy traffic. I tried not to think about anything. Sort of the same process of shutting down during a fuck scene. I drank my coffee silently and watched the rush hour coming home from work.