Magic Tricks

cardsWe were still awake as the clock struck midnight.

But there was no great striking. In modern times, this means we were the first to see whose birthdays had just begun on Facebook. I wrote a limerick, as I do for every member of The Inky Path and my own writing groups, deliberating over rhyme and rhythm and doing my damndest to fit as much about her personality as possible into five lilting lines.

We’d had the sweetest evening here. The kind of evening that left both of us feeling a deep satisfaction, fulfillment, and gratitude that, when taken without concern for the future, is nothing short of magnificent.

Aviva and I ate French Toast for dinner. Mani spent an hour and a half on the phone with her youngest, who turned 16 yesterday in Phoenix.

Pearl came bursting in around 7:00pm after being out with friends. She was eager to show us the magic trick she’d learned during that day’s session with Mr. K., her 3rd grade teacher, whom she still gets to spend lunchtimes with now and then practicing with her two decks of cards.

She showed me first in her room, to practice, and I was truly wowed. I still don’t know how she did it! Then she came to the living room to do it again (twice) with Mani, who was also wonderfully impressed.

Aviva wandered in and out from her room, which is attached to the living room. She could hear every word of our conversation, including my more adoring ones to Mani (“I can hear you, you know,” she called out, or something to that effect). I flipped through the Barnard Magazine and read about a documentary, Deep Run, by an alumna who graduated a year after me, Hillevi Loven, “a powerful verité portrait of trans life in rural North Carolina.” It sounds amazing and just reading about it made me all goosebumpy.

We felt like a family.

We are a family.

I read with Pearl, who was falling-over tired around 9:30, and then found V flopped across our bed talking to Mani about Everything Under the Sun. She’s getting really passionate about LGBTQ+ (I am told the plus symbol stands for something like 200 other things I’ve never heard of — we’ve come a long way, baby) issues; I have this feeling her new school is doing nothing short of miraculous for her, which is that there are no cliques. People are accepting. And the gender binary, by the way, is being shattered to smithereens by this generation.

I came into the kitchen to eat a snack and have a few minutes alone. Then we kicked V out of our room — no small feat when she actually wants to hang out with us — and snuggled up. I’m now reminded of something I read last week via  Jeanette LeBlanc: Now That Lesbians Can Marry, Can We Admit They Have Sex?  (Ironically, it was under Jeanette’s roof that Mani and first found each other, in January 2012, which is what I’ve been writing about in my latest round of leading Mini Memoirs.)

And oh, yes, they — we — do. We have sex, and we fuck, and we make sweet, sweet love. We cry afterwards and we burst out laughing sometimes and last night, we knew that some secrets belong to us alone and will never leave the walls of our bedroom.

Throw in some Downton Abbey, and like I said, we were still awake as the clock didn’t exactly strike midnight, but as a single, irreplaceable day in our lives together came to a close. Then I read to Mani what I’d written yesterday, part 9 in a 10-part remembrance of that weekend we first met.

Here are the last few paragraphs:

What did we think would happen? Happily ever after? That if only we could be in one place and not long-distance, everything would be ok?


And it was. It is. Everything is ok. It matters to remember because in that moment, throughout that weekend, on that night in Jeannette’s daughter’s room where we slept entangled for the first time, knowing on some cellular level it was where we both belonged, we knew. It was easy. We were both floored by this sensation, especially in contrast to the very challenging and ultimately toxic people we’d been in relationships with as bridges from marriage to freedom to this kind of love, a heretofore unknown kind of love.

Certain life circumstances have been harder than I ever dreamed, forcing me to stand up against my own expectations, stories, fears, needs, and desires. Up against the monolithic wall of ego. Of control. Of selfishness. But remembering our first weekend together and coming home over and over to this love, this palace of belonging, I soften and find center. Climbing over her, her body regaining the curves and contours she lost to illness, I am flooded with desire again.

We could spend all of our time fretting and freaking out that we don’t have enough time. We could. Sometimes, I do.

And we could sink so deeply into the time we’re in that it becomes infinite. During a coaching session last week, the word “telescopic” came up. Yes, like that. In, in, in. Things far away become very close, and if you hold it the other way around, the opposite happens: you can look at something close up and it becomes tiny.

One great big illusion?

I jokingly begged Pearl to tell me how she did it. How’d she get the blue card on the table to change without touching it? It was a two of spades, and then it was a five of hearts.

“A magician never reveals her tricks,” Mani reminded me, on Pearl’s behalf.

Sleight of hand. Something we stand in awe at, impressed, amazed. And here’s the thing: Behind the scenes, a magician spends hours with her former third-grade teacher. She makes time to learn, pays very close attention, and practices — a lot. She’s devoted to her art.

I like to imagine that God is, too.

And I know this, too, as I sit here on a Saturday morning with strong coffee and a brand-new day begun: I’m devoted to mine. To writing. To holding space for others to write and learn from their own practice. To being wowed without asking how it’s done, and to remembering that so much goes on that we don’t ever know or see or understand. And to family. My family.

4 thoughts on “Magic Tricks

  1. Danielle says:

    hi Jena,
    I just finished reading this entry and it reminds me a bit of, “the Hours,” one of my favorite books. You describe this element of the human condition, this idea of yearning, wanting, and hungering (is that a word) for more and yet, also being content with the now. Your writing reminds me why we write, why I write, why people write—ultimately, to connect. It’s almost a bit of stopping time, and letting it exist. Thank you. Please keep writing, I’ll keep reading.


  2. daniel says:

    Jena, this is a wonderful writing. So inspiring. It’s almost beyond any words. (I also am floored by The Hours—I read the book then Mrs. Dalloway before the film, which I liked so much. It is maybe my favorite film/book/book. And I see it in you, too. And awe is such a beautiful word for this world we are all a part of and, perhaps, any notion of a g-d.)



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