And for my last trick. . . [Nerd on a Wire]
“If you’ve seen magic shows before,” says the Nerd, stepping to the edge of the stage, “then you know that the last trick is always the most amazing. Some incredible transformation.”
He counts silently to seven and waits for some sort of response. There isn’t one.
The audience has been watching this show for a while. Afterwards, they wouldn’t be able to remember for exactly how long. And it hasn’t been bad, per se. But it also has not provided the transformative experience promised on the fliers that had lured them into the crumbling theater on a corner in a somewhat marginal neighborhood. “Magickal Transformation GUARANTEED” the flier had proclaimed in sparkly letters that popped off the paper. And, for one reason or another (perhaps boredom or the desire to impress a new paramour with something unusual) the audience members, 20 or so of them, had responded.
They’d paid their $5 and walked into the theater at right about 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a Monday (an odd time for a magic show, they’d thought). A bare stage with a banner hanging over it at a slight angle had greeted them. The banner, written in magic marker, read: ”Magical Nerd on a Wire Show for You Yay.”
‘Magical’ looked like it had been written in at the last minute by a five year old who had figured out how to brew his own espresso.
As soon as they’d taken their seats, the ‘Magical Nerd’ had appeared. Engaging, even charming if not particularly nerdy, he’d launched into a magic act. Cards, a couple of rope tricks, some coins appearing out of the air, some fun stories. But that’s it. No big transformation. But, then, what did they expect for five bucks?
So that’s why there’s no response when the Nerd pauses. He continues:
“Just last week, for example, I saw a guy ‘transform’ three small sponge balls into live chickens. And one live dove into 2!”
A mutter from the audience: “That would be cool. Where can we see that guy?” A titter in response. The Nerd smiles.
“But that was just sleight of hand. Good sleight of hand, but hardly real magic. And I promised you real magic.” With that, he takes two cards from his breast pocket and flashes them at the audience. They are two Ace of Hearts.
“Cards always transform when you least expect it,” he flips them over and the faces change to show a figure resembling the Nerd himself precariously perched on a wire. ”They become larger,” the cards double in size, “or smaller,” they shrink down again, “depending on what you need them for. Right now,” he brings the two cards together in front of him, face to face, “I need them to make a window.”
He pulls his hands apart and a bubble appears between them. Perfectly spherical, it grows larger until it is almost as big as the Nerd himself.
As the bubble grows, another skeptical murmur from the audience: ”Neat, but he has bubble blowers hidden in his hands.” The Nerd smiles in the voice’s direction.
“Maybe,” he says, “or it might be a magical window. It might be a peek into my. . .well, what do you see?”
Talking to each other later, the members of the audience would find that they had all seen something different. A reminder of a broken promise, a dragon bellowing fire and dark grey smoke that reached out to suffocate them, a demon laughing at their efforts to see through the ‘window.’ Whatever they had seen, they all remembered the feelings.
Heaviness. Despair. A knowledge that, no matter how much they accomplished, how high they climbed, they would never feel anything but alone and useless. A burden on everyone around them. Small and powerless.
As they continue to look into the bubble, they feel it expanding around them until they’re no longer looking into it. They are, in some way that defies all reason, inside of it.
The skeptic, tearing himself away from his personal vision of despair for a moment, sums it up for everyone when he whispers: ”Oh. Shit.”
They hear the Nerd’s voice. ”All transformations begin in one place and end in another. The bigger the journey from A to B, the more impressive the transformation. This is Point A. It sucks. And it will pass. Soon.”
The feelings become more intense. Some people cry out, some tremble as the illusion takes over. Others lock their grips, vise like, onto their armrests, fighting the visions around them and breathing in short, labored gasps. These others, the Nerd approaches. ”You can’t leave Point A until you actually let yourself arrive at Point A. Let go. You’ll be ok; you’re strong enough. Seriously, it’s a cool trick, but it doesn’t work unless you let go.”
One by one, the hold outs let go. They don’t have a choice. They really, really want to get away from Point A. One of the hold-outs, perhaps the skeptical audience member, reaches out to the person next to him for support, clasping her hand if only to remind himself that reality still exists.
At that moment of physical contact, something shifts in the bubble. What had been a group of individuals enduring their own experiences starts to become a community, a disheveled tribe lured into this space by the promise of magic and transformation. As one, they silently swear that they will never go to a magic show again.
The visions and feelings start to remold themselves. The dragon transforms into a princess wearing a gown made of clouds. Demons become friendly figures, inviting into a vast field of twinkling lights. A broken promise becomes a chance for forgiveness and redemption.
The audience breathes as one, terror replaced by wonder and amazement. Later, standing outside the theater in a sunlit daze, they would share that they knew they were just in a theater all along. But that they’d existed simultaneously in the illusion and the theater. They’d then laugh a little uncomfortably. ”Mass hypnosis,” the skeptic would say, sounding skeptical of the words even as they fell from his mouth.
The audience loses itself in the bubble. Their individual visions coalescing into a single, all encompassing whole. An entire universe of interconnected relationships, discoveries, mysteries and amazement and all they have to do to be a part of it is allow it the space to happen. Gratitude fills the audience; they’re even thankful for the torture that had been the Nerd’s Point A.
Slowly, the bubble recedes. They again become individual observers, gazing into a shimmering sphere. Then the bubble disappears. It doesn’t so much burst as simply vanish. Only then do the audience members realize that the Nerd has disappeared, as well.
Looking down, they see that they each hold a playing card. On one side is a picture of a nerd-like man regarding a mean looking dragon. A quote beneath the picture reads:
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act just once, with beauty and courage. -Rilke
On the other side is a sketch of the Nerd figure leaping from the wire. He could either be flying or falling.
Beneath the picture, written in cramped type:
Welcome to Point B (the new Point A)! Thanks for coming along on the journey; I hope you enjoyed the show. Breathe deep, bravely trust in the difficult, believe in magic. And don’t try so hard. Also–maybe don’t tell too many people about this. They’ll think you’re crazy and there’s no repeat performance for at least a few months.
The cards are signed in barely legible script:
Nerd Off a Wire.
featured image credit: frozenhaddock