The Poet

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Asa Akira

There’s such thing as too much background, sorry

There was another student in Dr. Winter’s office, meaning Tori had every chance to toss his coffee out and run. Dr. Adam Winter, Adam to his students, was the young upstart poet every English major wanted to be. He’d graduated from their small liberal arts college only a few years ago, giving him a youthful charm that lit up the classroom. Adam was a prolific writer, the school’s pride and joy, yet decided to start teaching instead of letting his artistic career take off. He often encouraged his students to let their hearts take them to new places (whatever that meant) and considered poetry the window to the soul. His one fatal flaw as an academic was his wicked mean streak; it came out when grading papers or meeting with students to workshop a piece. Tori and her classmates whispered about whether or not he was aware he made students cry in the basement bathrooms. Based on the smile he sent the students off with, the answer was no.

Despite his occasional cruelty, there were many hopeful English students who wanted Adam to take them on as a mentee. Most of them were girls who found his poetry spoke to their hearts, though it helped that he glowed in the looks department Adam was about six five, with bright green eyes and what some students called ‘just had sex’ hair. Some of Tori’s classmates admitted they would let him tear them apart just to see his shining smile. They’d line up for his office hours, only to get their writing ripped to shreds in five minutes. During their first year, Tori’s best friend Kate returned from her 8 am appointment in tears. As she wiped the mascara stains off her face, she explained that Adam told her to re-write her entire piece after only reading the first paragraph. “He’s so right,” Kate whimpered as Tori rubbed her back. “No one wants to read a story about a talking dog anyway!”

After Kate’s fiasco, Tori swore up and down the wall she wouldn’t even touch the English department. It was a massive sacrifice to make. Though she was an Anthropology major on the Pre-Law track, Tori had been writing since she was in middle school. There was a tiny fire inside of her that grew in size when she had the chance to sit down and write; it was like crafting a new world in the palm of her hand. She didn’t have to be what she was in the real world. She didn’t have to be anything at all. Writing was her outlet, her sanctuary. There was no reason to let some peppy 30 year old destroy her hopes and dreams.

But things change, and now Tori was a junior and stuck in another class with Adam. The year prior, Kate had coaxed Tori into signing up for a Creative Writing class.

“You need a blow off class,” Kate reasoned during one dinner. “And I know for a fact you’ve written at least a novella. I’ve seen your filing system. How many of those could be published manuscripts?”

The filing system was a set of color coded folders on Tori’s USB drive. Each referred to a different form of writing. Tori had two novellas, actually, and a plethora of bad short stories she’d written during a freshman year depressive episode. There were a handful of poems, free verse, mostly, and an entire folder dedicated to world building. When Tori showed her friend the system, she carefully hid the folder labeled ‘ER’. Though Tori wasn’t exactly a good Christian girl, she didn’t want it to be public knowledge that she wrote erotic fiction.

Kate eventually convinced Tori to take the class with a coffee bribe. Flustered and a little annoyed, Tori registered for the first intro class she saw. It was only seconds later when she got her confirmation that she realized what she’d done.

“He’s going to hate me,” Tori groaned. “No intro professor likes a student who thinks they know how to write already.”

Kate scoffed. “Everyone who takes intro is either taking it for a credit, or is convinced they’re the best thing since Walt Fuckin’ Whitman.”

“Walt Whitman wasn’t even that good of a poet,” Tori muttered to herself.

“Then the bar is already set pretty low!”

And how low it was. Tori’s first few weeks were hell. Sheer, unadulterated hell. Adam loved his poets. He assigned at least one a week, tasking the students with mimicking the style of the author. Tori, who didn’t like writing poetry in the first place, managed to fly under the radar for a month and a half. She half-assed her work an hour before it was due, and contributed to analysis discussions at least once a day. Not too much to put her on Adam’s radar, but enough to get the dreaded participation grade.

Everything was fine until she sat down for her midterm review.

Tori still remembered the day when she walked into his office, holding a copy of the piece she’d marked up. It was commonplace for her to go through a number of edits while writing; even after she turned something in, she always found ways to improve the work. This particular piece needed a new ending. In a rush, she’d ended on a high note. The characters got what they wanted bursa escort bayan and it worked out for the better. Her revisions noted that, if she were to workshop the piece for later in the semester, she needed to go with her gut and change the ending. Sometimes what you want isn’t what you need, Tori decided. It would be less satisfying, but more realistic.

