George Street, St. Augustine, Florida, 2017. The inside was painted black with a tiny stage and hot despite two ceiling fans and two anemic portable air conditioners. We had bought the jumping lights, multiplying red sponges and a trick deck for my son when he was ten. He is now thirteen; in the slanting light of adolescence, the dusk of his childhood. We found the magic shop again just a few weeks ago.
We went looking for it to buy a flaming wallet, a purchase my husband had forgone on our first visit - a choice he bitterly regretted. He couldn't have been more eager to part with $70 when he found out they were still available. Unfortunately he got very good at the trick very quickly. It really turns into a fireball.
While we were paying for the wallet we spoke to the magician, mid thirties with puppy dog brown eyes. He remembered us from two years before. He had long hair then, and when he showed tricks to the customers he used the stage and he was fine. But lately he hadn't been fine. Suddenly he was telling us about not being fine and said that he always wanted to visit England but he was too scared to get on a plane, fear of flying and what could he do about that.
In an intensely American way at a magic shop he put his cards on the table, saying the truest desires of his heart, inspiring in the listening humans a similar unguarded heart. He was doing something that -for British people- is much scarier than flying. He was exposing an unguarded heart. He only had a few seconds with us at the till. The walls and traps we erect as protection are very time-consuming. In Britain you have to talk about the weather for, well, fifteen years and counting.
I didn't really reply other than I couldn't keep my eyes off him. He had got to the heart of the matter in fifteen seconds. I am older now and more careful in my advice. What the hell do I know anyway? We did not give answers and my kids were already outside the store jonesing for ice cream so it was just me and R looking at him, but in my own slanting light I think maybe that is an answer, that all these stupid words are not at all the magic.