“WHO CAN TELL YOU THE MOST ABOUT MAGIC?”
It was one of those text alerts you get from companies—without a 10-digit phone number to call back—only this didn’t sound like any company I knew. And I didn’t see an option to write “STOP” to cancel the SMS service.
“Galen Gorry,” I wrote back.
“I can hear you just fine without YOU YELLING.”
“NO. YOU’RE WEARING EARBUDS.”
A chill up my spine. I took out my earbuds and wrote, “STOP.”
But the stranger didn’t and instead wrote, “YOU HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY.”
I stared at my phone for five minutes. No answer. I resumed retouching the photos I had taken of the Santa Fe Art Colony. A few months ago, I had submitted these to a contest for emerging artists. Now I was preparing them from my Tumblr. It was Monday.
Tuesday morning, I drove through two hours of Hell “A” traffic to get to Smashbox Studios—where I do not work as an emerging artist but as a lightning technician for photo shoots—and right when I parked, I got a text alert: “YOU SHOULDN’T CUT OFF PEDESTRIANS LIKE THAT.”
What. The. Fuck. Ten minutes ago, I had turned right on National on a green light while this guy was on the crosswalk. I got pretty close. He slowed down or else I would have killed him. Anyway I was feeling pretty bad about it still, but also pretty creeped out now.
“WHO CAN TELL YOU THE MOST ABOUT MAGIC?” the stranger continued.
“You,” I replied.
“YOU HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY.”
I texted Mike and said I needed to talk to him after work.
But then around lunch, my boss swung by my desk and told me that if I stayed late to work on the Flaunt magazine shoot, I would be working as a photographer from now on. He had just fired the previous one, and he recognized how hard I was working as a lighting technician and knew I had camera skills. But if I didn’t take this promotion, he’d have to find someone else who would.
Half a sandwich was in my mouth, so he let me think about it. I logged on to Tumblr and reviewed the portraits of artists I took at the Santa Fe Art Colony. They weren’t expertly lit and the subjects didn’t have special wardrobe or makeup. But I preferred photographing this way ever since I studied Vittorio DeSica, an Italian neo-realist. I found magic in that rawness and authenticity, and none of that would be in the magazine shoot.
I left work at my usual time, and at Mike’s downtown loft, we really didn’t talk until after he scratched an itch I had. I put my dress back on and said, “Didn’t you tell me Gorry was the guy who taught everyone magic?” Mike was panting, staring at the ceiling, and wiping himself off with a tissue.
I poured myself to a glass of tequila and looked at some oil paintings, drying by the warehouse windows overlooking Santa Fe Ave. I sort of only liked one of them, and that’s sort of one reason Mike and I stopped seeing each other. Sort of. He also never had any limes for tequila.
“He doesn’t teach magic,” Mike said. “He helps you accept it, once you realize you’ve had it all along.”
“You know magic?” I grinned.
“What do you call what we just did?”
Friday, 8:52 a.m. I left my boss a voicemail that I wasn’t feeling well. It wasn’t a complete lie. My knees were red and raw because I couldn’t stop scratching them in between cigarette drags (I emptied my ashtray twice last night). I turned on my coffeemaker and thumbed through people’s Snaps and Instagram posts, until my phone shook and the screen lit up with “WHO CAN TELL YOU THE MOST ABOUT MAGIC?”
My heart thundered and I typed in the four letters I’d been thinking of all night: “I can.”
“YES. NOW GET SOME SLEEP. YOU’LL NEED IT.”
I stared at my phone for five minutes. No answer.
— F.A. from North Hollywood, CA
Art and magic are no different. But we are.
We’re from another world.