Roger doesn’t know that Kaitlin has magic fingers. He looks at them, entwined in his own, and thinks they are just regular girl fingers. They are shorter and chubbier than his last girlfriend’s fingers, but he has no reason to suspect they are unusual in any way. Kaitlin unhooks herself and runs her nails over the soft skin at the base of Roger’s neck. Feeling her magic fingers tingle, she pulls her hand away sharply. Don’t stop, he says. She pretends she doesn’t hear and rolls out of bed.
It is the early hours of the morning and Kaitlin’s head aches. She met Roger last night in a small bar with too many corridors that all looped back on each other, so no matter which way she turned, she always ended up back in the room filled with pinball machines. The sound of clanging metal balls felt like pop rocks exploding inside her head. Roger took her hand and led her out the back door, but even outside, her body felt like an arcade.
All night, Kaitlin and Roger had been drinking whiskey with chasers of pickle juice. Kaitlin liked the taste and the way Roger ordered them with confidence. When they kissed in the back smokers’ garden, his soft beard rubbed on her face and made her think of eating cheeseburgers while lying in a field of plush grass.
Kaitlin doesn’t want to use her magic fingers on Roger because she used them on her last boyfriend, Kenny, and she’s still sad about how that turned out.
Sometimes, when Kenny was at work, Kaitlin waited for him to come home by the window. Perched in a creaky wooden chair in her underwear, she would look at the stars trying to break through the downtown L.A. smog – bugs bashing against a light fitting. The warm breeze would lift the ash from the ceramic saucer on the fold out table so that staring across the room, waiting for the door to open, she felt like she was watching a snowy television set.
Late in the night when her eyes were growing tired, Kenny would come home from the dive bar where he worked, flop down on the bed, and say, tickle my back, baby, just a little. When Kaitlin ran her fingers over his wide shoulders, he purred like a plump moggy cat. One night when her fingers started tingling, Kaitlin said, I think you should quit smoking. Kenny nodded slowly, anything you say, baby. The next day, she cleaned the ash from the plate, and when she got back from buying coffee, was surprised to find it still clean. That night, when Kenny came home from work, he still didn’t smoke any cigarettes.
Soon, Kaitlin realised her magic fingers could make Kenny do anything she wanted. Walking down the street, she ran her nails up Kenny’s arm and said, wouldn’t you like to buy a t-shirt like that? He nodded his head, went inside the fashionable retailer, and came out wearing finely woven cotton. She patted his back and thought he looked so good in his new shirt. Smile, she said, snapping a photo on her mobile phone. He bared his white teeth and she didn’t even apply a filter because he looked so vibrant.
Kaitlin used her magic fingers in cafes, on the train, in the park. By the end of the summer, her hands grew very weak and tired, but Kenny had taken up running, was volunteering for a local charity, and was going down on her two to three times a day. Kaitlin knew she should be very happy with this arrangement, but she wasn’t. She missed the old Kenny that tasted like nicotine, watched horror movies until his sweaty limbs stuck to his plastic mattress, and called her names while he spanked her from behind.
One night, when Kenny got home from work, she ran her magic fingers over his back and said, I’m leaving. When his face crumpled like the used tissues in the bedside wastebasket, she ran her fingers over his face and said don’t be sad. She ordered a taxi to the airport and waited in the street, taking in the grimy lithograph of buildings for the last time.
At the airport, huddled in an uncomfortable plastic chair, Kaitlin cried a little, but she knew the person she was crying for didn’t exist anymore. Her fat tears turned to marbles as they hit the slick airport floor, skittling off in all directions. A little girl with dark ringlets giggled and chased after them. Don’t cry, the little girl said, scooping up the marbles that had come to a stop right next to Kaitlin’s tattered white sneakers, it’s just a fun game.
Kaitlin noticed how the girl’s small fingers disappeared into her jeans like burrowing worms, and she wanted to warn her not to let them creep away from her, not to let them take on a life of their own. She wiped her tears as the girl’s mother rushed over and pulled her by the hand towards the boarding gate.
Getting ready for her second date with Roger, Kaitlin fits small domes of cotton over her fingertips. She bought them yesterday at the Daiso in the city, delighted by the small plastic packet labeled finger socks that she happened upon under the fairy floss glow of shop lights. She didn’t go into the store looking for a solution to her magic finger problem – she went in looking for cute pens with animals on them, some fake eyelashes, and a travel toothbrush – but holding the finger socks in her hand, she couldn’t help thinking it was fate that brought her to the discount retailer.
Hearing the doorbell ring, Kaitlin fastens the last sock so that it looks like she has just dipped her fingers into a freshly blown out candle. Roger stands in the yawning door holding a bouquet of cheap flowers bought from the servo across the street – she recognises the fluorescent orange price tag. He smells like cigarette smoke mixed with Old Spice, and his shirt is untucked. Kaitlin leans in and kisses his cheek, her sheathed fingers brushing his arm. What are those? Roger asks touching Kaitlin’s hand. You don’t like them? She feigns sadness. Roger leans down and whispers in her ear, I bet they will look better on my bedroom floor later. He laughs a deep laugh that sounds like the humming engine of a well-used 4WD. We’ll see about that, Kaitlin says, fluttering her heavy fake lashes, and they set off towards the cinema.
Samantha Trayhurn is a member of the Writing & Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University where she is completing her doctorate. Her work has been published in Overland, LiNQ Journal, eTropic and others. She is the founding editor of Pink Cover Zine.