The In Between

This week was my first real look at what life is like after the end of my last relationship; I took a road trip alone that we’d talked about doing together. I had business in another city and since it was only a few hours away, I decided to make the drive alone. One of my coping mechanisms has always been throwing myself at work during a heartbreak and adding a trip into that seemed like a distraction big enough to keep me out of my head as much as possible. I hopped in the car on Wednesday  and threw in a couple of hours worth of introspection on the drive along the way to the tune of Johnny Cash and Elvis trying to get as much of it out of my system as I could before I got there.

During the next few days, we  worked out of their offices and we hammered out some new business together. In the evenings they took me out on the city, knowing that I’d been through a rough breakup and doing their best to cheer me up and distract me.  I was appreciative of their efforts and it really did make a difference to me, as did the change of scenery. Work kept me busy during the day and they kept me busy at night showing me different parts of the city.

We stood outside together on a rooftop bar where I  sipped Coca Cola in lieu of booze, which I gave up during the breakup. I  counted the 21 days since the last time I’d had a drink as my friends ordered another round and I  felt both comfortable and ill at ease  at the same time, constantly trying to stay in the moment and not think about Maeve or how much I’d have love to have explored the city with her. I  told myself that I just needed a little more time to be ok with it and I  more or less accepted that to be true but it didn’t make me miss her or want to have a drink any less.

We talked a lot about the adult entertainment industry (which we all work in) as the sunset painted everyones faces a rosy gold. We discussed the way that it’s changed and how so many people we know haven’t been able to make that turn with it and have been left behind. As much as I  threw myself at the conversation though, Maeve was never far from mind. They did their best to cheer me up and distract me and I’m thankful for their efforts, but it’s all still too fresh.

Time  is one of those funny things that often goes by too slowly when you are waiting and too quickly when you are holding on to something that’s slipping away. When it comes to matters of the heart, I  find that it’s very rarely on your side, so when I’ll be at peace with it is anyones guess.

I  drove home the next day, singing loudly to the radio, trying to keep focused on the future rather than on what’s past. I’ll visit again in just a few weeks and maybe I’ll be in a different frame of mind by then. For now thought,  I’m grateful for the few days of distraction, for the new memories that it’s given me and for something to look forward to.

When I got home, my roommate was practicing a song for an audition, tapping out the notes to something that was slow and maybe a little bittersweet.  I pulled out the bong that my friends had sent me home with, packed it and offered it to my roommate, who took it from me with a smile.

“What were you playing” I  asked and she told me as we passed back and forth taking hits, but the name was gone as soon as she’d said it and we both sat there quietly in the afternoon sun for a while.

I laid down on the couch and closed my eyes and she went back to tapping out the song on the keys. I  sent my wishes for the future out into the universe to the tune of ‘Hey There‘ by Rosemary Clooney and drifted off with one question on my mind:

What next?

Lost Days of Summer

That night I laid in bed, thinking of summers from my youth, of being on the lake around a bonfire on the beach when the sun went down. I remember the sky being the sort of blue that is so vibrant that it seems impossible. I remember stars and the sound of the water as it lapped at the shore and the fire reflected in the eyes of the older boy who stayed in the cabin next door every year during the same week.

I’d folded the corners of the sheet of newspaper I’d been given in on themselves and carefully pushed a toothpick through all four of them. I turned it over and set it carefully on the fire, watching it expand with hot air and fly away as it burned. We called them “Hailey’s comets”, but I’m not really sure where or when that started and I’ve never hear anyone else call them since.

Every year my family spent the same week of July in the same cottage on the lake.  I’ve never been a morning person, but walking along the beach before everyone woke was something that I enjoyed while I was there. I looked for shells along the shore as I wandered toward Turnip Rock which loomed high over head, just a few feet from the shore. If you waded in water up to your knees, you could circle it and find a place to climb. It was difficult, but with determination I  always found my way up to the top, where I’d jump off into dangerously shallow waters.

This summer my sisters went back and rented that cabin and they sent me photos of my nieces and nephews over the 4th, living the same July adventure that we’d lived all those years ago. I looked through them from thousands of miles away, where I sat in the city at a house party being held by people I didn’t really know.

I’d gone through a breakup recently and decided that I  needed to quit drinking; I’d been treating my anxiety and depression with alcohol during the last hard few months and the only thing that’s good for is more anxiety and depression, so I    called it quits and was on the lookout for any way I could possibly fill my time. The 4th of July party seemed like a good idea, but I was the only one there that was sober and playing games with people who aren’t is only fun for so long. I’d gone with a friend and she and I both quietly talked ourselves out of leaving early and with one exchange, we ducked out quietly together and headed home.

