From Found Polaroids, stories from the Found Polaroid Project, a collection of Polaroid photographs paired with short stories. Published by Aint-bad in 2017. Kyler Zeleny is a Canadian photographer-researcher and creator of the Found Polaroids Project. He is a doctoral candidate in the joint Communication and Culture program at Ryerson and York University. He lives in Toronto.
I don’t buy jewelry for my wife. My wife wants me to photograph her. She likes when I photograph her in water. My wife, when we went to Morocco, she said it was one of the best holidays we’d had together. And I agreed—it was sunny and it was lovely. My wife bought a velvetish swimsuit in Morocco, with patterns of butterflies, blue and green. She said it was one of her favourite swimsuits when we got back. As we were unpacking she said I really like that photograph you took of me in the water. I nodded, it was a lovely photograph. Later I gave it to her and I wrote a note on the back of it. My wife, she’s happy. When we got back from Morocco she bought tagines and spices. She said she wanted to cook new things. She said, “do you like lamb? I’d like to cook some lamb for you.” So I said I like lamb and I don’t really know that I do. My wife, she bought a little cookbook with recipes in it, it’s got some really nice oriental patterns on it. She sits on the sofa and she puts her glasses on. They’re scaled in hues of green and blue. She sits by the lamp. My wife, she places the book between her thighs, and religiously licks her finger before she flicks each page. And when she’s picked one she likes she slips the photograph in as a bookmark. “This way I see it all the time,” she said.
So obviously the chemistry homework was never gonna get done. I certainly knew that from the get-go, and I think Sarah probably did too because all she brought over with her was a pencil and paper, no textbook or notes or anything. And no one could do one of Mr. Hanford’s problem sets without the textbook.
Before we’d even sat down she said “why don’t you put on some music?” and I knew she meant this as a test to see if I liked good music, so I put on Rumours, which I hoped was my coolest record. “Oooooooooh,” she cooed as “Second Hand News” started, but I sat down at my bedroom desk beside her without saying anything—with cool people like Sarah, you can’t let them know you care about their approval. We had gotten nowhere on the homework by the time “Go Your Own Way” came on, and when it did Sarah totally came alive, she started kinda squirming in her seat, like half-dancing, and then I knew she also knew why she was here, and that it was ok, better than ok, it was great. She got more into it as the song went on, even doing the part where Lindsey Buckingham echoes “Go Your Ooooooown Waaaaaay” by himself, and then we were both dancing around my room.
I looked at her and she looked back at me, but I looked for too long, so I picked up my camera from my dresser and took a picture of her dancing, but then she took the camera out of my hands and put it on the desk and looked right at me and put her hands on my cheeks and kissed me, and wow was she a good kisser, way better than any of the boys I’d kissed. We kissed until the record needed to be flipped over; she needed to go, she had to pick her brother up from baseball practice. We kind of smiled at each other and kissed once more, just a quick peck, and then she opened the bedroom door and left.
The first ring, I remove my faded blue t-shirt. The second ring, I take off my brand new Nike shoes. The third ring, I remove my dirty socks. The fourth ring, I unbutton and wiggle out of my dark wash Levi’s jeans. The fifth ring, I jump onto my bed wearing only a red speedo. The sixth ring, I pick up the phone and sit in a seductive pose.
“Hello,” I say in a deep and confident yet mysterious voice.
“Hello,” the person on the other side responds shyly. “I’ve never done this before.”
“Tell me whatever you want,” I say very slowly.
The conversation begins innocently, but quickly heats up. While the dialogue starts to get steamy, I find myself feeling a bit cold. I look down at my arm and notice goose bumps. I touch my nipples and feel them begin to harden. I look down at my red speedo and draw the waistband from my body, only to notice my bulge is shrinking. It is getting uncomfortably cold. “Are you still there?”
“I wouldn’t leave you in the middle of this arousing story,” I say.
I look on the floor, where my t-shirt and Levi’s lay. I wish I could put them on. I sit in my speedo to feel the part. If the person on the phone asks “what are you wearing?” I don’t want to lie and create a false image in their mind that they cherish on those lonely nights.
Sometimes you need to suck it up and do your job. It’s how the bills get paid, the fridge gets restocked and how a roof stays over your head. These are the struggles of a phone sex operator.