Nancy Jainchill | Longreads | April 2019 | 22 minutes (5,383 words)
“Peter, I can’t do this.” I grabbed my boyfriend by the arm.
The crew with whom we were making a porn movie had just arrived, their footsteps like drum beats as they made their way upstairs to our second floor flat. I stared at the doorway. Didn’t they realize they had the wrong house? I must’ve been crazy to say yes. Their footsteps continued. Maneuvering past me, their tripods were like hulking robots, their metal legs clattering along the wooden floor. Peter stood nearby, lit a joint, and turned to me. “Where’s Charley?”
Of course he was concerned about our dog.
My star turn began in a Berkeley flat on a summer morning in 1970. As our kitchen was heating up from the sun, Peter stripped off his flannel shirt, rubbed his hands up and down on his chest, and pointed to a classified ad, “Bus boy wanted. Starts immediately.” He took a sip of coffee.
Okay, he was right. We were short on rent money, and Peter solved problems. Except Peter wasn’t bus boy material. No way that would be happening. His mother had served him dinner in front of the TV every night until he left for college, and he didn’t do dishes. Sitting down next to him, I leaned over to see what he was reading.
Balancing his cigarette on our kitchen table’s edge — one of those fifties-era Formica tables, mottled red and white with a metal rim that couldn’t burn — he flattened the paper out with both hands. “Wow. Nancy, look at this. Become a porn star overnight.” He tapped his pen on the ad, and circled it.
I sputtered on a sip of coffee. “Are you kidding me?”
Peter’s voice quickened as he read. “Listen. ‘Having trouble paying your bills? Enjoy yourself while you earn your way out of debt.’” He shoved the paper at me. “Why not? We’re short on rent money. This looks easy.” He wasn’t joking.
After scanning the ad, which offered cash for taking off my clothes, I got up and walked to the window. While I wanted to make Peter happy, this hadn’t been part of the plan. Not for me. It wasn’t that long ago that I never took off my coat. Summer or winter, my coat stayed on. I had the idea that my body wasn’t good enough, so I kept it hidden.
“C’mon Nance.” He gave my butt a light slap.
He knew I’d give in. When was the last time I’d said “no” to Peter?