Luis Rivas - June 2007
TERREL THE PORN STAR
“I did something bad,” Terrel says.
“OK,” I say waiting for an explanation, got none. “What did you do?”
Terrel looks around the porn shop, making sure no one is close enough to overhear. He says, “I was at the shop up the street, in a booth.” Terrel pauses and laughs. I think he’s probably not going to continue because he’s crazy like that, always going off on unfinished tangents, always vague in explanation, but he goes on this time. “And a guy came in.” He stops.
“Terrel,” I say. “And then what?”
“And a guy came in.” He stops again.
“What happened, Terrel?”
He pauses again and laughs a little, making a fake guilty face like a little kid. He motions with his right hand up and down on his crotch, simulating a blowjob.
Terrel is homeless and addicted to porn. He came from Virginia with the dream of one day being a porn star. The Social Security Office had decided that he was incapable of managing his money so they stopped giving him his SSI checks until he could find a responsible and willing person to whom the checks could be entrusted to, a payee. One day Terrel came in and asked if I could be his payee. Here was this skinny black kid starving, filthy, all because he couldn’t manage his money; it seemed like an easy choice and I said, “Sure, why not?”
“Terrel, you can’t be doing that shit.”
“Yeah,” he says, not really agreeing with me but just responding out of habit.
“It’s illegal, and sick, man.”
“You could get arrested.”
“You could catch something.”
“You could get hurt.”
“You are not listening to me.”
“Hi, Terrel,” I say.
I don’t let anyone sell anything to him at the shop. I don’t let him in the movie arcade in the back. I tell him not to spend his money on any of the stuff in the store, but to save it instead for food and clothes, for motel rooms, for necessary things. He will agree with me most of the time and ask for $20 to buy a shirt and some food and he’d come back without a shirt and hungry and deny going up to the other porn shop and spending all the money in the arcade booths, on DVDs and pocket-pussies.
Terrel walks off into the video room. Someone comes up to the counter to rent. The cleaner comes out from the arcade and walks into the video room to mop. Terrel is in the new release section picking up a DVD, looking at the front of it, seeing the beautiful black chick with soft brown eyes and huge tits on the cover looking at him, making his dick hard, focusing all of his thoughts on to the DVD in the store, here, her face and tits, nothing else, not the thought of how is he going to eat, what is he going to eat, where will he sleep (those dicks are hogging the spot in the abandoned building), is he gay for letting fags suck him off in a booth, what are these tiny white bumps on his dick, pimples, is it aids, is he going to die, will he fuck a chick before he goes, none of that, no concerns, no Van Nuys, no world, no sadness, no homelessness, just him and a copy of Playing With Jada Fire by Anarchy Films. New Release. $34.95. He brings it up to the counter.
“I wanna buy this one,” he says.
“Uhm, I want this one.”
“No, Terrel. You can’t be spending your money on this shit.”
“Just one more DVD and that’s it.”
“Terrel, aren’t you hungry? Have you even eaten today?”
“What did you eat?”
He doesn’t say anything, and then he laughs. I try again.
“Terrel. What did you eat?”
He looks at me. I look at him.
“Terrel? Answer me.”
He doesn’t answer me. He keeps looking at me and smiling, hiding his yellow teeth, bursting out into a crazy laugh, his eyes wide and stupid looking. He’s laughing louder now and customers are beginning to notice.
I don’t tell my bosses that I’m Terrel’s payee. I just say that he’s the local homeless kid but that he spends a lot of money in the store and the bosses say ok, as long as he’s putting money into the store he can stay.
“Terrel, calm the fuck down; you’re scaring the customers again.”
I go into my bag and pull out $20. This is from his $940.00 Social Security check. Every month I get his check in the mail. I cash it and make a list of monthly expenses for him: motel rooms, food, clothes, shoes, bus fair, etc. As a payee, it’s my responsibility to take care of him and get him off the streets. This is not easy. On the very first day of being his payee I tried about 10 different semi-independent living homes, only to have them all tell me that I need a psychiatric referral/diagnosis for Terrel. I ask Terrel how to do that but he doesn’t know. I put him in the cheap motel rooms on Sepulveda Blvd known for the hookers and drug dealers that set up their base of operations from there. It’s probably not the smartest thing to do to set up a desperate sex-addict in one of these motel rooms but the price is right and the lack of alternatives makes it appealing.
