Repost from old blog, 2/23/2008
Around fifteen I realized that I could use the internet to order porn films. This had the advantage of bypassing the usual age verification at a store as well as saving myself the embarrassment of trying to purchase it face-to-face with an actual person.
I ordered a tape to my house and spent many queasy afternoons waiting to see if I could pluck it from the mailbox before my parents did. The anxiety was heady, but the tape came unlabeled, unremarkable – nobody took the slightest notice. However, the fear had been too intense, and I knew I couldn’t go through it again. I was ready to order more porn, and I needed a different plan.
It came to me in a flash of inspiration – a post office box. Of course, I’d need to get it in another town, since my former best friend’s father, Tom C—–, was the neighborhood mailman and knew everything that passed through.
I rented a box in a town twenty-five miles away. The box came with a little golden key that I kept in a small container in my closet. I commenced ordering tapes to it immediately.
I would drive my parents’s car a half hour just to check that box, sometimes three or four times a week. Usually it was empty. It was no bigger than the space taken up by a loaf of bread. A small gray door in the midst of hundreds of other gray doors. When you opened it and looked through the back, you could see people walking around in the mailroom.
That box was a secret, private place of my own. Even at night, I imagined, in the dead silence of the empty post office, it was there for me. If I could have crawled into it, I would have.
In time, another use for the P.O. Box presented itself.
Once, my older brother told me that some of his friends had been out in the woods, and had found a small wooden shack. Inside the shack was a dirty gray mattress. Stuck to the walls were Polaroids a man had taken of himself putting different things up his ass. Things like a billiard ball and a pool cue – even his own dick. Written on the photos were messages in ballpoint pen: “Would you like to fuck this ass?”
The guys who found it stole the photos. My brother saw them but I never did.
In time, that shack became an image that I could not shake. I was convinced that it was in a particular set of woods off of the railroad tracks, as far out along the tracks as I had ever traveled. I had no idea if the shack was really around there, or whether I’d invented the location. I’m not even sure about the details of the interior of the shack, I may have made those up as well.
I searched for it, this place I wasn’t even sure existed. I wanted to know what went on in that shack, I wanted to know the man who used it.
I created a flyer that said “Who are you? What are you doing?” and that invited the reader to share his story anonymously in a letter that would be kept confidential. I listed the address of my P.O. Box. I printed about fifty copies of the flyer and laminated them. The plan was to put them up in the woods where I thought the shack would be, as well as in other places – places where people weren’t normally supposed to be – in the hopes that somebody there would communicate with me, would tell me their secrets.
I suppose I thought that by hearing the secrets of others, my own wouldn’t seem so bad. Maybe if we could all share our secrets, the light that was shed would help us to illuminate each other.
Nobody ever wrote.