When she sat down with Adam, he didn’t let her get a word in.

“All things considered,” he started, “this is a good piece. You have a strong sense of how to tell a story, and great characterization. An incredible writer’s voice, too. I wish I’d seen that more in some of your poems earlier the semester.”

Tori felt the ‘But’ coming from a mile away. She readied her revisions, prepared to show him that she actually knew what she was talking about.

“But it’s hard to get invested in the piece when you don’t have a lot of details,” he said. “Most of this takes place in a graveyard, right? How come I can’t smell the grass? Feel the dirt under my feet? Your descriptions are one note and bland. We’re in the narrator’s head, but we never get how the environment makes him feel.”

It was a valid criticism, but Tori still frowned. “What about the ending?”

“What about it?” Adam flipped to the last page. “It’s good. Wraps everything up neatly. Actually, you have some better descriptions there. We can empathize with Michael as he finally sees his mother, one last time—”

“—But it’s shit,” Tori blurted. “The whole time, Michael’s finding excuses to avoid grieving. The quest to raise her ghost is a fantasy, a charade that he keeps up so his heart doesn’t break! And yeah, I guess a feel-good ending makes the audience happy, but he doesn’t need that.” She dropped her revisions down on Adam’s desk. “See, we get all the way to the climax and Michael admits to his brother that he doesn’t believe their ritual is going to work. And then it just does? So, what, he can get fairytale closure? No, that’s not what he needed. This whole time he wasn’t looking for closure, he was struggling to be open with himself. If the ritual failed, then he’d have to grapple with the fact that she is gone. Then he gets closure and admits he’s grieving.”

Adam scrutinized Tori, chewing on the cap of his pen. For a moment, she thought he was going to scold her for the outburst. Tell her that she was focusing on the wrong problem—which was clearly the descriptions—and that she needed to rewrite it.

He stuck the pen behind his ear, so the red cap stuck out under his messy brown hair. “Victoria—”

“—Tori—” She muttered.

“—all month long, you’ve done the bare minimum for my course. You contribute once a class, turn in your poetry five minutes before its due, and don’t engage with your classmates. Do you know what grade you have at this point?” Adam scanned her, watching for any sign she’d burst into tears.

But Tori simply shrugged. “A B minus?”

“An A, actually. You have an A.” He turned to his computer and pulled up the class midterm report. Amidst a sea of B’s and C’s sat three, lonely A’s. The other two were assigned to actual English majors. The last one sat smack dab in the middle of the report, across from the name ‘Lovelace, Victoria’. “You’re a great writer, and apparently know way more about what you’re doing than you let on. So how come my best student doesn’t give two shits about the class?”

An easy answer, in Tori’s opinion. “If I don’t seem like I care, no one will know that I write.”

“You write?” He repeated. Adam checked his watch, before standing up and going to his door. Tori tensed, listening as he told the stragglers he was going to need more time than the allotted fifteen minutes. After an apology (and no doubt one of his award-winning smiles), Adam pushed the door shut and returned to the desk. Clasping his hands, he leaned forward and said, “Tell me more.”

Thus began what Tori would later consider the biggest mistake of her life.

“Do you think he’s going to have the sweater on?” One freshman student chattered behind Tori. “It brings out his eyes in the right light.”

The junior did her best to not scream. She knew exactly which sweater the girl was talking about. She was uncomfortably familiar with it.

After that midterm, Adam had taken an interest in Tori’s work. He regularly checked in on her progress, poking and prodding until he got an answer he liked. When he wanted another opinion on his own pieces, he’d send it to her for a critique. Tori learned early on that he took very well to harsh criticism. He relished in it, actually, and she at one point wondered if he was both a sadist and a masochist.

Adam’s constant pestering meant Tori was required to spend a lot of time in his office. She began to notice a lot of things about him that she’d rather avoid. Like the fact that he filled out skinny jeans very well. Or that he sometimes changed his shirt in the middle of the day, often when Tori was scheduled to come in and discuss his work. The görükle escort man was fit, much to her chagrin.

“I bet he’s got jeans on today,” another freshman said. “Adam loves his casual Fridays.”

