“Most people would be horrified if I told them about the kind of pictures I take. When people ask what I do, I say I’m an urban nature photographer. What I don’t say is that I stalk and photograph people for money.”
She pauses as a black cat saunters onscreen and hops into her lap. The way she’s sitting, in full shadow, I can’t make out any details about her, just a general silhouette. The cat settles immediately and she pets it with long, firm strokes from ears to tail tip. The cat itself has all but vanished in the shadow of her lap, only an occasional flicker of eyeshine betrays its position. I can hear it purring through the webcam and it strikes me that she’s like a cartoon villain. She clears her throat and begins again.
“Even though they’re internally disgusted, and looking at me like I’m some kind of deviant, they always ask if I will show them.”
She pauses again, waiting to see if I will take the bait. I do.
“And do you show them?” I ask, focusing on keeping my voice steady, nipples hardening.
She sidesteps the question. “People often misunderstand. They don’t know what they are asking for. I don’t get paid by person A to take photos of person B. I’m not a detective or a spy.”
“Then what are you?” The cat leaps from her lap and leaves the way it came.
A chill goes through me as the words come out of the darkness. The thought crosses my mind that I could just close my laptop and forget the whole thing but the warm wetness between my legs won’t let me. I swallow hard and hope that she hasn’t noticed that I’m sweating. I’m beginning to feel a strange erotic anxiety about the whole idea. Something about how, even now, I can’t see her. She’s right there and yet she’s concealed in shadow while I’m in a well lit room. I can’t stop imagining how she looks, painting a mental image based on her voice, designing her as my perfect, ideal woman.
“So how does it work then? I mean, how … how close do you get?”
“As close as I can, or as close as the client wants me to get. I’m big on consent. Just because someone hires me to act as the ultimate peeping Tom doesn’t mean they waive their right to real privacy. My job is to covertly violate your space, with your consent, within boundaries that you have set. Then I take photos of what I see. That’s all there is to it. You get the image files, and if you want prints I process them myself in my private studio and I give you the negatives. I have no use for the images and it would go against the very nature of the work to hold onto them. People need the assurance that when it’s over, its over and that they are in control of the physical proof of it. If my clients could recognise me they would run the risk of bumping into me, and ironically, that’s too intimate for many people.”
The confident and matter of fact way that she speaks about her work makes it sound both mundane and also like a divine calling. She speaks of her clients reverently, and with pride for the service she provides.
“And your clients … why do they hire you?” I am fascinated by this woman.
She laughs and shifts in her seat as if she’s un-crossing and re-crossing her legs.
“It’s hard to say. For most, it seems like a kink. Exhibitionism, I guess. But also the idea of being prey, being followed, seen from a distance, enjoying the anticipation of receiving the photos. See, I don’t send them right away. They arrive, seemingly at random, within 90 days of our agreed start date. I may follow someone for 80, maybe 84 of those days and then spend the remaining few on editing. I may stalk someone intermittently, or only a couple times in those three months. That’s part of the fun: you can’t possibly imagine what I will capture.”
I can feel her eyes are on me. I stall and take a sip of water from the mug in front of me. My other hand is in my lap and I’m dying to press my fingers through my shorts and rub my clit. It’s aching and I’m consumed with excitement, trying to focus on her words.
“How private are the images?”
“Like I said, I get as close as I am allowed. The most popular request is for erotic photos, shots of them in the shower, having sex, dressing, masturbating. The more vulnerable and voyeuristic, the better, it seems.”
I can’t help it, I part my knees beneath the table and begin to slowly knead the flesh around my clit, grazing it with my fingernails through the thin, damp material.
“How does that sound to you? Ninety days of looking over your shoulder, never feeling alone, knowing someone is — “
“Why do you do it?” I blurt out.
“For the same reason that you are here: for ninety days of knowing that someone else is obsessively thinking about you, to know that you are consuming someone’s mind, and they in turn are consuming yours. We’re in it for the intimacy. It’s like a drug.”
There is a heavy pause in the conversation and we sit in silence.
“I’m touching myself under the table.” My voice comes out too small and high.
“Are you touching yourself too?”
She doesn’t reply right away but I can hear her breathing change and I match my rhythm to hers. I make no secret of how my hand is plunging into my cunt and viciously rubbing my clit at the sound of her concentration. After a minute or so she breaks the silence with a question, hoarse and barely in control.
“So are you in, or are we both going to cum alone?”
And I answer, without a second thought, perched on the edge of orgasm.