I lost magic.
People lose a lot of things all the time. I lost a few papers the other week. I figured out they were gone in like two hours. I couldn’t get them back, but they don’t matter anyway. Like, generally. Not in the grand-scheme-of-things way.
I lost magic though, and it didn’t know about it till a few years after it was gone. I pat down my pockets to check if my keys are still there every time I get home, but I don’t have pockets for magic. I don’t even know what to call it. But let me try. Let me put it this way, it was that feeling of wanting to do something. You know, to be something. Not necessarily successful or anything, hell, nothing much would come out of the sort of things I used to do. But I still did them, you know.
There was that sense of wonder, that fear you get when your rollercoaster is on top of the ascent. Ready to drop. There were these little things. The first time I curled a football. I never was too good at it, but god that day was sheer magic. I wanted to be liked, too. I made an effort for it. Even though there was this one particular girl who wouldn’t really like me back but it didn’t really matter. It was fun. My phone vibrating was a big deal. That apprehension on hitting send, those statuses on IM programs, waiting all year for the one time she’d step down in her best dress knowing I’d skip a beat, skip a beat, skip a beat like this record player stuck in the groove. The magic groove, you know.
I still remember how staying out at night was an intense thing to be earned, I remember the wind coming in from the sea letting me know I wasn’t a very good boy for being out, and adding a wink for good measure. I remember what the sea smelled like. I didn’t drink or smoke back then, so I was always intoxicated. It was all so bright and new, and I’d zone out like a telephoto lens till all was bokeh and I’d smile. That was magic. I wanted to buy things, stupid things like guitars and bikes. I wanted to make myself. I kinda knew you could make yourself.
I know what magic was like because I still see it around sometimes. There are these contamination zones in my brain that just don’t heal. She cut her hair short the other day and I realized all those poems about her long tresses wouldn’t work any more, because she was still stunning. The pictures feel different though, it feels like she isn’t looking at me. Like earlier I’d be hiding in a corner trying to catch her eye, and now I hide in plain sight.
I still have the music from that time. All of it. Sometimes it comes up on shuffle, and sometimes I play it when the nights get a little cold and I feel like feeling magic again. Like looking at pictures of a long-lost person. Sometimes I skip songs because it gets too intense and then the present kicks back in like antibodies fighting this nostalgia taking over my bloodstream. It doesn’t do that when I’m dreaming though.
Sometimes I dream of the magic, and when I wake up it’s like I left part of myself there. Like the papers I lost, and I hope they are in a good place. I dream that I’m sixteen again, but I’m not as invisible. I can dribble a bit better, too.. There she is on the park bench. Hair still long, black under sepia. She smiles and I wake up. A song is stuck in my head. I don’t know if playing it will help or not. The present kicks in like a life-saving drug and the magic is gone.
I imagine saying things. I imagine taking her to the nice places in a cab, I imagine one shoulder smelling different the next day. There’s a balcony which overlooks a river. I go there because the music inside is bad, and she comes along because she’s holding my hand. I tell her this balcony is famous for people kissing in it. She laughs, because we both know I’m lying. She leans in anyway. I close my eyes a second after her. because I like taking pictures of magic. Or drawing them, in my head.
Till the present kicks in like a duster and cleans it all up.
But that’s the thing about magic, you know. Chalkdust still clings to your clothes and goes home with you. Eight years later my feet hide the maps of those streets like little diaries with locks on them that one good twist would break but you wouldn’t dare. My mind keeps moving like a bus driver knowing the last stop is still a bit far away. He turns the lights off because on the back seat there are two really tired teenagers, but the boy isn’t really asleep. But he’d like the darkness, because when his fingers are strong enough to caress her hair in the dark he knows it’s magic right there.
And the magic tells him to make himself, because he can. Or maybe he can’t. Point is, it doesn’t really matter, as long as he rolls his little stones up the hills and chases them down with the same glee. There are album launch lists to be checked out, and skills to be learned, and books to be read, and people to become better than, and a person to become better for. And there’s magic to be tasted lying face first in the grass, or hanging off a train door, or running his fingers through his hair because she will be here in eight minutes and the taxi’s waiting. They are going to the sea.
Because eight years later the magic will feel like a phantom limb he could juggle with, and he will feel like a taxi driver saying yes to every fare he finds because one of them will be something he once dropped a long time ago.
Magic. I mean, magic. Here I am riding through these streets again, do you know where I dropped it off? Do I?
by Srijan Dubey