“Where are you going to go to eat?”
“Over there!” he says with conviction like a child in class, proud of the fact that he found the correct answer to the teacher’s question.
“Over there, over there to Moses, to get a hotdog, to get a hotdog from Moses, over there!” he says, looking annoyed that I didn’t already know this, that I didn’t already know that he obviously meant Moses the Mexican kosher-hotdog vendor up the street in front of the courthouse.
“How much does Moses charge you?”
“About two bucks but he says I owe him $500.”
“How the in the fuck do you owe him $500?”
“Yeah,” he says, looking back into the video room, thinking about the Playing with Jada Fire DVD.
“Why does Moses say you owe him $500?”
“He won’t give me anymore until I start paying off the $500.”
“Where did the $500 come from; why do you owe it?”
“He says ‘no more hotdogs on credit,’ that I need to pay, $500, he’s been keeping count.”
“You should go to the 99 Cents store. Pick up a loaf of bread, some milk, some ham, some fruit: everything’s a buck. You could survive that way.”
“Yeah,” I say handing him the $20, knowing he’s probably not going to the 99 Cents store, hoping he won’t go up the street to the other porn shop, knowing he’s probably going to go up the street to the other porn shop anyway, and then to Moses to ask for more hotdogs on credit.
“Terrel,” I say.
“Bring me back receipts.”
“Bring you back receipts,” he repeats and smiles and walks out the store.
Terrel goes outside feeling good with the money in his front pant pocket. He walks pass the post office, the federal building, the city’s civic center and over to the other porn shop. He walks in half-hoping to find that one fag that sucked him off earlier and half-hoping that he doesn’t. The clerk behind the counter looks annoyed at the sight of Terrel, rolls his eyes and whispers to the security guard, “the stinky ass nigger.” Terrel doesn’t hear him. He walks in, says what’s up to both of them. They nod their heads. Terrel walks straight into the arcade, still feeling good with the money, almost strutting, feeling normal and accepted with the money, confident, not crazy. He walks pass the first booths. He can hear the porn coming from the screens inside the booths: a girl moaning, a guy moaning, someone yelling, screaming, something vibrating loudly like a chainsaw, more screaming, etc. So far, all of the booths are occupied. These booths, like most arcade booths, don’t have doors. This is supposed to stop people from jacking off; a security guard is supposed to patrol the movie arcade, regularly looking in and kicking out anyone that can’t contain himself and be descent. But it doesn’t work. And these regulations weren’t made to work; they were made simply to satisfy the moral citizens and office holders; as long as the laws exist, they’re happy. That’s all. As long as someone is doing something to regulate the nasty adult retail stores, and more importantly as long as everyone can see that someone is writing and implementing regulations everyone is happy.
The guards don’t care. The customers know that the guards don’t care because they’re paying customers and if it weren’t for them and their money, the security guards wouldn’t have a job. It’s a cycle, like most things. The customers tip the guard a little extra if he allows the customer to smoke (cigarette, crack, speed, whatever) inside the booth.
