I have a private theory that most people never do magic because they are scared of how easy it is, knowing instinctively that the universe gives nothing that is not paid for in turn. Those of us who become magicians either refuse to believe that or never grasped it at all. Terrible things happen, and most people cope with them in human ways rather than by other means. Most days, I think that makes them braver than I am, but it does give me an edge, sometimes, to dull the edges of the world for others.
Today, it was a simple matter to slow a speeding car while Jay leaps across the road and shovs a girl out of the way. The driver hits the brakes: I add force to that that insurance investigators will probably chalk up as an anomaly and the car skidds wildly, slowed just enough for Jay’s leap and save to seem entirely normal. The best magic I can work is the kind where people don’t even realize a magician worked any magic at all.
Jay looks to be a human boy of about 11; he’s neither, from far outside the universe but very good at hiding what he he. And so good at sensing and using bindings that sometimes he forgets, like now, that he can’t see at present. The girl and Jay hit the sidewalk, roll, and people are running and the girl is crying – I’d guess her to be six or seven, in a deep state of shock.
People crowd about Jay, asking if he is all right, astonished at him for saving her.
“I heard the car like a Jay,” he says, and being Jay he can’t help but be proud of most everything he does.
“It was a truck,” someone says.
“A really big car,” Jay says, and grins. His grin is huge and friendly; if he was a magician, it would count as a greater binding. Being Jay, it’s just his grin. The crowd gathers more, people laughing, asking his name, trying to make sure he’s all right. The girl isn’t discarded, but is slightly forgot and pleased that no one is yelling at her for not looking both ways before crossing a road.
I don’t smoke often. Not as a rule, I just seldom do. This afternoon I light a cigarette with a thought and smoke it as Jay explains that he was just ‘being Jaysome’ and that he was ‘all helping Honcho’ and turns toward me, but I’m just some unremarkable person watching the show. Not someone who worked magic; certainly no one worth noticing.
I scramble up phones and cameras; Jay doesn’t show up in photos or videos because he is very good at hiding his nature. I make sure no one realizes that it is Jay’s nature doing that, and Jay is asked about interviews and how he feels being a hero and he informs them he’s just Jay and not a hero and anyone can jump in front of vehicles and he’s totally fine. It doesn’t stop the crowd from checking him over, making sure he is okay, and ignoring his protests that he’s not important because I’m Honcho.
It takes Jay almost twenty minutes to get free, and that involves him manipulating bindings and marching across the road to glare toward me. “That was all kinds of mean!”
“You’re Honcho,” Jay says, meaning I am the wandering magician, meaning I am his friend, and far more than I would ever dare think I am. “And you’re Important and they ignored you!”
“And you don’t think the blind kid who leaps in front of a vehicle to save a girl isn’t important?”
“But he’s not real!”
“It’s part of who you are.” I poke him gently in the nose.
“But but but you and Dana are totally going to fix my eyes and stuff,” he says, with a trust so complete it could shatter me if I thought about it for too long.
“That doesn’t mean that this won’t still be part of your past, won’t be part of who you are,” I say gently.
“Sometimes your being Jay can be more important than my being Honcho you know.”
“Nope.” He says that firmly. “Because you’re Honcho and –.”
“And you are Jaysome,” I shoot back. “You’re good with bindings, and making friends, and you saved this girls life today. You could have saved her without my help at all.”
“But I didn’t!”
“But you could have.” I ruffle his hair gently. “You’re a hero too, Jay. Probably more of one than I am,” and I say that as a magician, in my way of speaking truth that can’t be ignored.
And Jay resists that, utterly and completely, because I am Honcho and to him I am his friend and Important. “No, you’re not! You just hide stuff well and sometimes do mean stuff because you have to but I can totally cheat like a Jay and you can’t and you’re my friend and we’re besties and I’m all a monster from Outside the universe and you’re all OK with that and my being all scary-weirdy and that makes you lots of kinds of brave and a hero and you don’t get to say otherwise,” he gets out in a huge rush.
“No. Cuz you’re my friend and I’m a hero because you make me one and push me to do really good stuff and not makes oopsies and think about what I do and that’s all you and trying to say otherwise is really mean to yourself,” he says.
“Uh-huh. And you don’t think you make me into a hero too, kiddo?”
Jay blinks eyes filled with fractured light. His eyes widen.
“We carry each other, Jay, no matter what we are. You don’t get to think you’re less than I am. Not now, and not ever.”
“Oh,” he says, very softly.
“Uh-huh.” He walks beside me down the sidewalk, putting one hand in mine and using the cane with the other. “Honcho?”
“You know that convincing me I’m totally Jaysome makes you even more Jaysome, right?!” And he grins, a giant beaming pride.