The summer I learned the truth no one admits
Back in the summers when I was still in middle school, I always had a lot of other kids around the neighborhood to play with. Those were the days before computers and video games. We made up our own games. None of us were great at sports, so we never played ball. We were all on the nerdy side.
Most of us in the neighborhood were about the same age; there were a few younger brothers and sisters and one older kid. That was Jack, he was small for his age and stuttered when he got excited. He was an okay guy. His stuttering always made me smile. I felt sorry for him, but I also thought it was kind of co-co-cool and sometimes I wished I could stutter too.
A lot of our ideas for games came from books. Tommy and his brother Eric loved Hobbits. They came up with pretty good Hobbit voices. Jannie and her little brother Jim loved detective stories the most. We all liked being spies or hunting spies. We were ready to take out the bad guys who were usually Soviets, but sometimes they were Germans. Eric and John liked playing bank robbers, or train robbers like Butch and Sundance. But the whole cowboy thing didn’t really work because you had to pretend to ride a horse, and then you looked pretty stupid.
Everyone would assign themselves a role, and then it seemed like we’d all agree on the rules as we went along. Someone would throw something out, like “hey I’m invisible now because I’m wearing this ring.” And we’d all be like, “okay, I can hear you, but I can’t see you.” There was a seamless transition between our imaginations and our actions that felt magical. At least for a while until we’d lose track of the rules or someone went overboard like suddenly, out of nowhere, they’d have laser gun when everyone else had a regular gun.
We’d play all day. We only stopped long enough for lunch and dinner. We always had to be back home by 8:00 pm. There was usually something on TV to watch like Kid Dy-no-mite. The next day we’d all be acting like J.J. rhyming and trying to be as cool as him, but no one got close except Jannie. Even though she was a girl, she was the best J.J. in the neighborhood.
One day in the middle of July, a new family moved into the neighborhood. We saw the moving vans pull up to the yellow house on the corner that had been empty for years. We were surprised as anything. We were sure that house was cursed. No one remembered the people who used to live in it. Someone said everyone who lived there had died, and it was haunted.
Sara and Nick thought the people moving in looked foreign. But I pointed out those were the movers. We got out the binoculars so we could have a good look inside. We watched the movers carry in the furniture. We kept looking for kids, but we didn’t see any until the next day when we saw a boy and girl looking out the window at us. Then they turned away, and a woman closed the curtains.
We debated about knocking on their door and asking them to come out and play. In the end, we decided, if they wanted to play, they could come out ask. We thought they would, but they never did. It seemed like they stayed inside the whole summer. Can you imagine? When we were playing one great game after another, they were in their house doing who knows what.
The boy looked like he was eleven or twelve and the girl was probably ten. We started playing games with them. I always thought it was too bad they didn’t know. Sometimes they were prisoners we wanted to free. Other days they were an evil prince and princess plotting to take over the kingdom.
We usually called them Boris and Natasha. One Sunday, Nick and I were the only kids playing. We set up a stakeout of the corner house where Boris and Natasha were locked up. Nick and I saw the two adults leave without the children. That seemed strange to us. We dared and double-dared each other to knock on the door and say hello.
Before we could, the kids came out. They stood on their porch looking at the sky. Nick and I waved at them, but they didn’t see us. The girl jumped first. The boy followed. I had never seen anyone jump so high before. It must have been ten feet at least. They landed as if it was nothing. Then they did it again. This time they both got higher. That was when they began to fly.
They didn’t fly the way Superman did. It was like they were swimming. The air was like water to them. Nick and I were standing there watching with our mouths open, too stunned to speak.
At that moment, I wanted to jump and fly too. So I stepped off the porch, closed my eyes and focused my thoughts on their jumps, then I jumped. I only got 5 feet off the ground the first few times. Nick watched, and then he started too. After a while, we started getting higher and higher. Then, at last, we did it. We were jumping as high as the other kids did.
