The Poison Woman

A raggedy smile, cracked around the edges, garnet peeking out from behind the shallow curtain her rough-hewn tangle of hair provided. Feathers dangled, raffia strands interwoven with keratin bands of grey and black that braided back and forth along in an invisible pattern of infinity loops. It was a curious thing, the mercury of her hair. She was so young, yet the grey of ancients was strung through the strands in strange columns of unexpected wisdom. Her eyes were the blue of an indigo day in the deep, slow heat of summer. They were so hidden behind that water-falling mass that it was a wonder anyone ever saw them. More accurately, it was a wonder anyone ever lived to describe them in such colorful terms. They were that last little weapon she concealed, penultimate to the plunge they took by raising the harmless green glass to their oblivious lips. Something in their cerise depths was just waiting to pull you down. Her patchwork clothes concealed a lithe body, little twists of thread on every hem fraying outwards like an aura of wildness. That cane, twisted in a vine that disappeared far up into her clothes, those fingerless gloves made from faded lilac lace that had seen better centuries. Even the bare feet with their toes painted red like blood and paprika. Her skin was rich, the color of that caramel layer on top of flan. Someone, impossible to tell who, had taken henna and adorned her, little intricate intimate spirals and waves and patterned tattoos of fire all across her face, her neck, her chest and stomach, her hands and legs and feet. When you see the outline, you get the sense of adoration. Whoever painted those elaborate designs loved her. An ornate way to physically manifest his feelings, adorning the beauty he could only dream of ever fully understanding. The henna is a way to show the world the work of art he sees every time he looks at her. That man is long gone, for although the original henna has been absent for some time, she has traced painstakingly over the stain, renewing it with every brushstroke, regret leaving tears of rust that trail over the slight shaking where her hand trembled enough to corrupt the sure lines. It has been months, perhaps years. In her frailty, you see the appeal she holds for them. Although she is by no means a voluptuous woman, she has a definite rounding curve to her silhouette. Those hands, an early onset of violent trembling making her appear even more fragile than she is. But when she pours out unguents and salves, liquids that will burn away sickness as they blaze a trail of fire down her patient’s throat, the slender fingers hold steady in their knowledge of sure recovery. This is during the daylight hours that her apothe’cry holds. Not every business holds their course. Her shop shifts with the twilight change from bald-faced honesty to more shaded paths away from prying eyes. Sometimes she wonders how she gets away with it. They come to her, unsure in their masculinity, wanting something that allows them control over the situation. The overly aggressive posture they take, leaning slightly too far into her counter, smirks catching stars as words pour silver honey from their iron mouths. Her elixir, the seed of the apothe’cry, erodes that cast-metal esophagus with venomous certainty. A chemical reaction, like a skillet left in clouded dishwater over night, the blood dripping from paling gilded lips rusts their sweet words. This ignorant oxidization of saccharine lines, twining their intemperate, impatient seduction over her hennaed limbs, her earrings rattling as their syrupy force collides with the tiny bones of the inner ear. Feathers stir slightly in the power of their exhalation, their mouth close enough that she can smell the sickness taking over their body with the fire they perceive as chemical delirium. She loves the sound they make as they expel a breath, a soul from the chest. If only she could catch it.
One of her greatest dreams is to capture a soul. There are so many things she wants: life, Sunday mornings, fried polenta and pancetta with just a hint of gorgonzola. She wants their metaphorical hearts, their dreams, and their dying words. She wants him back. But there are some things you can’t come back from, and while habit sustains her wickedness, nothing can sustain her broken mind quite like his fingers and his eyes, and that delightful grin that used to greet her entrance to a room. She gains a slight satisfaction in knowing that while some customers see the skulls that line her walls, interspersed randomly between the jars of miracles that she keeps on her shelves, as mere props there to put the shiver of recognition and clarity at her skill, she knows the unshakable reality. Each one is a truth, calcium and mineral that once housed the most mighty of organs. Though she puts great stock in the heart, there is no denying that those miniscule shocks of pure energy the brain possesses are a miracle in themselves. The little fires that disable their fight or flight reaction set into action by stepping into her domain. They recognize her submissive posture, her dulcet tones soothing their suspicions. It amuses her, their complete trust. Oh, they never saw it coming. They never had a chance.
