It is hard to describe the feeling of Magic. Like love, it feels like something concrete, something physical. It has the ability to ache and to create joy, to move along your body, ripping at your soul and nourishing you: Magic is akin to love, to desire: it is the stories we tell ourselves about our lives, about who we are and who we were, who we will be.
It is the creation of an existence, of a world, of a self, built from a darkness that is waiting to devour us.
Love, though, is the intricate and aching beauty buried deep inside everything we will ever lose.
A few years ago I met a boy named Joe. Joe was 25 years younger than me, 22 years old.
There is something I should tell you, something I can’t explain, but that feels somehow part of the fabric of magic and love, part of the fabric of the creation who of I am: ever since I was 18 I’ve been having the same dream. I have it every week. And every morning, I wake up from this dream with a sense of hope and love, and the pain of loss, of having lost something so beautiful and magnificent that for a few moments I lay in bed, stunned, not sure how I will make it through the day.
I always get up. I always make it through the day. But like some strange and golden treasure buried deep, I carry the longing for something that feels impossibly gone.
The dream goes like this:
I am riding a big wheel through a vast and endless field. The sky is dark, but a silver moon aflame in a burning white light hangs full and cold in the night sky. Ahead of me is a barn. Next to the barn is a lake surrounded by a forest of giant trees.
In the lake a giant mermaid jumps from the water and into the sky, hovering there before returning to the blackness of the water: her reflection etched into the moon, imprinted inside me.
I stop my big wheel next to the barn and I walk inside. There is a staircase.
This moment is always reflective, as if I can see into my own dream, into my self, into what is coming. I have a choice: to turn and walk away, or to continue up the stairs and to the beauty and pain that awaits me.
I never choose to walk away. But I always hold it for a moment, savoring the option, savoring the idea that if I did turn away I would never know him, never see him, never lose him.
At the top of the stairs is a large room. One of the walls is missing, looking out at the lake and the forest and the moon.
A boy, maybe 18 or 19, stands in the middle of the room. I can never remember exactly what he looks like, just that overwhelming feeling of love, of need, of longing: I just know he is the most beautiful human being I have ever seen in my life and that I love him with all that I am.
He has written the words, “He falls gently through the trees,” in black.
He turns to me. “I miss you so much,” he says, and it feels like the words are tearing into me, decimating and full of a searing heat. “I miss you so much and I love you.”
And he turns, every time, he always turns in the exact same way: he always turns away from me, and he walks to the missing wall, walking on air, into the night, above the lake, until he gets to the trees, where he hovers for a moment, before falling, before fading, before being gone.
I have no way of telling you what this dream means. The absoluteness of it. The totality. Just that in those few moments I am so in awe, so enthralled, so swallowed by life and love: that in those few moments I am given a glimpse of something ineffably full of wonder.
Joe worked as a barista at a coffee shop in Echo Park. But he was an artist. He didn’t want to be Banksy, he wanted to be Basquiat, he wanted to be Herring, he wanted to be something else: something new and old: something violent.
“I want to create that one thing that no one can turn away from, that one thing that will be so beautiful and so terrifying, so personal and intimate that you will never forget it.” He laughed. “There is no such thing, of course. The idea is the thing that is beautiful, once I make it it will be nothing. That’s the thing, right? You create the most beautiful piece of art in the world, pulled from some faraway place to show the world exactly who you are, and –”
“It never does.” I say.
“Yeah,” he said. His eyes were a golden haze, his hair dark and curly, his hands long, thin, nails perfectly cut to an almost painful precision, his body lean and tall: he was stunning.
“I’m always trying to find the words to say exactly what I mean,” I tell him. We are laying in my bed in the Silverlake Hills, LA burning bright outside my windows, he is sweating, his head on my chest, I can feel his heart beating against mine. “I am always trying to describe what it is I am feeling: who I am. I feel like all I’m ever doing is screaming: This is me! Me!”
“I want…” he hesitated, and then he laughed. He smelled of carnitas and weed and…himself. He smelled impossibly like Joe. “That’s it. I want. End of sentence.”
We kissed and he fucked me, him inside me, connected to him as he held me down and fucked himself deeper into me, grounding me. He always had this amazing way of grounding me.
I love that feeling of being pinned under someone, their weight heavy on my back, their cock deep inside me, the feeling, even if it’s just for a second: of being more than who I am: more than who we are.
He would kiss the back of my neck, his arms wrapping around me, his body shuddering, and whisper, “Baby, I’m going to cum. Fuck, baby, I’m going to cum!”
I would catch Joe looking at me, his eyes open as we kissed, or the few times we went to the gym together, or as I was standing: lost in my own world, I would turn and see him and he would smile: everything I’ve ever wanted was in that smile.
A few weeks before Jon died he came into my room. I was trying to write. He lay in my bed. We weren’t boyfriends anymore. So much of our lives had been destroyed by heroin and meth: the ravages of addiction. I lay down next to him, and I wrapped my arms around him.
“Baby,” he said.
I almost said to him, I’m not your baby anymore. Not because it was true. But because I was mad at him. Jon had been in a heroin relapse for months by then, he had stolen from me, lied to me, and I was angry.
But on that day, that one day, I didn’t push him away.
“Baby, did you know I love you?”
When Jon’s mother told me they had found his body, in the back of his car in a parking lot in Montebello, that Jon was dead: that Jon was now forever gone: I thought my whole world would fall apart. I thought the pain of that moment would be too hard to ever stand up from, to ever return from: I believed that my whole life would be forever defined by the incredible aching pain of that one second.
“Baby, did you know I love you?”
I don’t remember what I said to him. I’m not even sure I said anything. I think I just held him, wishing I could keep him safe, keep us safe: wishing I could protect him from what would eventually come.
The next time he came into my room and lay down in my bed I was mad at him. I told him to leave. I told him I didn’t want him in my room anymore. He looked at me. If I could erase that look, those words, from my life I would: if I could change the very moment I forgot who he was, who we were, I would.
“I understand,” he said, and he walked out.
What was I doing in that moment? What was so important? I was probably on Facebook, or watching Netflix: lost inside the insidious banalities of life.
I don’t have an ending for this. I don’t have some beautiful way to wrap it all up in hope and how amazing life is. I don’t know any of the answers.
I do know Jon loved me. And that I continue to love him. That I will love him forever. And I don’t know where Joe went, but I like to think he is working on that impossible painting: that forever beauty, even if it means he will fail. It would be an honorable failure.
Sometimes I think all we can do is fail in the most human and beautiful way possible. It is the tapestry of our failures that will elevate us: Magicians conjuring the impossible.
You can find my novel, Accidental Warlocks, at Amazon.com. I’d love if you checked it out. And thanks for being here. My witness.