How to Develop Naked Pictures of Your Girlfriend
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Mark works the photo kiosk at a local mall. He looks like a graduate student in Environmental Studies: frizzy hair, black glasses, a beaded hemp necklace. He rides his bike ten miles to work everyday.
We're sitting in his living room.
I'm here to ask a simple question as research for a magazine article: "What's the best way to develop naked pictures of my girlfriend?"
The question leaps the difficult "Take the pictures in the first place" problem and approaches a practical dilemma. At least I think so.
Mark pauses to tilt a lighter to the bowl of the pot pipe cradled in his hands and flicks the flint. He then sucks in heavily and looks up at me, exhaling in steps.
He leans back on the couch.
"Two weeks ago," he says. "Two big ladies come to the counter and drop off a couple rolls. I develop them, and yes, it's all there: toys, masks, vegetables. The whole thing. Lesbians."
Mark's buddy Paul is sitting on the couch beside him, banging a large bongo drum. He takes the pipe and lighter.
"That's all right," Mark continues. "I'm all right with that. But they wanted doubles, and when they paid for their developing, one of them winks at me and pushes the extra prints toward me. 'Those are for you,' she says. And you know, that's where I draw the line -- because then they're including me in the sex, you know, vicariously? I'm not down with that."
"That's upsetting," I say.
He nods. "I'm pretty easy. To answer your question: All I ask is that you let me know what's on the roll. One-hour kiosks are good, because I haven't got time to copy anything. And if you want you can stand right there and watch me develop your film."
"People copy the pictures?"
"Oh, yeah. Another developer I worked for had a contract with the city police, printing all the crime scene photos. One of my coworkers was addicted to it. He had boxes of just horrifying prints. And sex, of course. You'd be amazed what people send in. The only thing I ask is this: Don't give me a roll with ten frames of you banging the old lady, followed by another ten of junior naked in the bathtub. That's tasteless."
Paul offers me the pipe and lighter, and I feel it's necessary to maintain journalistic trust, so I take it. I burn my thumb tilting the lighter.
"So places where you send film are bad?"
"Definitely. Also Wal-Mart. They won't develop a lot of stuff."
I cough and hand off the pipe.
"So what's the most disturbing photo you've ever seen?"
Mark considers. Now he's tapping on the bongo drum. His fingers pause.
He takes about ten minutes describing the most disturbing photograph he's ever seen.
Paul puts down the pipe and stares at him.
"That's horrible, man," I say finally. "That's absolutely horrible. I'm sorry you had to see that."
He shrugs. "I work at a photo kiosk. I bear witness to all the sickness in our society."
Mark looks around.
"Don't bogart that pipe, man," he tells Paul.
Later I've got the bongo drum and I'm bouncing my tape recorder off the tan skin, then playing it back to hear the sound. Paul is giggling uncontrollably.
"Ah, man," Mark says. "Just tell them to use a Polaroid. It's a hell of a lot less complicated."
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