I jumped again, and so did Nick. I concentrated on swimming in the air, and before I knew it, I was flying. I couldn’t make it last, and I fell on the sidewalk which hurt like hell. Nick did the same thing he was like a minute or two behind me.
We decided to go to the playground to practice our flying. That was when we got better at it and stayed in the air longer. Those other kids were circling around the neighborhood and saw us. They laughed at us at first, but as we got better, the boy gave us a thumbs up while he was doing a backstroke.
Flying was nothing like I thought it’d be. It was hard work. I was glad I wasn’t the kind of girl to wear dresses. No one needed to see I still wore days of the week panties. They made me laugh. I liked to wear Sunday on Wednesday and Tuesday on Thursday.
No one saw us. It wasn’t like we were invisible. I realized that this was why we never saw Boris and Natasha playing, they were up in the air. No one ever thought of looking up I guess.
Instinctively I knew I could never let anyone know that Nick and I had discovered how to fly. I couldn’t understand it, but Nick got bored with flying after a few weeks. He promised not to tell anyone about my magical skill.
I discovered things when I was flying. One day I was tired and stopped on a rooftop to rest. I could see into Jamie’s house. Mr. Hoagland was floating two feet above his bed. I looked across the street and saw Ms. Johnson was doing the same thing. I couldn’t make any sense of it. How come I never heard of this?
I got curious about my parents. I flew down the block and stopped at the roof of the house across the street. I could see my mother in the kitchen. She was washing the dishes. Well, not exactly. She was orchestrating their washing. She’d point at a sponge, and it would dance around a plate and then a towel would dry it. When each plate was done, it flew into the cabinet with the others. I thought I was watching that Disney movie with all the classical music.
I saw my father in the backyard. He was mowing the lawn. Well, he was pointing his hand at the lawn mower, and it was moving back and forth and around trees. Ms. Gregory, our neighbor, was in her garden making roses and lilies bloom. She’d wave her hands over the buds, and they’d all open for her like she was mother nature herself.
After he finished with the lawn, my father went inside. My mother stopped using her magic and began washing and drying the dishes herself. That was when I first realized that everyone kept their magic a secret.
When I flew around or sat on a roof, I could see people doing their magic. They were always alone. I wanted to talk to my mother about her trick with the dishes, and my father about his powers over the lawn mower. But I never did. It just never felt right. One time I started to, but then I realized, they’d just deny it.
As I grew older, I lost the ability to fly. My body grew too big and heavy. I’ve always missed that. But every year, I found I could do more and more magic. I could float, and it was almost as good as flying. But I had to concentrate on it. If I fell asleep, I’d fall. I discovered I could point at my clothes to make them fold themselves and put themselves away. That was a real time saver.
When I was at college, my roommate dropped out. I ended up with my own room. I never had so much privacy before. In the mornings, I made my hair do itself. I’d concentrate on what I wanted it to look like, then I’d imagine all the steps, and they’d happen about a second later. I mostly used magic for cleaning. It wasn’t any good for studying or writing papers. After class, I’d float for a while before tackling my books.
I tried to use my magic on people. I experimented at first. I’d sit in the quad and try to make people dance or walk in different directions, but that never worked. I once used it to get a cashier to give me more money in change, but I felt guilty about it and gave her back the extra money. I never did that again.
I never talked to anyone about my magic. I just assumed that was what everyone did and it was a part of being an adult. A year after I graduated, I fell in love and got engaged. That was the first time I asked anyone if they could do magic. I figured, if George was going to be my husband, we should be able to share our secrets. I knew my parents didn’t share their secrets, but I thought we were different.
George said magic isn’t real. Magicians just distracted our attention for a moment while they used some slight of hand trick. It just looked like they did something magical. I told him I’ve seen ordinary people doing magical things when they were all alone. He insisted I must have been imagining it. It was then that I realized I couldn’t marry him.
I’ve been dating for years now trying to find the one person who will admit that they’re magical. So far, everyone denies it.