by LaTanya McQueen

Because of her own curiosity she said yes when he asked her to put the bit on him. The bit, or gag, was an iron mask shaped like half a moon with a hook that went around the front of a person’s head. A spiked collar connected to the mask through a lock at the back of the neck.

He collected historical artifacts like these, the iron bit and scold’s bridle women were once punished with wearing, the shackles and chains forced upon slaves, items all from a not-too-distant era. When she asked him why, he told her he had a fascination for history long forgotten.

“Forgotten?” she asked and he shrugged in response.

She was used to men wanting things like this from her, to be blindfolded with her wrists cuffed and legs tied. She’d been expecting a day to come when he’d ask her if she would wear the bit, because hadn’t their relationship been leading up to this? Men, both white and black alike, were always asking in various ways to put her in this position, one of servitude, of serving. They wanted her on her back with her legs spread, body motionless, a mouth open only for moaning or what he’d force in. So many of them held this secret desire within themselves but eventually, with time, they always found a way to tell her.

She picked the bit up. As she felt its weight, she imagined what her fore-bearers must have experienced as the iron was fastened on. “Where did you get this?”

“eBay,” he said. The simplicity of his answer made her laugh. She asked him if it was real.

“I think so. Go ahead. Put it on,” he urged, and she did.

He couldn’t swallow with the bit on and so she placed several towels on the bed. If he wanted though, he could make sound—rumblings, feigned attempts at speech, but instead he chose movement over sound, using hand gestures and pointing. He wanted her to put the rest of his devices on him, the iron collar and leg shackles.

“No, I can’t do that,” she said, resisting. She sensed a line would be crossed if she went further, but he gestured again. He stamped his foot down and made a garbled yell. In response she picked up one of the heavy iron shackles. “Are you sure?” she asked, and he nodded yes. “Fine. Hold out your leg.”

She put the collar on last, and then because he wanted to, she fucked him while he wore the shackles and chains, but during it she felt the dynamic between them change. No longer was he the man she’d been seeing. She looked down at him and saw no one. Stripped of any familiarity, he became a face like any other.

After they were done, he asked her to help him take it off. She held the key in her hands. He let out a monstrous wailing, unrecognizable to her except for its sense of urgency. He leaned over so she could unlock the bit. He made the sound again and waited. Deep down she knew that this was his fear, and at the same time that she realized this, she also recognized something within herself—a sense of unexpected longing for what she’d never had. And now that it was here, she wondered how she’d ever be able to let it go.


LaTanya McQueen received her MFA from Emerson College, her PhD from the University of Missouri, was the 2017-2018 Robert P. Dana Emerging Writer Fellow at Cornell College, and in the fall will be a Visiting Assistant Professor at Coe College. Black Lawrence Press will publish her essay collection, ‘And It Begins Like This,’ in October 2018. Her website is

Illustration by Devan Murphy

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