Terrel can see a guy sitting down shaking his right hand in his front pocket and touching the screen with the other. The guy in the next booth has his sunglasses on and is smoking a cigarette. Terrel keeps walking. The guy in the next booth over is holding a glass pipe to his lips and is lighting the bottom part of the bubble end. He makes eye contact with Terrel. Terrel doesn’t look away. The man puts down the pipe on the floor gently, making sure not to make a clinking sound (he can’t afford to pay off the security guard right now). He unzips his pants and pulls out his cock. He starts stroking it, switching his sight from looking at Terrel and the screen. Terrel is confused. He’s not turned on but he’s definitely not turned off. He’s not sure what to do. He looks up and down the arcade. “You like looking at my big dick, huh? Yeaaahh, come in. Suck my cock, suck my big fucking cock. Yeahh,” says the guy inside the booth breathing hard, speaking through his teeth. Terrel thinks for second, decides against it and walks pass the man into the next empty booth. He puts in a dollar. Both screens come on with hardcore sex scenes, the upper screen shows movies constantly alternating in small grids, the lower screen shows one full-screen movie. Mario touches the bottom portion of the lower screen to choose a movie on the full-screen. The first couple of movies are gay. The next one is boring latex bondage with no fucking. The next one is transsexual porn. Terrel stops for a second, whips out his cock, spits on his right hand and strokes it. Some guy is fucking a tranny in the ass as the little tranny baby cock sways to the motion of the fucking. That gets old quick. He changes the movie. The next one is some skinny black chick with a red wig, a fat ass and a pair of enormous tits taking a 10 inch cock up the ass with professional ease. He leaves it on that. He strokes away, feeling the back of his ears and eyes get hot, his hard cock feeling tighter. He looks down at his cock, at all the little white bumps. He squeezes his dick hard hoping to pop some. None of them pop. He stops jacking off and pinches one of the bumps using the nails of his thumb and index finger. It pops. Yellow-white liquid oozes out. A little bit of blood starts coming out. He squeezes it until nothing else comes out. He puts in another dollar and continues to jack off. He’s on the verge of cuming. He gets out a piece of paper towel that he took from the first porn shop and cups it in front of his cock, underneath the tip. He cums into it, his body jerking around in small spasms, making sure to catch all of the cum in the towel. If there’s a single tiny drop on the floor, the security guard will go nuts and will either demand some money from him or fuck him up. He puts the paper towel in his pocket, squishing it together with the wad of money his payee gave him and walks out of the arcade feeling clear headed and relaxed. The clerks look at him with disgust. Terrel looks back at them and quickly looks away feeling embarrassed.
He walks out to the busy boulevard. A lady in a tight black business suit passes by him. He closes his eyes and smells her, her hair, her perfume. Will I ever fuck a chick, he thinks to himself. He gets depressed. His eyes remain close.
He walks over to the court house. Moses is there with his hotdog stand. He sees Terrel walking toward him and shakes his head in disgust and annoyance.
“Ey, jew got moni today Terrel?”
“Yeh,” Terrel says reaching into his front pocket and pulling out the paper towel.
“Shit das facking nasy, man!”
“Oh, Sorry,” he says putting it back in his pants (and not throwing it away but saving it for his next trip to the arcade) and pulling out a 10 dollar bill. Moses looks shocked.
“Horale pues!” he says and snatches the bill from Terrel’s hand.
“Hey,” Terrel says.
“Can I get a hotdog?”
“Jew still owe me, for-handred-ninety dolares.”
“Es not my fault, man.”
“Ok,” Terrel says and reaches into his pocket and pulls out a 5 dollar bill, a little wet from the paper towel. “Here.”
Moses doesn’t say anything and hands him a plain hotdog.
“Can I get some relish and onions?”
“Hijo de su chingada madre, quiere todo!” Moses says and adds it onto the hotdog. “Toma!” he says in spanish. “Here!”
Terrel eats his hot dog. When he’s done, he just stands there, stares at the hot dog cart, then at Moses and quickly looks away as soon as he makes eye contact.
“All right, I’m out,” Terrel says and extends his arm to shake Moses’ hand. Moses doesn’t look at Terrel. He hates making eye contact with Terrel. It disturbs him. It might be guilt but he doesn’t spend anytime thinking about it, figuring out the reason. He pretends to be busy cleaning the cart’s counter and says, “Later.”
Terrel walks toward the library. It’s cool and quiet inside. Not too many people. He sees a computer unattended and takes the seat. He looks to his left, to his right. No one’s paying attention to him, he thinks. But everyone noticed him coming in and quickly went as far away as possible from Terrel and his overpowering stench his marinated sweat and filth intensified by the San Fernando Valley’s sun. He types in “HOT BLACK CHICKS TITS” in the webpage’s search box. A list of sites pop up. He clicks the first one. He makes sure to turn down the volume all the way as he unzips his pants. There just grainy pictures, no videos. He strokes his cock a couple times, slowly, feeling raw from earlier. No one notices him. He thinks no one is noticing him. One of the librarians in the back sees him and walks toward him. Terrel found some videos and is going faster now. The librarian sees Terrel’s arm making weird jerking motions. Terrel sees her walking toward him. He makes eye contact with her and shoots his load at the bottom of the desk, fighting to keep his eyes open as each orgasmic wave rushes over him. Terrel puts it back in his pants and goes a few steps to his right in the direction of the librarian and then quickly turns to his left and bolts out the door. The librarian runs out after him but Terrel’s gone. She goes over to his seat, puts her hand on the slippery mouse, closes the web pages and all of the pop-ups. She looks to the floor and sees some drops of cum. “That fucking nigger!” she whispers angrily and rubs it into the carpet with her shoe. She hates Van Nuys and the perverted homeless youth especially, and especially the niggers. But she’s not racist, nope; she knows a lot of black people. There are black people and then there are niggers, she thinks to herself, trying to believe it, convincing herself of it. There’s a difference, she says to herself. “Fucking niggers,” she says.