Tori had half the mind to let them go ahead of her. She was only there to deliver him coffee…and to ask for his advice on a new creative piece. Though he was her unplanned mentor, Tori still struggled with asking for help. It was particularly hard to ask him about her personal work, which was much closer to her heart than any assignment for class.

The piece she was bringing in today had already been heavily edited. Tori recently discovered that her one writing weakness, detailed descriptions, had come back to haunt some of her online work. She’d started publishing short stories under a pseudonym, but found in the reviews that her pieces lacked the details the readers craved. Adam ragged on her a lot for the lack of detail. If anyone was going to help her improve, it’d be the poet. All Tori had to do was leave out a few, key sections. Adam didn’t need to know he was helping her write porn.

Adam’s door swept open. A sophomore Tori recognized from her intro class exited, her eyes red and watery but not at the point of a full blown breakdown. Those would come later, ideally in the stairwell or the basement.

“Who’s my last appointment?” Adam asked from inside his office.

Tori groaned. “Sorry, ladies,” she said to the first years. “I was here first.” Stepping into view, she held a coffee cup up to him as a greeting and walked inside. Tori kicked the door shut, a reflex she developed after a high English senior stumbled in on her trying not to cry. The tears were unrelated to Adam and more about her personal life, but she still didn’t want anyone else seeing her as a mess.

“Is that for me?” Adam chirped, eyeing the coffee cup.

She set it down on the desk with enough force to slosh the coffee back and forth, spilling out onto the paper he was reading. “Whoops,” she said blankly. “Hope that’s mine.”

“It is,” he snickered. “I was going over your recent contribution to the newsletter. I uh, loved the section where you described in detail why the English department needed a restructuring.”

Taking a sip from her travel mug, Tori said, “You shouldn’t have to take an intro course if you want to be in higher level creative writing classes.”

Adam pouted. “Then you wouldn’t have had me as a professor. I’m hurt, Victoria.”

“That’s the point.”

These standoffs were common. Adam opened on a cheery note, Tori shut him down, and they stared at each other for a beat in a game of non-verbal chicken. Whoever spoke next lost.

“So what did you bring me today?” This time, Adam was the loser.

Tori grabbed the piece from her backpack, which she then dropped on the floor. She slid the paper across his desk so he could read it. “I need help with my descriptions,” she admitted quietly.

“I’m sorry?” Adam cupped his ear. “I couldn’t quite hear that.”

“I said,” Tori repeated, “I need help with my descriptions.” She looked away when he winked at her. “Don’t look at me like that,” she added. “You’re getting too smug.”

Adam picked up the paper. Skimming it over, he asked, “This for fun?” Tori nodded. Adam plucked his pen out from his hair and instantly began circling sections. Tori thought they were pieces that needed more details, but soon realized they were gaps. Holding up a page, Adam asked, “Why are there significant gaps in the narrative?”

Because I wasn’t counting on you being that smart, Tori thought. “Those sections were fine.” A lie. They were the erotic bits, the things she actually needed help on but wasn’t going to ask him about directly. If he could just focus on the rest of it, Tori could adapt as needed.

But Adam waved it in her face. “Why do I doubt that?”

Tori shrugged. “Because you’re a poet and you don’t know better?”

Adam sighed. He set the paper down, turning it toward Tori so she could focus on specific sections. “Victoria, I don’t know why you’re giving me an incomplete piece. I do have a guess, but it’s going to embarrass you.”

She held her ground, taking another sip of coffee and saying, “I can handle it.”

Adam highlighted the first gap. “Before this cut, the two characters are in a heated debate. The dialogue is just filled with tension that can only be resolved with intimacy, and yet the next section they’re fine. There’s an implied resolution, but it’s not logical. The reader doesn’t know what happened, and not in a fun way. And here,” he flipped the page over, “the section starts with an emotional encounter in a hotel, before ending with them going their separate ways at an airport. No summary, no scene change, nothing.” Adam turned two pages back and added, “And here you just forgot to take out the thing about a blowjob.”

Fuck.

“Which,” Adam continued, “I would agree needs a better description. It reads like you’ve never given a blowjob before.”

“Fuck bursa escort bayan off, I totally have.” Tori’s mouth worked faster than her mind. She froze, eyes widening in horror. “U-uh,” she stammered, “I didn’t—I mean, you didn’t hear that.”

