2:21 AM | by Torey Akers

               I drove in the dark to pick up strip-mall Chinese food while you stared through the rear window at a much-too-big moon. It hung low in the sky like horse testes. You joked that if you had to critique the landscape painter responsible for rendering that moon, you’d accuse him of making shit up. “Sentimental creep”, you’d sneer. A prayer forgot to form in my mouth.


The last time I had semi-lucid sex with a woman the woman in question asked me to slap her across the face as hard as I possibly could. Begged me, rather. Her eyes locked large like a child’s on my hands and bravery inverted completely into my back while I tried not to shake. Had she only asked, I would have said no. But the men who say no to me always look so shrunken afterwards, so finite, and I loathed the thought of appearing any more edgeful to her than I already felt. So I lifted a script I learned from you, back when you erased my need to introduce questions at all. I still think about that, just so you’re aware. Ours were diamond blades in smooth, pneumatic interchange. Expert submission never hinges on request, after all.

           I chuckled, re-arranged my hair over my tits, (it’s longer now, but sufficed at the time) took a swig of her drink, and cracked my neck. I straddled her lower stomach and switched the bedside table-lamp back on. My chest scalded red.

           “Repeat yourself, please”.

           I’m no good at domming for real, so I like to pretend some hidden third party is watching me work (you, I guess). The results are invariably theatrical, particularly if I’m expected to sustain any eye contact.

           “Repeat yourself, you silly little cunt.”

           My left hand rested firmly on her stomach, fingers splayed like Vitruvian healing, like an emaciated starfish marking science in sinew. The time had come to take something. You rarely looked at me, so I didn’t look at her. Not yet. Her voice had withered to the kind of naked whimper I’d never want recorded.

           “I…Fuck. J-just hit me. Honestly, honestly, I’ll do…I’ll do anything.”


           You once called me in the middle of the night to complain that a landscaper called you a pussy the time you stopped a mower to properly execute the frog their blades just ploughed through. You wanted to put the animal out of its misery, you said. You couldn’t watch it twitch in the grass like that. I leaned forward and traced her bottom lip with my thumb. Her breath burned.

           “Ask me again, but don’t stutter. If you really wanted it, you wouldn’t stutter, would you, sweetie?”

           You’ve got a mean penchant for back-hands, which I’ve always found superior to open slaps, anyway. A slap belies its own resentment. A back-hand puts a bitch in her place quick.

           “Hit me”.

           You had forced me to suck on your fingers, obviously, so I slid my thumb behind her bottom teeth and gripped her chin in a vice. She went doll-slack. Dancers are supposed to embody the character in movement above all else, but it was hard for me to picture her as anything other than sumless parts arranged for pilfer. She wasn’t a thing. She was a former ballerina I had shared pizza with, a date I had constructed new jokes for, a girl I wanted to touch so badly the moment we met it dumbed me down. We had chatted about One Direction over drinks. They featured heavily on the sex playlist I curated in anticipation of something different.

           The thing about desire is that it starts stinging long before any other hovering extension of the body, okay? So, right where life gets a little too snug in the shoulders, or dreams start feeling slimy between otherwise dry fingers, as if according to a countdown, desire (or restlessness able to navigate the dark, either-or), begins its crawl from pussy to throat, and the journey is wet with discharge and guts and liquor, and the host for that journey’s end should be available on these dates, or these, and I really shouldn’t.

           I gave her a nosebleed and left. I did not cry in the cab home.


I did not dream that we stood nose-to-nose in the Sagrada Familia’s undercroft as mortar dust gathered on our lash beds, but I told you I had in a 4 a.m. text I might regret if regret still rotated under my skin. You responded with compliments on my writing. That was a boring thing to do, but not as boring as the lie I told. Hardly my first. Night dreams might eschew accountability, but daydreams rarely shirk from implicating their editors, and I couldn’t figure out for what seemed like months why the act of inhaling your breath as a rocky residue bathed our shoulders never got me wet.

I’m dumb, as we’ve established.

Penetration fails to soak because gesture that stains remains stain, and I’m reminded of that gap ever time I cut the side of my mouth on a wine glass. The prick pouring Chianti over my tongue never offers to mop up the blood, if he can even tell it’s blood in the first place. That’s transubstantiation for you—the poorly sacred practice of painting meaning backwards into open pores. Maybe the only break distinguishing my fantasy from poetry is this creeping realization that Netflix was wrong. The cathedral couldn’t grow. Some asshole pre-recorded the screech of saws and scaffolding and masons forging stone from art and played it loud above the rafters where I couldn’t see. Nothing got built, then, do you understand? Our dust spoke disintegration, and I don’t own the hands to vote softness over speakers. So I will insist through overlaying walls of salt that your image wrought in rock razed the Gaudi I designed for us, and I will splinter my knuckles on the face I assumed was flesh until lonely forced my eyes in focus.



Torey Akers is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She received her MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Academy in Art in 2016, and writes criticism for various outlets, including This is Tomorrow, Two Coats of Paint, and Big, Red, and Shiny