Back in my apartment, I  sat alone thinking about how I’d spent the 4th the year before at a party hosted by Maeve’s partner. We’d only just met and I’d wanted to know her so badly then. Here we are a year later and we’ve loved and I’ve lost her and I still can’t quite wrap my mind around how we ended up falling apart so quickly. The fireworks popped in the air outside and I  missed her so badly; I  would have given anything to hear from her then and I really, really wanted a drink.

I didn’t have either that night though; not a word from Maeve nor the drink and I’m not sure that I’ll ever spend any time with either again. Instead for now I’ll throw myself at work or pretty much anything else I can think of that will keep my hands busy from texting her or picking up the bottle again. I’ll write, I’ll work on things about me that need fixing and I’ll mourn the relationship; eventually I’ll get over it, because what else can you do, right?

Today though I’m daydreaming of what I’d have liked to have shared and said and done with Maeve if we’d have just made it to that cottage on the lake.

Chapters

We sat in grass in the park today, almost five years exactly from when we first met. We’ve seen each other here and there over the years in other cities and different places in our lives. Every time we meet it’s a little different, like skipping ahead in a book.

Her vanilla blonde hair is cropped short now on the back and sides and her bangs sweep across her pale blue eyes. She’s grown more into herself every time that I’ve seen her; she is still the same person at heart, but who she is now feels like the version of herself that’s taking root and flourishing. She carries herself with more confidence in who she is and what she wants for herself. 

We ate sushi beneath a giant northern red oak that was too tall to provide shade from the low hanging sun, talking about life and relationships and people. We didn’t speak much about the times that we’d spent together in the past; mostly just about where we both are now.

We commiserated a little about the different types of relationship communication pains that we’ve each been coping with and it occurred to me how similar we are in the way that we struggle with time and expectation from romantic partners.  She is a choreographer now and a dancer and she loves organized chaos; structure and freedom coming together with intent. Lead or follow; that’s the struggle that we have in common with ourselves and with those we surround ourselves with.

“I don’t want you to get ‘bad boyfriend syndrome’ when I  vent about him”, she said. I    knew just what she meant; people often take the last thing that you’ve said about your partner(s) and paint a picture with that particularly when it’s venting. We don’t often enough sing our partners praises to our friends (and other partners)  or tell friends about the easy Sunday we had with them, but instead we pick up the phone when we need someone to agree with us or understand about something that’s gone wrong. Lately I’ve found myself in a cycle cycle of venting and defending, so I    understood right away what she meant.

We left the park together and I walked her to class, were we hugged goodbye and  made promises to see each again soon. I made my way down the street alone, putting my headphones in to listen to a book as I  considered where we’d been together, where we are now and where we are headed. We are more alike each time that we see each other and in the ways that we are different, I  am reminded of why I was so taken with her when we met. This is the latest chapter in our story, but it’s certainly not the last.

Amidst the Flowers

 That night the flowers bloomed.

The landlord told me they were called ‘night blooming ceres’ (Queen of the Night) and he’d been waiting patiently for the night to come in which they would open. They grew in the courtyard behind my apartment on Esplanade and opened in the early days of October; true to their name, they were there one brief moment and gone the next day. I can vividly recall the way that they smell and the way the petals felt when I held one flower delicately in my hand.

I was out that evening with friends and I’d gravitated toward Veda, who I always had a bit of a crush on (and felt she was out of my league). She was in the same band I was in and one of the reasons I stayed with it so long is because it meant that I got to spend time with her. We talked before practice and sometimes we caught a ride home together afterwords

Veda made me feel like the mistakes that I’d made in life were the most interesting thing about me and I found myself about some of my darkest corners because of it. Our friendship was strange, mixed with brutal honesty and warmth: she devastated me with her smile which she was just as likely to be wearing when she gave me a compliment as when she told me to go to hell. She could speak the truth and convince me that it wouldn’t kill me to hear it, giving me advice that was hard to swallow with just enough sugar in it to help it go down. To this day there are things that happen in my life that make me want to know what Veda would have said about them.

My landlord called that evening and told me the flowers had opened and I wish I would have asked her to come see them with me. I came so close, telling her where I was going and why when I left the bar. I hesitated though, because I thought it might be silly or cliché to ask her to leave our friends and walk the fifteen or so blocks with me to my place at midnight just to look at the flowers, no matter how remarkable they might be.

