empowered by the malaise of beatnik-tinged poverty ("I'm broke, man, can't even afford the new annotated Neruda. Sorry, no lattes at Diplimatico for me -- I'll have to drink that corporate 7 Eleven shit and write in the park watching seagulls), I felt both romantically spent and desirous of a paycheque that wasn't authorized by my father's medium ballpoint pen.
I found a position as an office goat, carrying out clerical duties and dialing clients' numbers with my scuffed hoof. The job lasted six straight nights, but by the fourth my attention was being reduced by copious amounts of marijuana smoke and verbose daydreams in which I sang a Whitney Houston song in perfect pitch to all my elementary-school tormentors.
I stopped showing up at the job and, feeling lazy and perverted, began to scour the back pages of the newspaper. Although I'd done this since I was nine years old, the realization that I, now 18, could join the ranks of the sex industry both appalled and excited me.
Advertisements promised blond bounty and Nordic naughtiness. The faces of these pouty-lipped women, beaded with the rain of arousal, stared up at me from their newsprint jail.
I called a few agency phone numbers. The men on the other end of the line were paranoid and wanted to know what colour my hair was. They all asked me to come in for a face-to-face meeting. Edgily, one asked, "You do understand what this is about, don't you?"
Fearing that I'd show up for a date and find my father, I decided to confine myself to the milieu of phone sex. I picked my future employer's ad according to what piece of newspaper my cat wasn't sitting on. Did I have any experience? a hollow voice asked. I said yes, recalling an evening in an Edinburgh strip bar last summer, wearing cut-offs and secretly becoming aroused by the lithe dancer as I made social commentary.
My first call, or my audition, is George, who tells me he's wearing a green snakeskin jacket. He's easygoing, and prompts my horny anecdotes with a nurturing, paternal hand, as if guiding my first infant steps.
I breathe hotly into the receiver as I confess that I'm a hot-to-trot schoolgirl who ran away from her Montana ranch (in Catholic school uniform) in order to become a phone-sex operator in a basement apartment in Toronto, eating Dexedrine like a madman.
He embellishes my tale, adding in a heated mutter that my breasts are 32C and my friend Mindy is sleeping over that night. "OK, OK?" he asks irately, his gelatinous erection-slapping a wet version of muzak. I agree, and describe Mindy's ponytail with the repressive angst of an English major: "It's the colour of corn, just burnished by the sun, the last crop of the season." George moans and tells me I'm accepted, and then hangs up.
My career begins the day of my last exam: in the morning I write about Freud's model of repression, and in the aft I wear my father's track suit and use many bad words. I earn more money that day than I ever have before.
To Cameron I confess a clandestine relationship with my 15-year-old genius roommate named Twylah. I puff that age is just a number compared to the liquid sweetness I find between my love's thighs. "Just like pineapple," I say, and imagined my fictional lover's secret place splayed in awesome pixels on a Dole tin can.
I loll in bed the next morning and take two calls in my high-school gym shirt, pristine and never used to due to feigned menstrual cramps all through 1996. Cyril explodes onto the line. I incorporate Twylah again, and after 16 timed minutes, he makes the human sound of sexual climax and says smoothly, a Clark Gable for the disembodied generation, "What a mess."
Al tells me grudgingly that he wears diapers and occasionally urinates in them while eating in restaurants. "But I never shit in them," he keeps repeating. Peter's lexicon spins on an axis of four words -- "Are your tits big?" He constantly attempts to slow my obscenities, an obvious cheapskate even with his trousers down around his ankles. He wants to ejaculate at exactly 29 minutes and 58 seconds.
Relocating to a friend's basement, I continue my calls without having to listen for my mother's key in the door. Joe trickles through the line like needles and pins and tells me about the blow jobs his mother gives him. When he ejaculates, a dog in the background joins his call-note. Before hanging up, he says primly, "And we're exclusive to each other."
Byron is shy. He calls me Mistress Valerie, and I instruct him to parrot some musings of my namesake and Andy Warhol's assassin, Valerie Solanas. The further I quote dead feminists to unhearing ears, the more ornery the voice in my own head becomes: "Shut up! Talk dirty, you over-compensating pothead," it bellows.
Frank is my next call. "While we fuck," I say, "tell me what album we'd be listening to." He ignores me. "What album are we listening to?" I insist.
"We're listening to Bat Out Of Hell," he says, annoyed at being thrust out of his private masturbatory haze. "That's a completely soulless album," is all I can say through the windshield wipers of realization. I imagine Bat Out Of Hell is the record he puts on when he brings a woman home. "If you really want to know me, baby, listen to these words, and you'll hear my life," he'd say, peeling off his leather jacket.
Bobo, my last caller, sniffles and repeats, "This is pathetic, isn't it?" and at 26 minutes I can no longer disagree with him. I end my phone sex career speaking to a man with the voice of Elmer Fudd.
"You-are-so-beau-ti-ful," he chokes. Then he has to hang up because his infant son has started crying.
Adele Lazarov is a pseudonym.