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Running from Magic

by Heidi Kraay

I always sleep through windstorms. Years ago, on my way home from a theater conference in Kentucky, I drove with Molly and Lindsey to get on the Better Deal Airline in Nashville. Four tornados raced into Tennessee that afternoon and surrounded the area, making flight impossible until the next morning.

Back in our hotel room, I sawed logs while my friends huddled by the window and held their breath. Molly and Lindsey’s eyes shot back and forth from the swirling funnels outside to the weathercaster’s updates on cable all night. I woke fully rested the next morning while their eyes were bloodshot, sleepless.

After the 100-mph Labor Day storm in Syracuse that closed schools for a week and turned all the village neighborhoods inside out, I woke from a dead night’s sleep to an apocalyptic Mott Road. Trees ripped out at their roots. Houses caved in. Power knocked out for days. I was fourteen and wondered what dream found its way into my backyard. No one else could sleep the night it happened, but I zonked through it as though drugged.

Windstorms are easy. They break your house or they don’t. You die or you clean up. I wish relationships were as easy as the weather.

* * *

Daren, so proud and smug, is asleep on the couch now, snoring again. His glasses match his personality, muted and kind in soft blue. A graphic novel, The Tainted Egg Epidemic, is folded over his chest. Judging by the cover, I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be dark or humorous, and from this far away I can’t pick up the comic myself to find out more about it. I’m in my house. He’s in his.

Daren will never see me from here. He never sees me watching him. My vision is perfect and always has been, though. I see him perfectly. Every detail of his beautiful face, body and living space is vivid, except for what’s waiting for him inside The Tainted Egg Epidemic.

Washing my hands, plates and utensils again and again, I love watching him now. It’s my favorite part of the day, without question. I see right through my kitchen window blinds, across the street and into his front room. Doing the dishes is the most calming chore there is, and not just because of the hot water and quiet time by myself. It’s my way of catching up on Daren while Kathy’s at work.

If Daren weren’t married, it would be even more peaceful watching him. I could even watch him in person on a date with just his kitchen table between us — his kitchen table that could soon be our kitchen table in our beautiful house. One day, that could still be us. Daren and me. The perfect pair. I just have to deal with Kathy. Thankfully, wives are as easy as windstorms. I wish relationships were as easy as wives.

If I were cruel, I’d blow him bubbles through the dishes when he wakes from his nap. I’d send him a command with my mind powers and he’d come out from under his afternoon reading. He’d stretch and walk barefoot across the hot pavement. He’d knock on my door and we’d spend the rest of our lives together. I’d take good care of Daren and he’d take good care of me. If I were cruel.

I could do it if I wanted. I’m that magical. Then again, magic is easy, too. Too easy. I found that out many years ago.

I was twelve when I stood with Kevin in my parents’ bathtub. We clicked off the light switch and pulled the shower curtain closed. With the bathroom as dark as can be, together Kevin and I wished aloud for the super powers we admired in X-Men mutant comics. Nothing happened. Discouraged, we turned the lights back on and headed with hangdog expressions downstairs to finish Saturday morning cartoons.

My magic went to my head years later, after I’d forgotten all about my childhood wish with Kevin. Now, I can crack twenty different locks with my eyes closed. I can leap through a hoop of fire and make circus poodles jealous. I can bid a snarling raccoon to make me buttermilk pancakes. I can compel anything with just my mind — and my eyesight is just as superhuman.

When I found out that our wish worked for me, Kevin and I hadn’t spoken for seven years and I didn’t know even know where he was living anymore. So I don’t know if he’s magic now, too, or how he’s handling it. I bet he is. I bet it’s just as much of a cursed blessing for him as it is for me.

Magic rarely works in my favor. Mostly it makes a maniac out of my brain. Banshees scream from my frontal lobe into my inner ear. Sometimes I can only see blinding white for twelve-hour segments and all I hear are terrorizing thoughts from abused children and starving mothers in Africa, India and swampland shacks in the Deep South trailer parks of Louisiana. The doctors call it schizophrenia. They don’t get it. They don’t know. It’s magic — and sometimes the magic is terrible.

When magic is that terrible, even washing dishes or dreaming of my future with Daren won’t calm me. That’s when I wish my hands would come off in the soap. By then, all I can do is run feverishly from the havoc our young brain-surging beams created that Saturday morning in between cartoons and Cocoa Puffs.

When I run, I’m an animal. I draw fire from the earth’s guts and fly to oblivion. Running, I used to say, I would only do when being chased. Now, whenever my brain turns against me, it’s life and death for miles at a time. Four and five miles. Seven miles. Ten miles. Twenty.

I can push a semi-truck with all the heat fueling my gut. I push past fear, past the swarming shadow people and growling voices. I reconnect body to brain. That mad dash cures mental magic gone wrong. I run from magic all the way to sanity. I go five miles and finally cancel out that twelve-year-old wish Kevin and I made.

Human again, I reunite body, mind and spirit to function in the day-to-day world. Then I take a long nap and awake to be as normal as I can be. That is all it takes, though too often I forget the cure and end up on the floor, wishing my brain away.

I wish I could be normal like Kathy and Daren, without having to sprint away the shadow demons. I wish I could have a Daren of my own without pulling him close with magic, that I could read graphic novels like The Tainted Egg Epidemic without knowing what it’s like to live out a superhero’s life and that I could lie awake terrified by tornados and hurricanes instead of sleeping soundly in nightmares. I wish I were petrified of windstorms instead of my magical brain.

Copyright © 2013 by Heidi Kraay

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