I missed out on something that night and I could feel it when we talked later. Veda had written a play and she left to tour with it shortly after that night, so we wouldn’t see each other again for some time. She sent me a postcard once from the road and it made me smile and ache at the same time when I  turned over the middle-of-nowhere photo and read her writing on the back of it, signed off with just one letter.

Somewhere in the middle of it all she started seeing someone and so did I but that sheepish bittersweet tinge that you can see on peoples faces was on both of ours when we crossed paths.  and that seemed to me that what we missed that night in the garden might have been more than just the flowers.

I had dreams of being in that garden with her and of conversations that we never had, of moments that never happened and of words that I’d never got the chance to say to her. In my dreams it was always just after dusk and we were waiting for the flowers to open, but they never did. Once I dreamt that we were in the garden the day after they blossomed and all the blooms littered the ground around our feet and the smell of them hung in the air like a memory of something that had happened only a moment ago. Those were just dreams though and we both moved in different directions; I    never did have a chance to show her that garden.

Veda passed away a few short years later, taken swiftly and quietly by cancer. To this day, I can’t think of ‘night blooming ceres’ without picturing her and if I walk past them while they are in bloom my heart aches. Like that rare and beautiful flower she owned the night that she lived in and was gone all too soon. Fittingly, on her shoulder Veda had a tattoo of a fleur of her own and the word ‘tojour’, which is just how long she’ll be missed.

Blue

I was barely 18 when I lived in that tiny city; I’d moved there with no plan and little money to live with my high school best friend who didn’t want to live in the dorms any more after being repeatedly harassed for being openly gay. He found the place all on his own and called me one day to propose the idea to me. The rent was cheap because the house needed a lot of work, but we didn’t mind the state of things, because it seemed full of potential and more importantly; it offered freedom. I wasn’t planning on enrolling in school because I couldn’t afford it, but it did meet my criteria of being anywhere other than where I was from.

I figured I’d find work of some sort, but it was a broke town full of college students fighting for jobs that they could work around their studies, which meant that wages were low and most places were only looking for part timers. The gig that I finally managed to land painting and sanding decks wasn’t enough to keep me afloat and if it rained, we didn’t work and I didn’t get paid.

When money got tight, we took in two more roommates, including someone who took up residence in our attic. We made spaghetti in big pots because it was cheap and would feed us for  for a couple of days: we plotted between mouthfuls on how we could dig ourselves out of poverty. Loans, get money fast schemes like pay at the door parties all were discussed, but we were lacking the life’s experience to pull most of these ideas off properly.

The only one of us who was steadily employed mopped up come at the adult movie theater across the street from our house.  I’d go sit inside the store with him after they closed because I  was waiting for something, anything interesting to happen to meOne night while I waited for him to finish work I spotted an ad on the dirty cork board nailed to the pink walls near the rack of impossible large dildosIt said ‘Adult Male Performers Wanted’ and I tore one of the perforated phone numbers from the sheet, stuffing it in my pocket quickly. I knew if my roommate spotted me and would give me all kinds of grief about it.

I waited a few days before calling, not certain what the ad meant I’d be doing and I was both a little reluctant and little turned on about what it could entail. Dialing the number from a payphone made my heart thump loudly and when the voice on the other end of the line told me I’d reached a hair salon, I almost hung up, thinking it was a mistake.

“I’m calling about the ad for performers?” I managed to say quietly, still unsure I’d dialed correctly.

The woman on the other end of the phone asked how old I was and I added a year to my age for no good reason, because you only need to be 18 to strip in bars in that city, even if you aren’t old enough to drink in them. She asked me if I was ok dancing for both men and women and I said yes without thinking it through and then wondered for a moment if I really would be.

She invited me to come to her salon the next day, which was outside of the city proper and I hopped in my car not sure what to expect. I used a map and took dirt roads to the address she’d given and when I pulled up in front of the little free-standing building I had second thoughts. I sat in my car listening to the radio before working up the courage to head inside.

The woman cutting hair was in her late forties, with darkly lined eyes and a low cut sweater.  She looked up at me, knowing already who I  was and said she’d be right with me. She finished the client whose hair she was cutting and after seeing him out the door, she told me to take a seat in her chair. She trimmed my hair while we talked, asking me questions about myself as she circled me. I could smell her perfume, which was familiar to me, but I couldn’t remember the name of it; to this day if I smell it, I think of her.

She was careful not to put too much emphasis on the fact that I’d be dancing in front of men more often than women, but I was more worried that she’d ask me to pay for the haircut and I wouldn’t have enough money in to cover it and eat that day.  Thinking back on it now I realize she knew exactly what she was doing; she had my number in a way that I didn’t see then. She was sizing me up from the moment that she answered the phone.

