Mr. Bacardi stares up at the TVs they have hanging from the ceiling, showing porno, and he keeps saying, “No ... no fucking way ...” Mr. Bacardi just stands in one place, staring up at the TVs, maybe using two fingers to pinch the loose skin under his jaw, pull it tight, and let go. He’s staring at the movie on TV, running his fingers over his cheeks, stretching the skin back toward his ears so his wrinkles around his lips disappear, saying, “Fucking camera dude, he made me look like shit.” His skin in some spots as wrinkled as my pink plastic sex surrogate, Mr. Bacardi keeps saying, “No way I look that trashed. Fucking lighting dudes . . .”
Guy 137, who used to be Dan Banyan, he holds up his autograph hound, staring it straight in the button eyes, and says, “Somebody’s in denial ...” The headlines on those newspapers they sell at the grocery-store checkout counter, they’re true. The gossip stuff about why Dan Banyan got his TV series took off the air. That gossip they printed was real. “I was starving. I was a starving actor,” says guy 137, his head tipped back but not looking at the TVs. Instead, he’s grinning at the ceiling. Laughing at the nothing there. And he says, “If anybody can identify with how Cassie Wright feels at this moment, that person is me . . .” Above us, on the TVs, my mom’s starring in The Italian Hand Job, where she plays an international mystery woman looking to steal the crown jewels of some place. Mr. Bacardi sucks in his stomach and stands taller, saying, “The cheap-ass video like this, the resolution is crap.” He says, “They might as well have shot this from a damned satellite.” Anger, guy 137 calls it. “I was your age,” the 137 Dan Banyan guy says and looks at me. He takes a big breath and lets it out, slow. His shoulders shrug up, high to his ears, and he says, “The finance company kept phoning me about repossessing my car. A couple late payments on my credit cards, and they jacked the interest rate up to thirty percent.” His shoulders drop so his hands sag almost to his knees, and he says, “Thirty percent! On a balance of twenty-five grand, that looked like the rest of my life to pay off.” So he made a porn movie, he says. “It can only take a moment,” the 137 guy says, “to waste the rest of your life ...” He asks did I know a movie called Three Days of the Condom. He says, “Well, it paid off my car. Didn’t touch the principal on my credit card, but I got to keep my car.” He didn’t figure anyone would ever see it. At the time, his acting was going nowhere. It was ten years before he got his big break in Dan Banyan, Private Detective. That condom movie’s been hanging over his head ever since. “Doing an all-male gay gang-bang movie is an act of resignation,” he says and waves one hand, his eyes sweeping over half the room. He says, “You and every man in here, no matter what you do up in that room, whether you tell Cassie Wright you love her, or you fuck her, or you do both—don’t expect you’ll ever get confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court.” Porn, he says, is a job you only take after you abandon all hope. The Dan Banyan guy says half the guys here were sent by their agents to rack up some face time. He says the entire entertainment industry expects Cassie Wright to die today, and every would-be actor in town is wanting to springboard off the controversy. “Just between you and me, kid,” he says, pointing at me, then pointing at his own chest, “when your agent sends you on a look-see to fuck a dead woman, you know your career’s in the toilet.” A little ways off, Mr. Bacardi digs his fingertips into the skin of his stomach, saying, “You think, if I did more hanging knee raises?” He opens both hands, turning them and looking at both sides, and says, “They have that microdermabrasion to give you young skin again.” Grabbing a handful of skin above one hipbone, he says, “Maybe liposuction isn’t out of the question. Calf implants. Maybe those pec implants.” The Dan Banyan guy holds up his dog, looking eye-to-eye at it, and says, “Bargaining.” On the TV screens, it’s some old scene of Mr. Bacardi ramming my mom from behind. Every draw back, when he shoves his wiener in, his saggy old-man balls swing to spank my mom on her shaved taint. That no-man’s-land dividing her snatch and ass. The Dan Banyan guy, he says the only trick to starring in an all-male backdoor gang-bang movie is you have to really relax. Keep breathing, deep. You need to forget all your decades