I didn’t immediately know he was a magician. He wasn’t wearing a cape or carrying a magic wand. He didn’t end sentences with abracadabra. Rather, he worked this information in midway through our date, a conversational sleight of hand in the hazy 5 PM light that filtered through the bar. The magician wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise. In the first few minutes he extolled the virtues of both Flannery O’Connor and Henry Miller. He said something about redemption, or lack thereof. He coined the term “whimsical misogyny.” I started a few sentences about unlikeable characters and Anais Nin but he interrupted me in his fervor, touching my shoulder several times and spitting some of his drink on me as he spoke for good measure. The magician proclaimed himself “white trash,” a designer of medical studies, and a lover of art within the same five breaths: he had multiple identities up his sleeve in addition to a rabbit and the ace of hearts. The magician wanted me to know that he traveled all over the world and knew many famous rock stars. He tore up a napkin, palmed one half, and released it as a butterfly while I was struggling to palm my half into an escape route. “I like manipulating people,” the magician said. I cocked my eyebrow at him and he amended: “I like manipulating people’s perceptions.” He told me to write down the one thing I feared most and closed his eyes as I wrote. “I’m not getting a clear picture,” he said, “but it starts with an S. ‘Success’ or, maybe ‘salesmen.’ Tell me when I’m getting close.”
Rhea DeRose-Weiss currently lives, writes, and teaches in Washington, DC. Her fiction and essays have been featured in Fourteen Hills, Carve, and The Collapsar, among others. You can find more of her work at rheaderoseweiss.com or follow her on Twitter at @rheaderoseweiss.