This Wednesday, November 20, marks the three-year anniversary of Dad’s death. As a tribute to his memory, I will share two stories this week – one that I wrote and another that a member of the Denver Bronco community penned after Dad passed. The tales, while different, highlight the unique, compassionate man I miss every day.
Dad operated with a mischievous look plastered on his face for most of my life. His wide, “shit-eating” grin fit a personality trapped somewhere between the innocent and the instigator. I imagine this smile existed on his face when he wrote the letter in the story that follows.
Now, on with the fun….
When I Discovered Pornography*
I discovered pornography in May 1996. I was in seventh grade and home alone after track practice while Mom and Dad attended one of my sister’s softball games. At 13 and burdened by lusty throes of curiosity, I entered Dad’s study determined to search every drawer in every file cabinet for the pages of nefarious nakedness my curious mix of instincts and hope told me he might be hiding. After all, I’d already checked every other possible hiding spot in our house and found only a few quarters and set of Rod Stewart records.
A large, imposing oak desk taunted me as I stood in the doorway to Dad’s office. “Come on punk. Don’t go snooping around where you shouldn’t. Your old man’s gonna be pissed when he sees his stuff out of place,” it seemed to call at me. I ignored the warning. I wanted to see boobs.
First, I hunted through the small, two-stack file cabinets on the right and left of Dad’s desk. “Shit!” I said as I found a wasteland of old home appraisals, bills, and ignorable financial statements. Undeterred, I yanked at the drawer inside the center of his desk. I found nothing except paper clips and a ball of rubber bands. I slammed the drawer and moved to the stand-alone cabinets underneath the computer table. Empty. Damnit.
One set of three file cabinets remained for me to check. Three drawers separated my search from becoming another failure. My hand clutched the brass handle of the bottom cabinet and pulled. It wouldn’t budge. Neither did the middle drawer. Son of a bitch had me locked out. But why? I wondered what Dad might be hiding inside these protected walls.
I tried the handle of the top cabinet. Carnal hope fueled me. To my surprise, the cabinet opened. When I peered inside, a world of manila folders greeted me. I flipped meticulously into and between every folder, finding nothing. Until, I found everything. Sandwiched between the last two folders I saw a thin book with black binding. On its spine, white letters spelled Penthouse Forum.
I admired the small, rectangle of sin in my hands as a believer might hold a new bible. The black lace underwear of the cover model jerked me to attention. Her brown eyes penetrated my young soul. She looked magical. And busty. God had created this goddess especially for me. Something inside me jumped. I snapped my head around and listened for footsteps. Silent as night. My coast was clear.
I braced my body against the hulking file cabinet and flipped to the first story. A small picture of a woman with bare breasts grinned at me from its perch in the page’s top right corner. Words like thrust, pleasure, and spasm sparked my imagination in an entirely new way. The characters rose to life with each unexpected word. They explored each other with their tongues in ways I thought both disgusting and intriguing. Bodies trembled from excitement. I wanted to tremble, too. Although I expected more pictures from my first porno magazine, this brave new world still captivated me.
Now, I will say here, that I didn’t go into business with myself right there in the study. Not on this day or any of the others that immediately followed. My experiments with self-amusement started two years later. On that first day, I simply read a second story, hating myself for the way I thirsted for each plot twist and salivated over each picture. After a few minutes, I placed the magazine back into the cabinet, careful to return it to the exact spot where I first spotted it. I left Dad’s study. My eyes felt dirty, but the rest of me felt good.
This pattern continued for several weeks. If home alone, I snuck into the study and slid into a few minutes of reading pleasure with the Penthouse Forum. With every repeat read, I discovered new phrases and sayings that stroked my already titillated imagination. God this stretch was a beautiful snipped of life. I knew, too, that my secret would remain safe as long as I returned the magazine to the same location in the drawer where I found it.
Then, one afternoon not long after I made the initial discovery, my new friend disappeared. I checked everywhere in the study, but found no trace of anything resembling a porno. Exasperated, I returned to the file cabinet where the magazine previously lived and worked through the manila folder maze a second time. As I searched, a hint of panic formed inside me. If Dad had moved the dirty book, did he know about all the peeks I’d stolen?
The answer arrived faster than I expected.
When I reached the back of the cabinet, I noticed a folded piece of yellow legal paper that I somehow missed on my initial search. I opened it and found a note scribbled in Dad’s exaggerated handwriting. The note read:
Better luck next time.
*When I Discovered Pornography is a draft from To Dad: From Kelly. I expect to make minor revisions to the story before the final version is published.