Terrel walks toward the other porn shop to see his payee, to try to get more money out of his payee because, shit, it’s his money, aint his, and he’s gots to eat, and get a room at the Voyageur on Sepulveda, and get a bitch to suck his dick but they always make him put on a condom and he gets soft when he does but if he steals one of those mint flavored ones that they got in that plastic bowl next to the counter that’s cool, yea, like menthol or someshit, yea, gonna buy that Jada Fire DVD too if they still got it.
He comes into the shop.
“Was up,” he says.
“Nothing much,” I say. “My receipts?”
“Receipts,” I say, already knowing where this is going but unable to stop it or do something differently. Somehow, I am caught. Stuck. “Where are they?”
“Terrel,” I say. “I can’t be your payee anymore.”
His eyes get wide. This is getting through to him.
“Oh,” he says and nods.
“Sorry, it’s just that I don’t think I’m helping you, you know? You need better help.”
“Can you give me a ride to the Voyageur?”
“You gonna get a room?”
“Ok, meet me in the back.”
He says bye to the cleaner and walks out. I give the register key to the other clerk and leave through the back door. Terrel is there next to my car. I get in and open the passenger door for him. He puts his bag in first and then he gets in. I can smell him instantly and roll down the windows, only breathing through my mouth. We take Victory down to Sepulveda Blvd. On Sepulveda Blvd we make a right and it’s on the right-hand side. It looks like a giant ship, all white and blue, with anchors randomly painted on it. The sign is advertising $49.95 for a single. Plus tax and deposit. I park and we get out. I hand him the rest of his money and we get a room. I’m carrying his bag and backpack and following him up stairs.
We go in. I walk into the bathroom. The walls are off white and the paint is chipping off. There are dark brownish red stains on the floor and shower curtain. After taking a piss I wash my hands and consciously avoid the mirror. I walk out and see Terrel sitting on the bed looking at me. I look out the ship-like window onto Sepulveda Blvd. It is in the middle of the day, around 3 PM. Traffic is light. The sky is orange and fake. The clouds aren’t clouds. I am not me. Terrel isn’t Terrel. Terrel doesn’t understand this. I go over to him and say, “Terrel, you need help.”
“You don’t understand.”
I go over to him and put my hands around his neck, tightly. He’s trying to kick me but I force him flat on his back. Nothing’s coming out of his mouth. You can tell he’s trying to scream. Little squeaks are slipping out so I push down on the front of his throat. He’s fighting hard. For what? There is nothing for him. He doesn’t understand.
“You need help, Terrel. I can’t help you.”
Minutes go by because they must and that’s how time works. I hear footsteps outside in the hall. I continue. Terrel is making eye contact with me now. It’s funny. He never makes eye contact. Tears are falling down the sides of his face like little streams. Black people look strange when they cry. I pick him up by the throat, his legs flailing in the air but only kicking me occasionally, and walk over to the bathroom. I bang his head on the sink a few times. About two. The first time isn’t too hard but I get a better grip and my motion is better and so the second time really counts and puts a hole in his head and I see blood gushing out from his skull. He goes limp and gets heavier. His eyes are still wide open and he is no longer breathing. His eyes look like fish eyes: wide, cold, plastic and lifeless. I turn the faucet on and wash my hands, looking down so that I don’t see the mirror. I leave his room and walk downstairs. A little girl is walking in my direction up the stairs.
“Hi!” she says.
I get into my car. The sky is orange. The clouds are pink. Everything is ugly.
Luis Rivas lives in California's San Fernando Valley right next to a Pizza Hut and a Rite Aid. He works in a porn shop. He never made it pass community college.