and decades of toilet training. Picture puppies and kitties. He says you kneel on the edge of a bed and five other guys come in and dork your ass a couple strokes each. Those five blow their loads across your back. Then another five come in. He really wasn’t counting. Then he lost count. Taking a strong dose of Special K helped. My mom, up those stairs, behind that locked door, under all those bright lights. The Dan Banyan guy looks at the ceiling again and laughs, saying, “It’s a lot less romantic than it might sound.” To this day, he says, you put anything up his ass and he can tell you Trojan or Sheik. Rubber versus latex versus lambskin. Without looking, just only from the feel, he says he can even name the color of the condom. “I should do product endorsements,” the Dan Banyan guy says. “I could tour as the ‘Psychic Asshole’ . . .” A fluffer, he says, is somebody whose job is to blow guys or give hand jobs to make sure they’re ready to act on cue. I don’t know. “The biggest irony is that most of the men,” the Dan Banyan guy says, “in the movie with me, most of them were straight. Doing it just for the cash.” When he found that out, he says, he didn’t feel half as flattered by the attention. On the TVs, my mom is putting big fake diamonds inside her mouth. Licking them. Her lips and her snatch she has in this movie, they look nothing like what I have at home. The stuff I sent for over the Internet. Mr. Bacardi looks at the floor, shaking his head and saying, “Who am I fooling?” Looking at his feet, only with his eyes closed, he says, “I wasted the precious gift of my life.” Cupping his closed eyes with the palm of one hand, he says, “I threw away my whole precious life, trashed my life like it was nothing but a money shot.” And the Dan Banyan guy turns his head, fast, only long enough to look at Mr. Bacardi and says, “Christ! Snap out of it. Would you quit Elisabeth K?bler-Ross—ing on us!” When he was my age, the Dan Banyan guy says, he watched Cassie Wright in World Whore One, he maybe even saw me get conceived, but as she took on French soldier after German soldier after doughboy, he said to himself, “Damn, I’d like to be that popular ...” But, every casting call, he was just another young guy in a sea of young guys. TV commercials. Feature films. He never got any callbacks. Before he turned twenty-one years old, casting agents were already going on how he was too old. The only last thing left for him to do was buy a bus ticket back to Oklahoma. The Dan Banyan guy tips his bottle of pills until one rolls into the palm of his other hand. Just looking at it, he says, “My agent thinks that if I’m seen in this project it will ‘out’ me as being secretly straight. He’s banking on at least bisexual.” The Dan Banyan guy just looks at the blue pill sitting in his palm. His skin on his face, the blood veins swell across his dark-red forehead. His face turning the purple color of pounded meat, those blood veins twitch and squirm just inside his skin. His agent’s already got a press release printed, ready to issue. The headline across the top says “Dan Banyan Comes Out on Top!” Under that, the press release talks about the recent tragic death of one of America’s topmost adult-movie stars. Most of the rest is him officially denying rumors how his massive rock-hard wiener and relentless animal ram-job is responsible for my mom being dead. The Dan Banyan guy holds out his hand, shoving the pill at me. He says, if I want it, take it. Free of charge. I don’t have to blow him or anything. Mr. Bacardi’s fingering the necklace around his neck, popping the pendant deal open and looking inside. The pendant deal, it’s a locket I’ve seen before. Hanging from around my mom’s neck in Blow Jobs of Madison County. It’s Cassie Wright’s necklace he’s wearing. “It only takes one mistake,” the Dan Banyan guy says, “and nothing else you ever do will matter.” With his empty hand, he takes one of my hands. His fingers feel hot, fever-hot, and pounding with his heartbeats. He turns my hand palm-up, saying, “No matter how hard you work or how smart you become, you’ll always be known for that one poor choice.” He sets the blue pill on my palm, saying, “Do that one wrong thing— and you’ll be dead for the rest of your life.” Mr. Bacardi’s looking at a pill inside my mom’s locket. “Someone had better die today,” the Dan Banyan guy says, “or I’ll be headed back to Oklahoma.” And he folds my fingers shut with the little blue pill inside.