When I was done she took me out behind the building and had me pose for a few Polaroids against the brick building. She got me to lift my shirt up a little, showing off the trim, androgynous body that I had back then and that was the photo that she put on all the posters that she had printed. She was subtle about all of it and managed to get exactly what she wanted without ever having to press because I wanted her to want me to be a part of this all. I can remember the way she looked at me, smiling at me, narrowing her eyes as she told me she’d let me audition that weekend when we both already knew that I was in.

I was young and hadn’t had many sexual experiences, but the ones that I had were complicated and intense in a way that was far beyond my years. I’d lost my virginity to a woman who was 10 years older, had a threesome with a married couple and I knew without a doubt that I was kinky. I wasn’t afraid of what I might not like, I was afraid of what I might be missing out on. That eagerness was exactly what Dee smelled on me and she knew that it would make us both money.

Dee added me to the lineup of the next gig she’d booked and put me on the poster with the name ‘Angel’ written beneath it. I  liked it, but I told her that I liked ‘Phantasm’ better because it sounded dark and somehow untouchable to me. I picked a Nine Inch Nails track for my first song and when they called ‘Angel’ to stage, I shot her a look. Her expression told me that she was putting me in my place just a little and I sort of liked it, but eventually I got my way and the name that I wanted.

The bar we were in the first night was a gay bar and most of the dancers were straight, just there for the money. Some of the guys just collected their nightly guarantee, which was about $30 and worked for tips on stage, but they wouldn’t give a lap dance. I learned right away that if you worked with guys with the wrong attitude and went on right after them, the money wasn’t as goodI hustled the crowd for every dollar I could make and was proud of myself for bringing home the most money that night, not letting some weird sense of heteronormative masculinity stand in my way

I danced to music that was sexual and a little angsty and I drew a crowd to the stage when I was on it. I made eye contact with every person in the audience, seeing who I could draw in and figuring out who I’d go see when I was offstage.

During lap dances people constantly asked me if I stuffed and I knew that it was just a cheap ploy to touch me. Sometimes they would take the liberty to check for themselves and if they were tipping well enough they got away with more before I moved, changed position, put some distance between myself and whatever part of me they were pawing at. If they think they’ll never get it they’ll give you nothing and If they think they’ll get it no matter what, it’s almost the same. People are typically the most willing to give you what you want when they are at the very line of getting or losing what they want.

“Baby Blue” was one of the guys that I worked with and like the rest of us, he had a handful of jobs to keep him paid between shows. His eyes were his namesake and his blonde hair and strong jaw made him look Scandinavian. He was a well-built Marine reserve who was quiet and kept a low profile. He worked the door at a club called ‘The Zoo’ on weekends too; after we worked together a few times he would let me into the club and stamp me over 21, even though I wasn’t. He knew I wouldn’t abuse the privilege and more than anything he probably thought it would help with talking to women, or at lest be less of a ‘scarlet letter’ than the giant ‘X’ they drew on under 21’s in black sharpie.

“Ice” was another one of the dancers that worked at The Zoo with Blue.  He was a tall handsome African-American guy, also a marine, and was into customizing motorcycles. He and Baby Blue were friends, and used to race together they told me.  They always worked the same shows and where you’d see one, you’d see the other. On the weekends they were building faster bikes, they said.

Blue and Ice were always trying to get me to talk to women. I was quiet and observant and most of the time just as happy to watch the room or dance by myself than I was to strike up conversation. Blue introduced me to a friend of his named Cassidy one night while we happened to be performing at The Zoo.  Cassidy didn’t seem interested in meeting one of his ‘dancer friends’ and I’m not sure she even really looked at me that night. She was a stripper too, so I took her seeming lack of interest at face value and I wasn’t sure why Blue thought we should get to know each other, but he kept trying to get us to talk. I left without saying goodbye to anyone that night.

The next night she and I crossed paths again on the dance floor at The Zoo where I’d come as a civilian this time. I noticed her Pulp Fiction-esque haircut and the fact that she was a good dancer right away but it took me a bit longer to realize that she was the girl from the night before. Despite how it’d gone when we met, we gravitated toward one another and ended up dancing together until they turned off the music. When the bar closed, we left together.

We went to a diner she’d worked at once upon a time and over late night food she told me that she was leaving very soon. She already had a place down in North Carolina where she was headed and her departure was only a few days away. I looked into her pale green eyes as she stared at me over the rim of the coffee cup she was sipping from and I knew that she was going to come home with me that night.

