…you’re not alone. Walking home last night, filled with the innocence of hope after a tenuous success, I thought on the notion of magic; why we require it, why we search and yearn for it. It is very much, I think, like the search for a soul mate. For a perfect, cosmic connection within the din of the universe inside of which we might cocoon ourselves with satisfaction. Being just what we are, clothed evolutionary mutations ambling about first on two legs, then 4, then 4 wheels, then two wheels – oh, wait. The Segway’s kind of a bust, isn’t it? Anyway, being just what we are is never enough for us. Whatever compelled us to vault from the mud compels us even further still, giving us the impetus to create entire worlds other than our own. Video games, science fiction movies, action heroes and delicate flowers sneaking come-hither stares at tea time have all been invented by us to convince us that beyond what you are, there is something else out there.
Show of hands: Growing up, who wanted to be invisible? Read minds? Start fires with the sheer outpouring of energy from your eyeballs? Run on walls, perhaps? Turn into a bird and fly to an untouched island; a cheetah and race across the African plains; a fly and sit on a secret wall? I wanted to do all of those things and then some. Magical happenstance is an enormously tantalizing daydream and is the whole reason I write at all. My brain is always buzzing with situations I will never be in, surrounded by the inevitability of fate and of forced camaraderie needed to save the day. Lightning bolt, plus four.
But last night, I did something very plain and human: I made food for some people and they ate it. Those that enjoyed it, raved about it, those that didn’t – well, frankly, those that didn’t can go eat at McDonald’s. However, there was a satisfaction even in that dichotomy. A small, triumphant thrill ran its marathon from my toes, up the backs of my knees, took an upshot through my stomach and spine, finally landing somewhere around the corners of my lip with a gasp, forcing a sincere, unadulterated private smile of bliss from my mouth. On the subway car home, an older gentleman was playing what sounded like a French lullaby on a very serious harmonica. (when I use ‘serious’ here, I’m referring to size).
Scene: A 20ish woman wearing a bemused expression enters the subway car. Adjacent to her an older man in a brown checked shirt and matching orthopedic shoes sits slouchily and makes love to his harmonica. Pulling each vibrato note out deftly with his veteran lips. The woman listens.
He opens his mouth and brillo pads on cheese graters in a thick, european accent comes out:
“Excuse me, miss. You look like you like music, tell me, did you enjoy that?”
“It was magic.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you. I wrote that song, you know. Are you British?” The woman looks up, having heard that question in her direction before.
“Are you British?”
“Ahhh, Irish songs are very difficult. Very difficult to play. I play three myself, can you guess which ones?”
“Yes! Everyone play this one, obviously. Also ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’, which is American song! and ‘On the Road to Tipperary’.”
“Do you know Molly Malone? I am particularly fond of that one.”
“I only know one other Molly and that was a long, long time ago.” He stops talking and plays Molly Malone until the woman disembarks.
I learned last night, that magic is not illusion, slight of hand, or fantastical force. It is human, it is visceral and it is in the moments you didn’t even know you were looking for.