I knew it was a gross habit, and I knew it was wrong given the time and circumstances. But regardless of the fact, I ended up in that grimy parking lot every Saturday afternoon, hoping to Christ that nobody recognized my Jeep Wrangler and never allow me to live this down. Every Saturday I would see the wide grin stretched across the face of the dude behind the counter, his hands placed firmly as he bent across the thing and said, “Back again for more?” in that joking manner that would make me stifle a small but nervous laugh. I jumped every time a person rounded the corner in whatever aisle I was presently in, thinking it would be someone who knew my mother or siblings, or even someone I went to high school with. Humiliating. So why did I keep coming?
This specific time, my hands landed on a DVD entitled, “Young and Daddyless.” These names just got more and more fucked up and raunchy as you went down the line. If they made me snicker, I probably got some type of odd enjoyment out of them. I’d graduated from people dressed up as naughty schoolteachers getting it on in classrooms on desks to girls with family issues sucking huge, black cock on screen like they’d been doing it for years (and probably have, if you knew the honest truth.) Regardless, my time spent at the porn store always paid off. I either laughed hysterically at what was placed in front of me each night, or furiously released my frustrations, thinking, “Yeah, that’s good enough.”
After paying for my DVD rental and hearing the typical, “See you again tomorrow” from the creep behind the counter, I boarded into my Wrangler and blasted the radio for the ten-minute drive home. As I sat listening to Radiohead and thinking about my empty apartment back home, foreboding as it called me back to my rightful place of loneliness, I never even heard the song switch off and the news start. That was, until I heard the voices saying, “What a tragedy” and, “I can’t imagine what it feels like to lose a child and never know what happened to them.” Kidnapping again. It always seems like it’s kidnappings anymore, you know? Once something happens to you, it’s like you see it all over the place…
My mind drifted off and I switched the station to another channel before the usual thoughts could creep in. I made it back safely to my apartment and grabbed the DVD rental off the seat next to me, which I almost forgot until I realized I had nothing else to do the rest of the night without it. I carried myself into my apartment, putting the key in the door and sighing as I breathed in the fresh air of loneliness and realized that things would forever be this way now. My eyes were directed to the beeping machine and I followed after my feet to the kitchen, where I pressed down to listen. My heart skipped a beat.
“Hey, Charles…” her voice drifted off, that awkward way she always started out in some apologetic way when she knew she didn’t have to do this anymore. The wounds felt fresh but she was long gone. “Just calling to check in on you… I haven’t heard from you in a couple of weeks. Call me back sometime so we can catch up. You know I’m sorry about…things, and just…not having stayed in touch like we should.”
Yeah, sounds like an idea that isn’t going to happen, Marie. Maybe you should have considered how I’d feel when you decided to up and leave our family for someone twice your age after being with me for nearly twenty years, you stupid–
My thoughts were interrupted when I felt the packaging to the DVD in my hand again, and decided she wasn’t worth the time out of my night. Sighing, I realized this was harder to get through than I thought it was going to be originally. Nonetheless, I wasn’t too tired with my life to take that DVD and walk into my bedroom, close the door like somebody was watching, and awkwardly thrust it into the DVD player while simultaneously losing my pants.
“Young and Daddyless” cheaply inhabited the screen, some bright red playful font and a plain black background that any run-of-the-mill person could make without needing any prior Photoshop knowledge. “Yeah, this is going to be a good one,” I mumbled to myself sarcastically, already knowing that this would be one of those DVDs that simply turned my night into a laugh-fest and not one of pleasure. As soon as the video started, I was already questioning everything.
“What the fuck?” escaped my lips as I saw a girl tied up on a bed, some makeshift thing in the center of an extremely dirty room. It looked as if she were being kept in a basement; it was so trashy and rank. Looked like it reeked. She looked unclean, unkempt, and not sexy at all for a movie of its kind. She was gagged and her hair had been cut at some ugly, uneven angle. Her eyes were bloodshot and she looked as if she were trying to plead, or worse, scream…for help. She was malnourished and was being captured from every angle as the director walked around the room, laughing in the background as the only sound playing on the video.
Suddenly, a hand came into view and tore the tape from the girl’s lips, then prying the rag out of her mouth that he had supposedly stuffed in there. “Now you can speak. We’re all ready to go.”
The girl just lay there, miserably, not saying a word. She tried to give him a look of caution but it fell short; she just looked scared and at a loss. “Tell me I can come closer.”
“Come closer,” she motioned with her eyes, panic clearly rising.
“Tell me I can take my pants off. I shouldn’t have to feed you lines…”
“Take off those pants. Come give me some.” She sighed, tears forming in her eyes. “I really want you.”
“This is Angela,” the man said sickeningly as he turned toward the screen. “Angela was a bad girl 13 years ago and so she ended up with a bad, bad man.” He cackled now as he raised a finger and an eyebrow and pointed to herself. “Angela is young, naughty and daddyless. So she needs someone to teach her–”
At this point, my fingers were shaking and I was pressing “STOP” on the DVD player. I picked the phone out of my pocket and fumbled to dial 9-1-1, but instead threw my phone on the passenger side seat and took off downtown in my Wrangler once again.
As I pulled into the parking lot again ten minutes later, I noticed the man still standing behind the counter, that maddening shit-eating grin on his face. I marched right in the store and grabbed hold of his shirt, the smile never leaving his face. “How did you like your movie?”
“WHERE THE FUCK IS SHE?” I barked at the man from the video.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Did you enjoy your video?”
“MY DAUGHTER. WHERE THE FUCK IS SHE?!”
Ten minutes later, I was wearing handcuffs off to the side of the store and handfuls of people were standing around, wondering what happened that day at the Porn Store. I looked like some regular who had just lost his mind. Some simple case of a man gone down the wrong path and taking it out on the good guy just selling his videos behind the counter. But if only they had stuck around for the whole story. If only they had seen and recognized the face of their kidnapped daughter on a screen, now fifteen years later, bound and gagged in someone’s dirty basement.
The police tell me that Angela is okay and adjusting to the fact that she will never have to be in the hands of that abuser again. But she has to come home to a broken family, to a broken man, and I don’t know if that’s better for her. And how do I explain how I found her? Maybe none of that matters…I don’t know anymore.