I’d never done anything like that before; met a girl while at a bar and taken her home with me. My sex life had consisted mostly of encounters from personal ads and leather shop bulletin boards and never with anyone my own age. This wholly normal situation was in fact a first for me.

We fucked the night away and well into the next day, and every time we tried to say goodbye, we kissed until we couldn’t help ourselves and ended up fucking again. We knew that time wasn’t on our side and we bargained against every goodbye with ‘just a little bit longer’.  I vividly recall standing in my living room, having lifted her on top of the giant ancient console television, kissing her as she put her hand back into my pants when we realized the mailman was looking at us through the front window as he dropped off the mail.

We saw a lot of each other over the next few days, but we did not having any illusion about how or when it would end. It was still a little bittersweet to say goodbye when it was time for her to go though. I remember looking at her sitting in the van when she said I should come with her and her friend, but I wasn’t sure if she meant it and I said goodbye. Maybe she’d meant it when she’d said ‘let’s make the most of it’, or maybe she’d just been hoping to change the outcome one way or another. Maybe I should have asked her to stay.

I wandered around the little beat-up town after Cassidy left, hoping to find a bit of comfort, but all I found was uneasiness. Things with my roommates had gotten a little tense since they’d started sleeping with each other and I felt like a third wheel. I had no shows booked anytime soon and the work painting and sanding was drying up.  I packed up my car and headed back to my hometown instead of paying to stay another month.

I took a job working in an automotive factory, learning how to laser weld. I    stood in front of a machine on the afternoon shift, zapping parts and testing them, feeling as out-of-place as you can in the ‘normal’ world after the life I’d been living. When you look at your paycheck at the end of the week and realize that you could make that in two nights dancing, it makes it really to appreciate the money or the work. There wasn’t any sense of satisfaction in it, other than knowing I  could count on that same amount every week; no more, no less…exactly the same.

I called the salon from time to time and asked about bookings and I’d make the three-hour drive there when the money was going to be good enough.  I always asked who else would be working with me because it needed to be with losing my weekend over . When I was offered a show for the following day, I asked if Blue would be there. There was a silence for a moment on the other end of the line.

“Oh honey, haven’t you heard? He’s dead.” Dee said, gently, trying to break it to me easily.

I figured it had to have been a motorcycle accident but when I asked about that I was shocked to hear that the news had said that the reason Blue and Ice had been working so hard on those bikes was so they could outrun police cars, which they did, after a bank robbery. After getting away, they ditched the bikes before going to Blue’s girlfriends apartment. Ice walked in last, shot Blue in the head, and left with all the money.

I only went back once after that, but that’s a story for another time. It wasn’t the same and I  knew it never would be again. Baby Blue was gone and so was Cassidy. It was the end of my time as a dancer.

Something had shifted in me though and try as I might, I couldn’t work in a factory any more. I tried conventional jobs and I used them to get by, but I       needed something that I  was never going to find working in retail or in a restaurant. I tried phone sex and webcamming and they added money and excitement to my life on top of the straight jobs that I worked. Eventually I  moved on to performing and eventually directing and producing and I left the nine to five behind entirely. I couldn’t imagine a life where sex work wasn’t a part of it, some way, some how and I still can’t all these years later.

It’s strange and it’s colorful and sometimes it’s hard and even sad, but it’s never been dull. I wouldn’t be who I am now without that time I spent as a stripper all the years ago or the people who I met along the way. Dee taught me to recognize opportunity and Cassidy taught me to take chances. Baby Blue taught me how to work the room that’s in front of me and Ice taught me to look over my shoulder. I’m where I am today because of that summer and I’m who I am today because of the people that I lived it with.

Shoot ‘Kill Fees’ in Adult Entertainment

In the last few days I’ve seen performance ‘kill fees’ debated hotly on social media and I wanted to weigh in on the matter but felt it too complex to deal with 280 characters at a time.

First let’s start with the basics of what a kill fee is:

A kill fee is a payment on a shoot or production made to the performers and crew when a shoot is “killed” or canceled. This is a fee that’s meant to offset the cost of everyone’s time, locations, fees etc. It’s also meant to stop people from flaking on a shoot when their 10th maternal grandmother passes away in two months. This goes for male talent as well; they also have to pay a kill fee if they don’t show up or they “tank” and the scene is cancelled because of it.

Kill fee’s are usually set by the agent and are part of the agreement of booking a shoot to help a director or producer rest assured that there is a real commitment by the agents, performers and crew to seeing the shoot through. People invest time, pass up other work and sometimes pay money out-of-pocket for the costs of a shoot and when a shoot gets cancelled, everyone involved looses out.

