In April of 2008, the professor that molded me into the writer that I am passed away from cancer. He taught me Magical Realism. I didn’t know it at the time, but this is more than just a literary genre—it’s a way of seeing the world. It’s about seeing things that aren’t visible, tangible, or explained by science. It’s about seeing magic in the mundane, extraordinary in the ordinary, spirit in the standard. Recently I have come to realize that almost all of my writing falls into this category. I am a magical realist, on the page and in my life, because of Peter Christopher.
Watching him get sick and eventually pass was one of the most magically real experiences of my life. His voice is always in my mind as I write, and I am so thankful for that.
He would get me to produce writing that scared me. This piece is no different. Here is some magical realism for you all, and for PC. He would have ripped this apart and given me a B-. 🙂
You can’t even remember his name.
He’s Irish, but with your American ear he could be British or Australian. But once he tells you that he’s Irish, Irish is all you hear.
He says that he can hear faint twangs in the way you say certain words. Kind of Southern, he says.
His face is that of someone younger than you, you’re sure. He has unruly blonde hair down to his shoulders and watery blue eyes. He looks like most other boys except more curious, or maybe just young.
Fresh out of University, he says. He tilts his head all the way back to finish the last of his whiskey. You’ve finished less than half of your white wine. He orders another round by smiling and nodding at the waiter.
When he takes off his jacket you smell cigarettes and Dove soap. His arms are covered in colorful tattoos. You can see the muscles in his hands.
You feel something pulling at your stomach. A faint, fragile thread pulls from the center of your core. It floats through the air, translucent and towards him. It’s so delicate that the slightest breeze knocks it off course, like smoke from a birthday candle.
The thread spirals into his belly. He hardly notices.
He tilts back in his chair, balancing on the two back legs. His ankle is crossed over the opposite knee. He’s not wearing socks. He interlaces his hands behind his head. The sleeves on his cotton shirt ride up. The valley between his tricep and bicep deepens and shadows. The thread starts to twist and build.
The silence feels fine. The sun is directly behind you, beaming onto his face. He has closed his eyes and barely breathes. You can tell that he is thinking of something. A faint smile moves his cheeks.
So you’re a writer, he asks you, eyes still closed. That’s really cool. But I can’t imagine you’re making loads of cash.
I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen a load of cash, you say.
That widens his smile. No teeth yet. So it’s hard then, to make a living?
Well, you say. My kind of living isn’t that hard to make. You wonder where that came from.
That bursts his smile open wide. Teeth now, maybe even a filling. He opens his eyes and props himself up on his elbows and forearms. Yeah, I know. People always say it’s so expensive to travel. I can see the strands of green in his eyes. But it’s not. I barely spend anything.
Me either, I say.
He holds your gaze as he nods his head. He returns to his own mind. The thread keeps spinning into itself, becoming fibrous and strong. It is the circumference of a pencil now.
He says that he would love to pay for your dinner but would never insist upon it. Some people like to pay for their own things, he says. And I would never take that away from someone.
As the waiter clears your glass, you try to remember when you switched to whiskey.
Well this was great, he says, putting a hand on your shoulder. He gives you this look that you can tell he’s been doing for years. It makes his face look more familiar and suddenly you can picture him as a child.
Would it be alright if I kissed you? he asks. His eyebrows and the corners of his mouth move upwards in unison.
You know what this will cause but don’t even consider saying no.
Before he kisses you, he takes the sides of your face and holds your cheeks gently in his hands. He looks into your eyes and you wonder if anyone has ever been so unafraid to look at you. He runs his hands back until his fingers slide into your hair.
The thread spins faster now, its width equal to rope you used to climb in gym class.
He presses his lips against yours in a way that feels timeless, all Billie Holiday and Converse sneakers. You know that your love making would be effortless and earth-bound.
He pull his face away from yours, looking into your eyes again.
Alright, he says.
He takes a Swiss Army knife from his front pocket. He pulls the thread taut between your belly and his. The blade slices into the outermost fibers. He starts sawing toward the middle. You look away. Eventually he cuts through its entirety, the last strands snapping as they break.
Alright. Well that was great. Thank you. I hope to see you again.
He turns around and waves as he crosses the street, smiling like the 4th of July. The thick thread, frayed and hanging from your belly, telescopes back into your core. You try to let it dissolve, but feel it wrapping around your ribs.
Your breathing is labored, conscious, and you learn to move like this.
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