Through a Long and Sleepless Night by Adam Farrer

Liz lowered herself off the sofa with a thud and knelt in front of me. Twisting her fists into the carpet, breathing deep and slow, “If you just say the word,” she said, “I’ll have that dick out of those pants and in my mouth so fast it’ll make your head spin.” It wasn’t so much her words I disliked as the way she said them. Forcefully through clenched teeth. Pitched to be sexy but it reminded me of my parents having a suppressed argument. I thought of the younger me who had often fantasised about offers like this, never dreaming that they could be made to sound so much like a threat. So much like a mugging.

I attempted to cross my legs but Liz blocked me, feeding her hand along my inner thigh. My buttocks flinched as if a tight zip had been yanked up between them. I began to envision my immediate future. I saw myself giving in from politeness, suffering whatever she had planned. I pictured her hand yanking on my penis as if it were the pull cord of a stubborn outboard motor; the morning after.

“I’d love to,” I said, “honestly. But you know I can’t.”

Her voice turning suddenly cold, “Fine,” she said, then she pushed herself to her feet and marched into the kitchen to find a knife.


Before Liz arrived in my house that evening most of what I knew about her came from the story of a chat up line she’d once used on my friend Geoff: “I have a shallow vagina,” she said, cosying up to him in the student bar, her tone husky, “so I actually prefer small penises.”

So when I saw her staggering through my front door with my housemate Jay it was like suddenly finding myself in the presence of an eccentric minor celebrity. He slumped drunkenly against the banister and introduced me to her, his words sing-song and slurred as if a hinge in his jaw had come loose.

“Hiya!” she said, with me a cutesy wave, then lumped herself down on the floor and began unzipping her black PVC thigh boots. Everything she wore was black: her dress, her bodice. All of it standing in contrast to her hair: bleach-fried to the colour of a Hollywood smile.

Jay began to recount the evening that led to their arrival in our house but his voice gave way mid-sentence, along with the rest of him. He yawned. “I’m shattered,” he said, “I'm going to bed.”

As he stumbled up the stairs Liz shot him a dark look of disdain. Whatever plans she had for him were ruined now but she quickly adapted to the situation, turning to me, her features softening to a smile. I retreated into the kitchen, she slunk after me. “Do you want a coffee?” I asked. “That’d be nice,” she said silkily, making a show of mussing her hair while I fussed with the kettle.

“I’ve just had it done,” she said, fingering her curls and letting them drop over her Kohl-rimmed eyes. “You like it?” “It’s nice,” I said. It reminded me of a face that my niece had once drawn for me on a paper plate. Clumps of tangled yellow wool glued to the top. “It suits you,” I said.

As I reached for the sugar, she moved up close to me and began to sing a lilting folk song called “Bonnie Black Hare”. About a hunter meeting a willing maiden in the woods.

”Lock your legs around me and dig in with your heels / For the closer we get, oh, the better it feels…”

I blushed and she moved closer. “It’s an old song about a girl,” she said, “having sex.” As she spoke she tried to hold my gaze but I broke it pretending to be searching for a spoon.

“Every generation thinks they invented sex,” she continued airily. “People have been at it for hundreds of years.”

“Tens of thousands,” I replied.


“It's necessary for the proliferation of our species, it’s been going on for more than 'hundreds of years.'” “You know what I mean.” She shifted a heap of crockery out of the way and arched her back against the worktop. “I meant fucking. Blowjobs. Anal. That sort of thing.”

She used these words as if they were new to her, naughty and dangerous, like a child saying “bum” for the first time; waiting for the reaction.

“They banned me from the coprophilia forum when they found out I was seventeen.”

“Oh?” I said. Handing her the coffee, “Coprophilia,” I said, “that’s shit-eating?” She moved her mug to her lips and I watched queasily as she slurped at the steaming brown liquid. “Not necessarily,” she said, “you can put it anywhere. Well, it’s not for everyone. Look,” she said, “shall we go somewhere more comfortable?” “I’m fine here.” “But my feets hurt,” she said, pouting with her bottom lip and somehow I found myself showing her into the living room.

She sat down on the sofa and patted the seat beside her. I lowered myself onto it and she slid up close to me; our thighs touched.

“This is cosy,” she said, snuggling in. She leaned in to kiss me and I jerked away. “Don’t you have a boyfriend?” I was pretty sure she had. I’d seen her around campus, clutching the arm of a short greying guy cursed with the desperate, helpless expression of someone who knew he could be free if only he could remember his safe word.

“We have an open relationship.” “Does he know that?” “Of course, we’re both free to see other people.” I thought of him, shackled naked somewhere, as free as his choke chain would allow.

“I don’t know why,” she said, stretching her arm along the sofa behind me, “but my hymen keeps healing over and I have to keep finding new people to break it.” “I didn’t know that could happen.” “Neither did I,” she said. “But I lost my virginity when I was fourteen and it’s still there.”

She leaned in to me then and began to draw a lazy circle on my thigh with her finger. “I can’t,” I said, playing my ace. “I’ve got a girlfriend.” She responded with a smile, then eased herself down onto the carpet and knelt between my legs.

“If you just say the word.”


Which brings us back to the knife. I’d heard a commotion in the kitchen and headed in to find her standing in front of an open drawer pressing the blade into her forearm.

“Oh God!” I yelled, flapping my hands in camp panic, “what are you doing?” “Cutting myself!” she exclaimed, but she wasn’t, she was using the butter knife. She’d have had more success trying to burst a balloon with a raw sausage. But the drawer had left her with few options. A spatula; a wooden spoon. The rolling pin that came with the house. She was making the best of what she’d found.

“Please,” I said gently, edging toward her, wincing as she pressed the blade into her skin. Blunt as it was the sight made me feel queasy. “Stop that.” “Are you going to sleep with me?” “You know I can’t.” “Fine,” she said and recommenced sawing. “Look,” I said, regretting the words even as I spoke. “Just come back into the living room, please!”

I took her hand and led her back onto the sofa. Unsure of what I would do but glad we were away from the knife.

“It’s my breath isn’t it?” she said, looking at the floor, continuing before I had a chance to reply. “It’s just that I don’t like to brush my teeth. I don’t like the way it feels.” “...” “Then what? Am I ugly?”

I wanted to tell her that she scared me. Above and beyond the way women generally scared me.

“No,” I said, picturing her teeth furred with grey mould. “I told you, I have a girlfriend” “You hate me.” “No, I don’t.” “Then why won’t you sleep with me!” She ran back into the kitchen, howling. Back to the butter knife.

When the soft light of day arrived, exhaustion had weakened my resolve. I just wanted it over with. And then somehow we were at the open front door, the chill morning air flooding in. Liz slipped past me, hobbling on her heels as she stepped onto the gravel path. She began to walk away then paused and turned back to me, issuing a promise that has remained with me for twenty years. “You’ll fuck me one day,” she said, determination pulsing in her words. “You’ll fuck me. You will.”

Adam Farrer is a columnist, creative nonfiction writer, editor and spoken word performer based in Manchester, England. Since 2015 he has been one half of The Real Story (, an online publisher and reading series, working to nurture emerging creative non-fiction talent in the UK. His writing and audio recordings have been published by The Real Story, BBC Online, This Is Not TV, the Drabble, MacGuffin, Chapter & Verse and on the Tapes & Tales podcast. He has performed his work at events and literature festivals across the North West of England. Further information can be found on his blog,