This is not unique to adult entertainment: it happens in Hollywood films and even in freelance writing.  Robert Downey Jr. Was infamously uninsurable for years because of the fact that his personal demons got in the way of him completing films. Insurance agencies had to pay for reshoots with other actors and the cost of that got to the point where they were no longer willing to take a gamble on him. A director reportedly guaranteed the  money out of his own pocket to get RDJ back to work, or he might be languishing next to Lindsey Lohan now instead of starring in ‘The Avengers’.

How kill fee’s are distributed depends on many factors and sometimes people forgo the kill fee’s because they understand the circumstances. When two performers arrive on set and one of them isn’t able to perform, one might pay a kill fee and the other might be paid a kill fee. Sometimes the actors themselves will agree to a reshoot on another day instead. I know firsthand a number of male performers who agreed to come back for a reshoot or waived the kill fee because their scene partner wasn’t up to the shoot the day of.

Sometimes you don’t get everything you need in one day, so people agree to come back for reshoots because they are committed to making the best scene possible happen. To me this is a reminder that this is a business, performing is a profession and people do care about their work.

It’s also important to remember that the people in our industry are professionals who are relying on the income that they make from the scenes. We can’t always forgo a kill fee because many of any of us have families,pets, homes, cars and just normal everyday lives and we might be depending on that paycheck for that reason. Bottom line, as fun and creative as this industry is, it’s still a business where people rely on this income to survive.

When a shoot gets cancelled is an important factor in whether a kill fee is applied. Is it in time to find a replacement? Was there something spent on the shoot that will be a loss (airfare, special costumes, specific locations)? Is it the first time the person has cancelled or is it an ongoing issue?

Some agents are very strict with enforcing kill fees. They feel like it’s their way of making sure that production companies will still continue to work with them and the models they represent. It’s something that I would really recommend that a model considers carefully in choosing an agent because I have seen it applied high-handedly.

My personal belief from a production standpoint is that a kill fee shouldn’t be charged if a suitable replacement is found in time. There are plenty of other models out there looking for work, but if it’s not just a standard boy/girl scene, then it can be harder. There isn’t typically a line up of girl’s just waiting for a last-minute phone call to do a first DP or a first gangbang for instance, which means if that shoot is killed the day of, it’s probably going to be a complete write off for a producer or director.

Why the shoot got cancelled is another factor. Directors and producers have a responsibility to make sure that everyone on set is safe first and foremost and comfortable as well, so if something is wrong they not only can, but absolutely should kill a shoot. If the model doesn’t feel safe or happy, or if they aren’t up to doing a shoot they should absolutely have the right to call it and the kill fee, when applied fairly, is a small bit of insurance for them to lean on so that they know the other performers, makeup artists etc aren’t going to lose 100% of their income for the day. It’s a fraction of the pay, but in unavoidable circumstances some people feel like it’s better than nothing.

I don’t know personally any directors or producers that take kill fee’s for themselves. So where do kill fee’s go when a model pays them? Typically to the other performers, crew and sometimes locations. Anything beyond that is probably going to the agent themselves and that part is a practice that I don’t really agree with. I understand the agents might waste their own time in the booking, but just like the directors; it’s sort of an inherent risk of doing business.

Everyone’s time is valuable  and should be treated as such. When a shoot gets killed, no one comes out ahead: with a kill fee, everyone just come out a little less behind. Respect yourself, but respect others too.

I was once booked as a still photographer and showed up to a house where ten performers, two makeup artists and a cameraman where trying to figure out what to do because the shoot had, only moments before, been cancelled. Some of the performers had flown out specifically for the shoot and they lost money for their flights. The makeup artists had already started working and they used their products, which they paid for out of their own pockets and didn’t get paid. Everyone there wasted time and some of us had turned down other work to be there.  It’s for this reason that I don’t disagree with kill fees in principle.

Kill fee’s are a safety net and they also hold people accountable. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need them, but we live in the real world and work in an industry that necessitates them. Of course, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control and I would implore people to be compassionate about that wherever they can be.

Performers: If kill fee’s are being used as some sort of  debtors prison by your agent, you are with the wrong agent. If you find yourself facing multiple kill fees because of your own actions or circumstances, it might be time to take a step back from the industry and take care of yourself. We are all human and have needs and limitations and if the stress and toll of this or any other  job on your life is too much, then you should find something new that makes you happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wren

We hadn’t intended to go to the party, but a last-minute decision followed by a rallying of spirits saw us taking an uber out onto the highway and away from the Las Vegas strip. I    was the one who was initially reluctant and I was the one that decided later that we would go, changing my tune when the others seemed to be giving up on going without me. I sat in the front seat and watched the lights from the strip fade in the mirror as we pulled away from them. Athena and Frankie sat in the back, chatting about the night as we coasted along the empty roads. It was 20 minutes before the driver turned down the dark private street where the house sat and we knew as soon as we pulled up that we were at the right place because of the people gathered around outside.

