Once you’re sawed in half. Once you’re turned into birds. Once you free yourself from the straitjacket through a key your assistant passed to you when she kissed you. Once you turn a cat into a lobster underwater. You are good, very good. Then your final trick on the red-curtained stage: The Disappearing Man. Your assistant takes your hat, your wand, peels meters of silken scarves from the endless inside of your mouth. You are building it up. You are good at working it. The audience is all shadow behind the glare of electric light. You’re warm. You’re always warm before you disappear, did you notice? You vanish, behind a blue cape.
Then she can’t bring you back. When the assistant is supposed to un-vanish you, she can’t. You are gone.
You are where Bengal tigers are, and brass rings and white rabbits and dead doves.
How does one track time, disappeared? Is it months? To exist ethereally, like this, outside your body, invisible and everywhere as air? Your wife, at first stunned, seems to miss you. She pours your pulpy orange juice down the drain. She wears your magician’s jacket, red-velvet on the inside, purple-velvet on the outside. She circles your dining room chair, waving her hands over where your back, your neck should be. She serves your seat a bowl of steaming, sauceless macaroni. She clips her nails so quickly a clipping ricochets into her eye. She washes her face. She hangs a towel over the full-length mirror. You can see this, sort of, stare through this— no part of you is a body anymore.
You follow your silken scarves for miles. Where you are is hills at dusk, the sun straining lightless on the horizon. Two flocks of birds in the distance seem aimed for each other. You cannot hear their calls. You cannot feel your feet. You follow your scarves for miles. Hundreds of billions of them.
The thing about time is. It fuzzes over you like moss. You find yourself knowing your wife is over you, your assistant is over the circuit, under investigation, the tabloids think they know where you are. Who you are, without the skin and the blood and the meaty muscles and the mind, the mind is all you are, isn’t it? You feel like you’re awake sometimes, like you’ve jolted out of bed, like you’re running over rocks, like a moonbeam is lifting you up.
On rainy mid-nights in Seattle you reappear under a lamp-post. You see you have hands. You want to send a postcard. But take a few steps and you’re sucked up like black holes. You are the ether, the alter, you are light traveling outward millions of miles away. The edge of the universe is warm, did you notice? Try to reappear, you think. You leave a footprint. It fills with rain.
You reappear in a storefront window like a mannequin.
You reappear when a light-bulb burns out.
You reappear to your wife and say, “I hope that you die”—but without a mouth—so it sounds like—
You reappear. Elderly, your fingers crimped like scorpions’ tails. You know you are back because of the ache, it’s a pinched nerve running like a seam across you, like you’ve been unzipped and all your insides are squeezing hard so they don’t spill out.
You’re in the house, in the room that used to be your bedroom. The bed is still there. The curtains are new. The woman who used to be your wife appears, and you can feel your fingernails growing, and your tongue flicks out, and the hair on your ears perks up. She lifts you. She is still young. And you are light as a book jacket, as a pair of slacks, as a shoe. “I hope you die,” she tells you. “I hope you die,” you tell her. “Die,” she says, her hand hunting for a pulse. Your pulse hunting for a hand.
Front page image by annalisa ceolin.