*Eric’s stocky 47 year old body—-clad in worn, time-honored gray sweat pants, into which he reached to take care of his business that early evening—tensed up the way an obstinate baby stiffens when refusing to sit, his legs stretched away from his big, black swivel chair as he muffled his animalistic moan.
During his explosive crescendo, Eric fought passing out. To steady himself on his chair, he reached out to a side table, inadvertently knocking onto the hardwood floor of his home office a stack of hardcover books.
“Everything okay, babe?” Shelly shouted up at the ceiling from the kitchen downstairs.
To say Eric loved pornography would be wrong. He didn’t love it. He needed it.
Needed like some people require coffee every morning to function. Required it in the way anyone who uses alcohol, food or any drug as an emotional life raft.
Shelly, his wife, used to watch it with him. They were younger then, before she became an R.N. After their two then-teenaged kids—-daughter Geneva and son Neil—got into the attic and found daddy’s X-rated video stash, Shelly demanded Eric throw it all out.
But with Geneva, 24, away studying law at NYU and 22 year-old Neil playing house with a considerably older woman somewhere down south, Eric only had to hide his drug from Shelly. And he did.
Like most men born in the late 20th century, a young Eric saw his first naked woman in a men’s magazine. In college, he and his frat brothers threw parties with porn blaring on TVs throughout the house, as backdrop to their boys-will-be-boys debauchery. It was all in good “fun.”
But then Eric started watching porn alone. And in it he discovered something more than eccentric, perverse entertainment: in a product almost always about one person’s domination over another, Eric found emotional solace from his real-time shortcomings and fears.
Entranced by the stimulating glare of porn, Eric could get relief, if only temporarily, from the assorted pressures of a Los Angeles-based financial organization where he was a senior vice-president. Porn offered reprieve from Shelly, who craved more from him than material things; from the kids who, while smart and good-natured, suffered the desolation of having parents who weren’t always emotionally present.
Thus, the way people take pills or shoot up or gorge on food is how Eric ingested porn. To celebrate, he turned to porn. To feel better about himself, there was porn; to block out annoying aspects of daily living, he needed a dose of porn.
He wasn’t alone. Other co-workers were pornaholics, too. What began during a happy hour with guys in management sharing, via cell phones, provocative images, swelled to ten company executives–aged 24 to 65, married, single, with kids and without, white, Black, Hispanic and Asian—creating an informal secret porn alliance.
A porn fight club of sorts, members were competitive in their yearn to outdo one another sharing what they’d find on rare porn sites, through prized Internet links, treasured discs and old school VHS tapes.
There were rules: no children or animal stuff, no “beyond-standard rough sex violence,” including no sharing of porn featuring subjects who appear to be on-camera without giving consent or against their will. No glossy, commercial porn produced by porn studios—-amateur and homemade being de rigueur–and absolutely no watching porn at work.
Those guidelines made room for plenty unadulterated kink, like the video disc procured by a club member renown for unearthing truly deviant viewing. The co-worker insisted that Eric—considered a porn connoisseur by peers—see it before anyone else.
“Man, you’re gonna love this,” the host said one evening as Eric, bottle of Heineken in hand, settled into a chair in his friend’s man cave, reveling in lusty anticipation. “It’s ridiculous.”
The homegrown scene filling the flat-screen opened with a group of naked men in their 30s and 40s, some of them wearing masks, standing in a circle inside what appeared to be an industrial loft or hangar.
Spewing plenty sexist bravado, the men’s backs were to the camera—-which, artfully shooting through the space between naked male bodies, revealed what the banter was all about: a lone nude woman on her knees before one of the men in the circle.
“I know you didn’t bring me here to see some tired ass gang bang,” said Eric.
“Nope. Keep watching,” said Mr. Man Cave, standing next to Eric’s chair, grinning.
As if on cue, the camera came around to the front of the circle, capturing both the actions of the woman and her expression of delirious delight.
“Oh my God. What in the world is she doing?”
“She’s supernatural!” exclaimed Eric’s host. “That’s some kinda gift….”
Eric abruptly brought his Cartier tank watch up to his face. “Uh, I’m meeting the gardener at home to talk about cutting down a tree in our backyard. I gotta split.”
“What? Mannnn, you haven’t seen the best part yet. She….”
“I’ll bet I haven’t. Let me take it with me….”
“Let me make you a copy. The fellas haven’t seen it yet.”
“I don’t have time for that,” Eric snapped. “Let me take it now so I can finish watching at home and bring it back tomorrow.”
Reluctantly, the host ejected the disc from the player, handing it over. Eric’s white SUV got down the block, around a corner and halfway up an alley before he pulled over, opened his door, leaned away from the vehicle and threw up.
At the man cave, Eric had given an award-winning performance: he pretended what he’d seen on the disc he didn’t find utterly horrifying.
Trembling, on his cell Eric pressed a number that rang forever. Desperate for a voice, he hung up and dialed again.
“It’s important that you know just HOW MUCH I love you,” Eric began, his voice quivering. “Nothing will change this.”
“Well, I love you, too….”
“No matter what. Do you hear me? I love you NO. MATTER. WHAT.” He was crying now.
A pause on the other end. “What’s wrong? What’s going on….”
“I saw it. I saw IT and I saw YOU. My God. You can’t do this, baby.”
“You saw WHAT? I can’t do what??”
“You just can’t. No more. No more. PLEASE. I’m begging you. No more.”
The sudden silence on the other end seemed an unspoken avowal, made even louder by Eric’s agonizing whimper—–the sound of a man’s troubled heart breaking in two.
Finally: “Okay.” Geneva’s voice got smaller each time she spoke, as if she were regressing to being a reprimanded toddler, sitting on her father’s lap. “Okay. Okay…okay.” Tears. “I’m so sorry, okay? I’m really sorry. Okaaayyy? Okay. I’m sorry. I have to go now.” Click.
“Sir, are you okay?” It took a stranger’s frantic knock on the front passenger window to rouse Eric from his sobbing stupor in the alley.
In the days that followed, Eric worked to grasp the pain his wicked obsession cast upon his family. He flew to Manhattan to simply hold Geneva, to apologize for the role his neglectful, selfish behavior played in her emotional disuse and led them both to porn as a dark tonic.
They strolled NYU’s campus of hand in hand and briefly found a way to laugh. Geneva refused to discuss the details of how she ended up at such an avenue in her life, saying only that the video was the only one she’d ever done. He believes her. At the suggestion of Eric, Geneva sought professional help for her pain.
Both Eric and Geneva agreed that Shelly and Neil, at least for the time being, wouldn’t be told the sins of father and daughter. Yet another secret to keep.
As for the porn club, Eric quit it the day after he saw the video. He cleaned his home computer of porn links, videos and photos, grateful that club members—–none of whom had ever met Geneva—hadn’t laid eyes on the tape.
To the unmitigated vexation of Mr. Man Cave, Eric, in commemoration of his new lease on life, said he threw the disc into the pacific Ocean.
On the fateful evening that Eric interrupted the viewing of the video, Mr. Man Cave insisted Eric hadn’t seen the best part.
Eric’s own curiosity disturbed him. But not enough that he didn’t want to witness the tape for himself, by himself, while sitting in the big, black swivel chair in his home office….
The Twisted was created by Steven Ivory, a veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]