A quick check by the woman sitting at the door confirmed that we were on the list and we were invited to go inside, through the inconspicuous house, past the pool and across a gravel yard to the separate building where the party was being held. We could hear the music before we even reached the building and when I turned the handle on the door, sound and light poured out into the night. It enveloped us like a mist, swallowing us as we walked through the doorway and seemingly into another world.

The room that we entered into was open like a warehouse; it had a cavernous feel to it with high ceiling and metal walls. The red lights that bled through the darkness painted everyone in a lustful tone and all around us people were engaged in acts that were befitting of it. Crossing through the room toward our host, we didn’t have time to take it all in before being led upstairs to the private part of the party. We stopped in the first room to grab a few drinks and were shown other rooms in which we could indulge if we felt so inclined. Finally we came to the main room of the upstairs floor where people were starting to gather to tie one another up. We spoke to friends who watched the show, but I sipped my drink and was distracted by the knowledge that Wren was somewhere close by. I watched lips move, but most of the words never made it through the waiting for her to appear and my contributions to the conversation consisted mostly of polite nods.

Wren and I had spent a lot of time together over the previous few days while attending the same conference, though we’d met a few months before and texted each other every now and again. I’m very good at anticipating what people will say or do, so the fact that she often catches me off guard is fascinating to me. I don’t know what to make of what’s happening between us sometimes because of that, but there is certain kind of happiness that can come from not having all the answers when you are accustomed to.

I felt her coming down the hallway through the dark, I knew it was her before I could make out her face. Her long dark hair was split into two braids and she wore a black dress with a white collar. She gave me a hug before being beckoned over to the lap of the man she was there with. She made eye contact with me as she sat on his knee and I    drifted away to join my friends who were watching the scene that was starting to take shape in front of us.

We sat quietly and watched as a man worked rope around a woman, whispering into her ear as he inflicted both pleasure and pain. He took out a knife and dragged it lightly across her skin as conflict crept across the faces of those in the room and a smile crawled across the woman’s face. Athena seemed anxious at the sight of the knife and she wanted to leave; Edgeplay isn’t for everyone and we headed back downstairs hoping she would be more comfortable. I turned to see if Wren was still there, but she’d already slipped away.

Downstairs there were many different things to draw your attention: people fucking in a cage, a woman dominating a cis man and a transgerendered woman, people in various states of dress and undress and we drifted from one show to the next as we made our way through the room.

I stole glances at Frankie and Athena to be certain that it wasn’t too much; too strange for us to watch together or too intense for people who work in the adult industry but who usually have a screen between themselves and the sex.

‘This is a very unique team building exercise.” Frankie said to me through a smile. Later that night he would tell me he was glad that I’d dragged them out.

It was getting late and the two of them wanted to head back,  so we made our way slowly back toward the street. The other two having gotten a head start on me as I moved slowly, searching for a glimpse of Wren, hoping for a chance to say goodbye. Athena and Frankie told me I had a few minutes before our ride would get there, so I   told them I’d be back and I headed back into the fray.

I  stepped through the door and stopped to look around the room, feeling her presence as I  had before; the crowd parted and there she was, standing looking back at me. She gave me the smallest little wave and a smile that matched it and it made me happy, and it made me ache. I don’t remember what song was playing, but in my memory it’s Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ that runs through my mind when I think of the last time that I saw her.

I slipped out into the night and rejoined my friends as they made their way toward the street. The music faded into the background, broken up by the sound of crunching gravel under our feet. The stars shined over head, throwing a little light onto the barren yard and empty road. During the winter you can smell the earth a little more crisply in the desert and breathed it in deeply so that I could use that part of the memory to help find my way back to that night when I wanted to.

When our car arrived we stepped into it and I closed my eyes after shutting the door behind me. I listened to Frankie and Athena talk, the sound of their voices helping me break the orbit of the party, of the night, of the ache that her smile left.

The Marks We Leave

“Grand Central, by the information booth in the center of the station at 6pm.”

“See you there” she responded.

