She wanted to know why I was a vegan if I kept asking what her food tasted like, if I kept imagining their flavors and textures exploding and melting in the warmth of my mouth. She wanted to know why I was a vegan if I let myself take a sip from her wine glass after she’d taken a bite of the cured meat she sliced with the wooden-handled knife she liked to trace across the inseam of my jeans.

She wanted to know why I was a vegan if I let my fingers dig into her leather skirt so hard when we danced, if I breathed in the scent of her motorcycle jacket so greedily when my head rolled to her shoulder and her teeth traced my jugular. She wanted to know why I was a vegan if I nuzzled my nose against her leather harness while she slid the cock into place, if I hooked my fingers through it when she brought the cock to my lips, if I imagined myself wearing it, flesh on flesh on flesh.

She wanted to know why I was a vegan if, alone in bed at night, imagining her hands pinning my wrists over my head, her fingers in my mouth, her thigh draped over my shoulder and guiding me down, her voice in my ear telling me how to touch her, how to thank her, telling me to ask for what I wanted, if then I pressed my eyes closed and envisioned her placing a coin-sized slice of meat on my tongue like a communion wafer.

She wanted to know why I was a vegan if I told her I imagined myself at her feet, my cheeks and my lips and my hair brushing the cool oxblood leather and the sturdy wooden heels of her ankle boots, the delicate patterns of perforations around the toes of her jet-black brogues, as if somehow I might rub some of their power off on myself.  If I dreamed of the row of shoes lined up by her apartment door, a regiment, an assassins’ guild, all adorned in their tanned and dyed and oiled armor, each holding their stories of journeys beyond the boundaries I’d never dared to cross. If I imagined a pair in my size standing beside them, polished to a black beyond obsidian. If I imagined how it would feel to walk without apology in the direction of my desire.

She wanted to know why I was a vegan.

I told her. I told her about battery cages and gestation crates, about bullhooks and vivisection labs and leghold traps.

I know, she said. But why are you a vegan?

I told her I wanted to be good.

I was good, so she got me a present.

She set the boots on the table as if it would crack beneath them, then gently twisted the lid off a small round can; the braided smells of pine and turpentine unfurled and snaked their way into my nose, and my lips parted to pull in a breath. She dabbed at the black wax inside the canister with a small cloth. She smiled, her cloth-covered fingers wiping at the toe cap in quick, small circles, like a cat’s tongue.

She stepped out from behind the table, holding the boots by their laces, letting them dangle at the hem of her dark velvet skirt, like two dead rabbits.  She set them on the floor before me. Their smell rose to my nose like a plume of smoke. She knelt down. My wrists strained against the cuffs clasping them to the chair.

I felt her hand on the back of my ankle. The other slid off my shoe. It dropped to the floor limply. I tried to restrain my foot from stretching gratefully, savoring its freedom as it hung above the open mouth of the boot, trembling in her hands.

Images burst and dissolved like flares inside my skull: the collar of her leather jacket against my cheek as my lips slid over her clavicle; my nose burrowing into the downy valley between a cow’s eyes at the farm sanctuary; drinking coffee in our underwear, watching her crack eggs with deft flicks of her wrist, her fingers dripping with gelatinous translucence; the shaky cameraphone recording of a knock-kneed calf slipping on a blood-slick slaughterhouse floor; a flash of flesh yielding beneath my teeth.

I recoiled into the chair and tried to ignore the straining in my toes.

The leather creaked softly as her fingers opened the mouth of one of the boots.

She guided me in. I winced at the first moment of contact.

She smiled.

My foot slid inside.

She pulled the zipper, the metal teeth closing one by one.

The breath I’d been holding tight in my chest seeped out of me. I flexed my toes, pressed them into the floor, lifted my heel. Something like a laugh dangled from the tail end of my exhalation, and my spine pulled itself taut again. I cleared my throat. I could feel my face burning.

She lifted the other shoe and set it down. I shivered at the soft pok of the heel against the hard wood of the floor. The warmth in my blushing cheeks poured downwards, through my chest, my belly, pooling between my legs, then rising again like steam.

She lifted her eyes to meet mine.

My toes grazed the mouth like I was testing the water at the edge of a vast, black pool, queasy with terror and desperation to lower myself into its blood-warm depth.

I saw her through the haze: smiling into my kiss, even as my teeth pinched her lip; sliding to her knees as I lifted my foot to the arm of the chair; panting against my thigh as my fingers loosened their grip in her hair. And I heard her, her voice muffled by the pounding of my heartbeat in my ears, telling me I was good.

A.S. is a writer and educator who divides his time between three continents and divides his work between various pseudonyms. He likes to write about the real and imagined borders between ideologies, identities, and species. He can be reached at