Although she is aware that they have their rationale on call, each small move towards her, gravitating helplessly to the enigma she presents, is a triumph. The relaxing of the jaw, beckoning words slipping with greater frequency until their attempts become, in themselves, fingers grasping at a ledge whose fall precipitates their plunge into her arms.
She has her superstitions, grounded and proved by that small exception she will never forgive. At times, it is easier to retreat into herself, drawing them inwards with that irresistible black-hole pull that sheer emptiness provides. Other times, she will reach out, willow tree fingers wrapped around a cracked blue bottle. Oh, she swears she’s offering you something savory. One look at those cherry-blue December eyes and you’re gone. Come on, they’ll tell you, forcing that feeling of solitude on your consciousness. You’re the only one. The only one she’s ever looked like that. Stronger fingers, the ones that each man has lived with every day of his life, will eventually grasp that glass vessel and lift it up to their lips. She has gained a victory simply by convincing you of her false intentions. Now it seems a smooth intoxication, each sip they swallow, trusting that sugary flavor that glosses euphoric lacquer over their tongue. She’s never felt her life so vividly as when theirs slips away across the counter from her. Sweet breath exhales, paralyzing them in a haze they will never shake off. It takes more than one time for her to establish this rapport that will eventually crumble as they collapse to the clean-swept floor. Eyes glaze over, the last sight a stain they failed to notice, well scrubbed and hardly there, maroon on the finish of the hard wood. She laughs a little, but never makes a sound. After all, they can’t know that she’ll never laugh with them. To anyone else, it seems a cough or a sob, for she laughs but never smiles. He would know. Sometimes a single tear floods that serenity her icy irises promote. She sighs, silently mimicking her favorite sound, delicately picking up a small red vial and uncorking it carefully. The cool edge scraping sadly across her caramel cheek reminds her of all the times he watched her do this. He thought it so unnecessary, but then again he never stopped her because he knew, he understood how important this was to her. Emotion is a powerful thing, and she tries to capture it however she can. He made her feel more than she ever had before.
It’s not the first or the second time that they come in that she knows she’s hooked them. In fact, it’s not a specific visit at all. It’s when she looks into their eyes, ignorant and trusting, and they look back. Sometimes they will reach out to her, touch a bead braided into her hair. Sometimes they will stroke a feather in her voluminous cloak or trace a finger over ruched fabric covering a bird-bone fragile shoulder. They think they know her.
No, no one really knows her. Not since he’s gone. He was the only one, and she vows that he will forever be the only one. She will never expose her bare soul like she did with him. Ever since him, his pulse fading with a searing inevitability that ripped deeply into her veins. She didn’t want to outlive him, but it seemed she had no choice because, for all her poisonous ways, for all her status as an heir to aided end, she was a coward. She had no courage to end her misery, and it was sad to her that she knew he wouldn’t want it any other way. She had a new tradition, following his funeral abruptly, involving ethylene glycol. Oh silent killer, masquerade in your sick sweet serum that pours down their throats oh-so-well.
Perhaps one day someone will try to really know her again. She will force them away in any way she has to. Although she wishes for something she can never have again, she refuses to attempt to remedy her solitary nature. Blasted gravity takes another life, her happiness fleeting with each slowing blink. Time pops bubbles, and her love was just another mirage-like iridescent sphere made of fragile illusions and transitory euphoria.
Sometimes when her inadequacy hits her full force she considers the fact that one day she might fail and slip up. Somebody might figure out what she’s doing, they might not be completely enchanted by her vulnerability. They might doubt her sweetness. Another man, buoyed by success in every other aspect of his life, enters her shop. He has searching eyes, the kind that want a beautiful façade to paste into the collage that is his triumphs. Her doubt is shaken off as he shakes off his umbrella and drops it in the stand. He won’t suspect a thing. After all, at first it seems a smooth intoxication. And after that it won’t matter, because just one drop is more than enough.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback