I didn’t mean it. I think I don’t mean most things I do, but you have to believe I didn’t mean that. It’s like this, you know: we do things, and there is always this voice saying: do more. Act out. Don’t walk around that person, shove them out of your way. Stick out your arm in front of the kid on a skateboard. Take scissors into someone just because you can. It’s the voice we always keep quiet, that we shove aside and never tell a single soul about. I forgot once. It slipped past all the – all the barriers we make with laws and rules. I shoved the old lady in my way on the sidewalk harder than I should have.
She was in my way. Old broad dawdling along taking up half a damn sidewalk, so I shoved her aside. She hit the ground before her walker went down, the snap of breaking bone like a broken firework – no, just bones. Her hip, an arm. I froze. I could have run after that. I didn’t. I called myself some names I’ve never called anyone, not ever, reached for my phone to dial 911. Hands shaking. I was shaking so bad. There’d be police charges. Law suits. I knew that.
That’s when I heard him. A boy, couldn’t have been more than 10, in jeans and a t-shirt in winter, dragging – an older brother? Uncle? Dunno: he looked to be in his twenties but he was bland, unremarkable. You could have dropped him in the middle of a cubicle farm and he’d have blended right in. The kid was pale, with bright eyes, glaring up at me. Adults can’t get angry like kids do: they put everything into it.
“You broke the bindingth,” the kid said, like that. He lisped, odd for a kid that old. I told him to get to his therapy class and get lost. I did Karate as a kid, you know. Until I was fifteen, before I discovered girls and – well, you know the rest officers. You’ve seen it enough. The kid was faster than I’d ever been, grabbing my arm and squeezing it.
I yanked free. I didn’t hit him. I could have.
“Jay.” That’s what the man said, and I’d almost forgot him but the kid just went scared-still and backed away from me, saying: “He hurt her,” furiously.
“I saw.” The guy’s voice was dry and he just looked at me and said: “You’re staying, Martin.”
I don’t know how he knew my name. But I was, and nodded. There was something about him, about his voice. Like he knew I’d do the right thing and if I didn’t – I don’t know what. It wouldn’t have been good. That was in voice too. There was steel under it.
He crouched down beside the old lady and put a hand on her arm. He moved gently, and the kid was watching intently, practically dancing from foot to foot. Can I get a smoke or coffee, something? A donut? Fine. Okay. The guy touched her, she gasped and I saw bone snap back into place. Leg, hip, clothing mending itself, the walker’s dents fixing as well. Coming together like nothing had ever been hurt.
“You healed me,” she said, and her voice was small and strange, as if she didn’t want it, or was scared at the cost.
“You wanted to be healed.” He smiled, and the smile was so kind it hurt. People don’t smile like that. They just don’t. And he said her walker had walked to be fixed to. That even a magician can’t heal someone if their need and desire is against it.
“Like Emily,” she said, and he nodded. I guess she knew someone who took their life, kid or something? I don’t know. I guess she thought he did.
The old lady spotted me then. I think she needed to break away from kindness without limits. She grabbed her purse and the magician said no. But he said it like the kindness, in a way that couldn’t be ignored.
“He didn’t run away. We all make mistakes,” the magician said then, and his eyes – holy God. I’ve never seen eyes like that and I never want to again. They were too old. Other things, but old. I don’t mean like he’d lived centuries, just that – that he’d seen too much. Done too much. Like soldiers with that stare that goes through you because they’re seeing the past. Or a future of more wars. Only worse.
The boy squeezed the magicians hand then, tight, and the magician shook his head as if clearing it. He let out a breath. “He stayed. He was calling 911 and he stayed to take responsibility. That is all bravery is. And he won’t do harm again,” he said, and I swear his voice was deeper, stranger, weighted. Like he was making sure I couldn’t? I don’t know. I just know I fell back, turned, and ran. No one stopped me. I ran here, to the station. I think he might have made me do that.
I think that’s the least of what he could have done, so here I am, telling you about it all for the third time. I guess you can’t arrest me and none of this would stand up in any court. I don’t want to meet that old lady again, though. Or the kid or the magician.
I tried to kill a fly earlier. Couldn’t. I guess I’m going to go buy vegan cookboooks. Leave town. Find a new life. Try and forget what I saw in the magician’s eyes. If I’m going to do anything, it’s going to be that. Whatever he can do, it’s not worth eyes that end up like that.
Can I go yet?