I meant to post two days ago, to keep that commitment to first and third Monday of the month, and it slipped away from me. I had been contemplating about what to write and thought myself into paralysis, where nothing could be said that would sufficiently detail the experience.
It’s been over two weeks since a young porn starlet I once knew died. It’d been years since we spoke, the nature of leaving a business entirely forcing to a natural close many relationships. Yet the impact of her loss is palpable: not simply because it’s a tragic loss, but because its a stark reminder that I didn’t really know anybody in that business. For as “intimate” as we all were, I didn’t know a damn thing about anyone.
I found out Amber’s real name in the papers. Meghan Wren. She was lovely, and the articles I’ve read have speculated about a variety of causes, from drug use to uterine cancer. She was one of the girls who came out against James Deen, and accused him of rape. She’d been quoted as saying she’s since “gotten over it,” and much to his chagrin, gives him a hard time on set. As a rape survivor, I don’t know that I could/would sit in the same room as my rapist. But trauma is funny like that. Trauma reactions are just not as predictable as we’d like them to be.
I found out Hailey Page’s real name in the papers too. Maryam Irene Haley. She also was lovely, also received XRCO’s “unsung starlet” award two years before Amber, her death undetermined. I remember at the time Chico Wang being implicated in her death, and ultimately suiciding on methadone pills in a cheap motel next to milk duds and pictures of her face. They were married. There was talk of domestic violence. Word had it that Chico wasn’t allowed at her funeral. Then he went to find her on his own – if you believe in heaven and that sort of afterlife thing.
When I heard of Amber’s death, of Meghan’s death, I was struck by how sad I was. The comments under news articles were horrifying – I didn’t even have to read them all to know that she would be shamed in death. The adult business, for all it’s follies, remains an insulated community. As long as you remain in the community, you get to be safe from the judgment, social pressure, disgust of the outside world. Simply don’t look out. If you keep looking in, there is an essence of freedom, an undercurrent of autonomy. And yet, the gossamer veil of safety – an illusion produced by social acceptance, fancy things, and frequent STD testing – is still punctured by the reality of things like domestic violence, drug addiction, and cancer. My hope is that Amber – Meghan – did die peacefully, no matter the cause.
I find myself believing that it was drug related – and hoping that it was cancer. As if one is less horrific than the other. As if one would cause less pain and suffering than another. When I quit using, I began to believe that people around me would quit dying from drugs and alcohol. I am reminded that the only people who won’t die from drugs or alcohol are people who don’t use drugs or alcohol. And even then, there’s no saying that some drunk driver won’t crash into the side of my car. This isn’t depressed talk, simple recognition of loss, and the reality of a social structure in which we accept and often encourage rampant inebriation.
Since I heard of Amber’s – of Meghan’s – death, I’ve been sifting through a confusing mixture of grief and survivor’s guilt. I think this is why I’ve delayed in writing this post. I realize she didn’t “die from the business” and yet the feeling of gratitude at having survived my own career and exit is potent. I’m grateful that I get to live in a world where experiencing the pain of being human is okay. Where I don’t have to perform with a constant eye toward pleasing an audience. I’m glad to be functioning in a world where, if I have cancer or am struggling again with addiction, the industry in which I work will support me getting treatment (and approve FMLA) and healthcare will be available through my employer (even if it’s not that great).
I’m grateful that I get to use my real name, and people don’t have to wait until after my death to see how imperfectly human I am. And that’s not all to say that her experience was like mine. And yet…
RIP Meghan Wren, RIP Amber Rayne.