I arrived at Central Station early, finding a post on the balcony that gave me the best view of the grand hall. I looked for her, knowing I’d be able to spot her even from a distance. I sent one short message telling her which side of the information booth to wait for me at and then I watched. So many people flowed through the terminal that it made me think of the water of a shallow, rocky river, but when I saw I knew without hesitation that it was her. She looked down at her phone at my incoming message and I made my way to where she was standing.

We hadn’t met yet; we’d only exchanged messages and emails after she’d written to me with a very blunt introduction:

I’m attracted to experience, so I’m attracted to you. I’m still really new to this world, but learning from someone as honest and mature as you seem is something I would definitely appreciate. I’d love to get to know you more.

She was traveling the week before and had just returned to New York that morning; I was leaving the next day. We had one day to meet because she would be in Paris when I returned and we’d agreed that we didn’t want to wait for over a month; we needed to at least say hello face to face. In the few hours between her coming and my going, we made time for one another.

I descended the stairs into the grand hall, studying her body language as I drew nearer. She was eyeing the terminal nervously and checked her phone for further instructions, not noticing me as I approached. The crowd closed and opened and with each parting, I took in another detail about her.

Rowan is small and fair-skinned, with a bright smile, expressive eyes and Venetian blond hair (I liked the way that it framed her face). She wore a purple dress printed with flowers and it had small buttons that ran almost the length of it. Her shoulders were bare and the moment I saw them, I wanted to place my lips on them. She seemed both resilient and fragile at the same time and I felt from the moment that we met that she wanted me to leave a mark on her so that she could prove that she could take it. She didn’t seem inherently submissive, but rather; like someone who wanted to be dominated.

I came to stop behind her, waiting for her to turn toward me, but she didn’t right away. When she finally faced me, I said hello, startling her and she gave a nervous little laugh. We left the station together, less concerned about where we were going than we were about being able to talk openly regarding the things we’d corresponded about before agreeing to meet. Where does one take a pretty young woman in the middle of the day to publicly discuss the things you want to do to each other in private?

Choosing a general direction we headed away from Central Station, walking close together. We didn’t have any particular destination but we both needed to move so we let the moment carry us, untouched by the chaos swirling around us. Plumes of smoke billowed from food trucks and people leaving their nine-to-fives scurried across intersections as tourists halted and stared up at buildings that can touch low-hanging clouds. Her hand brushed mine once, twice and then I took it.

Coming to the library and it’s vast open lawn, it felt like the place to stop, sit, talk. We picked a spot and sat down in the grass, looking up at the sky; it looked like it might rain. The clouds were thick and heavy and grey, but they didn’t dampen our mood at all. She kicked off her sandals and we spoke as she let blades of green grass poke up between her toes. I pulled a piece of it out of the ground and rubbed it between my two fingers as I glanced at her, taking in everything about her as we talked. We laid back in the thick grass and looked up past the trees and skyscrapers while we talked about who and what and when until they closed the lawn of the library and asked us twice to leave.

I took her hand and we left the library, joking about how having just graduated college one of her goals had been to have sex in the stacks. She said it out loud and blushed when she did, giving the impression that she’d thought about it before and was picturing the two of us behind the rows of books in that very moment.

I let her lead me in the direction of Central Park and we talked along the way. The handful of conversations that we’d had online prior to that left lots to discuss. We held hands almost the entire time and walked quickly, coming to the center entrance to the park as the sun was fading. I studied her face, which made her nervous and I liked the fact that it did.

“You are looking at me!” Rowan said.

“I like to look at you” I responded, refusing to look away until I was satisfied.

We stopped and let a family pass us and it was then that I pulled her close and kissed her for the first time. Her lips were full and I’d been thinking about kissing them from the moment I’d seen them in photo. She made me promise to at least kiss her if we were to meet and it’d been easy to give my word. My hand slipped around her waist and she trembled but pressed herself against me as though to steady herself. She felt like trepidation that was plated with resolve.

I took her hand again and we continued to walk through the winding paths of the park. We passed beneath one of it’s bridges and just then a man started to play the saxophone. We smiled at each other and rolled our eyes just a little because it seemed so cliché but I think that it made us both secretly a little bit happy . We found a bench that was as as alone as you can hope to be in Central Park and sat down closely next to one another. Just as we did a cool breeze came along, picking up the may buds, sending them swirling across the paved path. People ran, pushed strollers, skated past us; when we were alone, I kissed her again.

She laid her head on my shoulder and we toyed with the idea of where we’d go next, but it seemed like we both already knew and were just waiting to say it. We alluded to where we’d hoped the night would take us but had attempted to curb expectations. It was obvious though that parting ways wasn’t something that either of us was seriously considering.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked.

“Where do you want to take me?” she answered.

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