Adam arched a dark eyebrow as he cocked his head to the side. Closing the piece, he said, “Let me get this one straight. You came here asking me for help on your erotica, but didn’t want to bring in the actual erotica portions?”

“No shit.” Tori squirmed in the chair. Adam was looking at her like he could see through her. No one looked at her like that and had good intentions.

“This would be easier for you if you just brought in the whole piece,” Adam said. “I’m not a conservative guy, Victoria. I can write about sex if I need to. And you’re the kind of person who I’m willing to help, even if it’s with a stickier subject.” He flicked his hand toward the floor, where her backpack leaned against the desk. “Come on. I can handle it.”

Tori should’ve left. Pack up and forget it ever happened. But over time, Adam had developed a strange magnetism that kept her from leaving. Maybe it was because he actually gave her good advice within his criticism. Or maybe it was because every time he praised her work, she felt her pussy clench.

No, Tori was no stronger than the girls who lined up at Adam’s door seeking his critiques. She just did a good job of hiding it.

Her limbs moved on their own. Mechanically, she pulled her laptop out of her bag and opened it up. Searching through her files, Tori found the one she needed and opened it. In that time, Adam rounded his desk and stood behind her. “Chop chop,” he taunted her. “I don’t have all day.”

“Here it is.” Tori tried to offer the computer to him but found herself trapped. Adam leaned over her, resting his arms on either side of her. His toned, muscular forearms that made Tori shiver when he wasn’t looking. “Can I at least get up?”

“Nah,” he dismissed it. “It’ll only take a second.” Adam began to skim through the document. An incredibly fast reader, he got two pages into the document before stopping. “Here we are,” he said to her. “This could use some work.”

It was the scene where her characters fucked over a kitchen counter. Tori winced. She’d rushed the ending (another bad writing habit), speeding up the intercourse so it was over in one paragraph.

“You don’t feel the passion,” Adam narrated. “I want to know what Ivan feels when he thrusts into her. That’s the point of erotic writing, correct?” Adam pointed at the screen, his body so close that Tori could smell his cologne. His face was hanging inches above her shoulder; if she turned, they’d be practically nose to nose. “For example, you could try writing ‘He pounded her into the table, her warm cunt tightening around him with every thrust.”

Tori’s head spun. She couldn’t move, afraid that if she did, he’d smell the arousal between her legs. Her thighs squeezed together in an attempt to stop him from catching on.

“Or here, when she’s sucking him off,” he added casually, “what about the sensation of having a cock down her throat? Can she breathe around the thick member? Does she want to?”

Her mind betrayed her. All Tori could see was Adam, clutching her head in his hands as he fucked her mouth. Her throat closed up, wondering how it felt to have him use her that way. How it felt to have his dick buried in her, how it felt to service him until he covered her in his cum, how it felt to—

“Victoria.” Adam’s voice was a low purr, hot on her neck. One of his hands rested on her wrist, while the other had dropped to her thigh. When had he moved?

“Yeah?” She rasped. Her voice didn’t want to leave her throat, afraid it would get ahead of itself and say something it would regret.

Adam’s hand slid down her thigh, settling on her kneecap. He tapped her knee, musing, “You seem distracted. Is something wrong?”

Tori swallowed a comeback. “No,” she said stiffly. “Can we get this over with? I have to be somewhere after this. I have…” She wracked her brain for an excuse, finding nothing. “Something,” she settled on.

Adam’s hand slid off her knee. “Very well. Let’s move on.” For a brief moment, Tori thought he’d finished his shenanigans. Then Adam spun her chair around and forced her to face him. He lifted her chin up that she wasn’t focusing on the massive bulge growing in his pants. Adam tilted her face from side to side, trying to memorize every detail, every perfection and every flaw. “I find that the best way to learn is by doing. So you have two options,” Adam said. “You can turn around and pick up your piece, so we can continue our editing.”

She inhaled. “And the second option?” Tori kept their eyes locked. As long as she kept her eye contact, she wouldn’t look at his dick. It sat tight against his jeans, waiting for a release.

“You can get on your knees and let me show you how to improve.”

Subconsciously, Tori licked her bottom lip. She was a writer with ambition, in need of assistance in improving her work. The last shred of sanity left in her mind screamed at her to turn around. Let him actually help her improve the writing instead of fulfilling some third rate fantasy. But her body—her heart—was in control. She read the hunger in Adam’s eyes and her core responded.

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