Tara’s superpower was seeing the vestigial parts of her lovers. It started with the virgin sporting shadow wings. After they made love, the wings detached and fluttered about them like moths. The instructor from the spin studio with thighs like Tina Turner wagged his vestigial tail like an eager Golden retriever puppy. She knew he was about to climax when his tail went stiff and pointed to the sky. “Did you lose something,” the waiter at Petite Provence Patisserie in downtown Portland asked in his pseudo-French accent when he caught her inspecting him—his head, his back, his legs. She almost brushed him off, but when they got into bed, she saw his extra toe. It winked.
Tara drooled with each discovery. She bought a charm bracelet, adding a silver trinket for each one. A butterfly—because she couldn’t find a moth charm. A dog with a long shaggy tail. For the toe, she had to drive to Key West, Florida and visit Ernest Hemingway’s home where she picked up a charm of one of Hem’s polydactyly cats.
Tara went on a bender, as ravenous as any rabid animal. The more she practiced her superpower, the better she got. There was the surfer at Oceanside with a nubbin, a third nipple. The sommelier at a Willamette Valley winery whose wisdom teeth glowed fluorescent. The flight attendant whose appendix pulsed as if an alien was going to burst out of her gut at any second. Tara’s charm bracelet grew heavy. None of her lovers were in the circus. None were freaks. To anyone else, they passed as unremarkable. The funniest was a coder at a tech company, so serious, with ears that flapped during foreplay like an elephant after a double espresso.
The repeats were inevitable—and disappointing. The tail turned out to be pretty common. Then, probably, the toe. And, of course, the appendix. She didn’t double-up charms on her bracelet, but it was getting harder and harder to find anything novel, and she wasn’t getting any younger. But she was getting frustrated. She wasn’t achieving the same high anymore, and it was taking her longer and longer to orgasm.
The darling professional soccer player with ethereal eyes—something magical in those fair-colored irises—arrived just in time. Her nictitating membranes, third eyelids, fascinated Tara how they swiped her eyes the way wipers wash across a car’s windshield. Tara looked from one orb to the other. She stared so long and hard that the woman proposed even before they made love. Tara’s superpower didn’t allow for settling down, but the way the woman looked at Tara tumbled the tectonic plates of her being. Tara slipped out in the morning, not even offering to pick up her favorite Mikey’s Blend from nearby Deadstock Coffee.
Weeks later, it was 110 degrees, and everyone in town was complaining how it made them lethargic, so Tara set off for Multnomah Falls. On the trail ahead of her, she saw a guy, his dark curly hair protruding from the neck and armholes of his tank. His back was as thick as a bear. Tara didn’t normally go for hairy guys, but she rolodexed her mind for possibilities. The prehensile lips of a ferocious grizzly bear? The vegan diet of an adorable giant panda? The slow deliberate moves of the sloth bear? Later, she could only reason the heat was her kryptonite.
Turns out the guy, Todd, had the Palmar grasp reflex of a chimpanzee. “I’m never letting you go,” he said.
They both worked from home, their desks side by side. Todd went with her to the grocery store and gym. When she got a pedicure, Todd got a manicure. No matter how hard she tried, Tara couldn’t shake the guy. Finally, Tara acknowledged her superpower had met its match, and she threw away her charm bracelet, too many painful memories. But before the garbage truck came by the next morning, she ran outside. She could never forget the way the soccer player with the nictitating membranes looked at her. Tara rummaged through Q-tips and empty toilet paper rolls and returned to the house cupping the soccer ball charm.
Kim Steutermann Rogers lives with her husband and 16-year-old dog Lulu in Hawaii. Her essay, “Following the Albatross Home” was recognized as notable in Best American Travel Writing. Her journalism has published in National Geographic, Audubon, and Smithsonian; and her prose in Gone Lawn, The Citron Review, Bending Genres, Atticus Review, CHEAP POP, Hippocampus, and elsewhere. She was awarded residencies at Storyknife Writers Retreat in Alaska in 2016 and 2021 and Dorland Mountain Arts in 2022. Find her on social media @kimsrogers.