The Touch, by Mary Rohrer-Dann
You could say Zoe had the “Midas touch,” although her touch was always deliberate. And instead of gold, what she touched, with her soft, full lips, instantly became rose quartz. Rose quartz: heart stone, stone of tenderness, of sensual imagination. It was that imagination which fueled Zoe’s ever-burgeoning abundance of crystal spires and delicate primrose spheres. Like the roses in Midas’s fragrant garden, the quartz gave off a heady, slightly oceanic perfume. Her house was a glittering pink cave turned inside out.
Zoe, unlike hapless Midas, trained her power. Only her kiss kindled transformation. She favoured men who craved domination of a subtler kind than those who trembled for whips and chains and overt humiliation. She chose masks beaded with tiny polished quartz drops, wore rose silk damask instead of black leather, preferred the steel talon sheathed in a pearl-pink velvet glove.
When dining with a new man, she ate with her teeth bared, offering a delicious frisson of terror, a whisper of the vagina dentata of folklore and Freud. If he interested her enough to take him home, she’d bind him with pink silk threads, stroke him with her seashell nails, instruct, “You must not ever kiss me on the lips.” Then, she’d give him a little Cheshire smile. “But you may kiss me there, and there, and . . .there.”
If a man was foolish enough to steal a kiss, an electrifying hardening began at his core, swiftly radiating outwards. His lungs and stomach, muscled chest and thighs, his fine chin and lovely brow became chunks of pink quartz. But all men eventually grew tiresome, and she rewarded their obedience with a fatal kiss.
It always ended thus.
We might wonder what distant trauma fed the coldness of Zoe’s heart. But the past was past and she felt no need to ponder it. Still, we might hope that Zoe, like the king whose deadly touch took away all sustenance of bread and wine, the scent of roses, even his beloved daughter, would someday renounce her touch of glacial rose. We like to think that the cruel, the greedy, the selfish repent their misguided ways. Or are forced to. We would approve–even desire–with a touch of sorrow or sympathy, of course–that Zoe get her comeuppance. She might fall so truly and deeply in love, forget her magic touch, and thus murder the only man she ever permitted to enter her heart. She might forget to take her pill and so bear a child and watch his sweet face turn to rosy ice as she welcomed him with a tender mother’s kiss.
Fiction often teaches us to expect atonement or punishment. Alas, this is not one of those stories. There was no redeeming character arc or corrective reckoning for Zoe. She continued as always, forever desirous, forever replenishing her treasure chest of intimate yet cool summer rose.
Mary Rohrer-Dann is the author of Taking the Long Way Home, (Kelsay Books 2021), and La Scaffetta: Poems from the Foundling Drawer (Tempest Productions, Inc., 2011). Recent work also appears in Philadelphia Stories, Clackamas Review, Third Wednesday, South Shore Review, Vestal Review, Rat’s Ass Review, and is forthcoming in Keystone: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania. She volunteers at Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Rising Hope Stables, and Ridgelines Language Arts. Although she has long lived in central PA, she is still a Philly girl at heart.
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