Maureen in Moonlight

                You'd have to die to get Martin's attention, I always thought.  I'm sorry, but he's selfish.  I don’t like to say this, but my life is a tragedy living with Martin's magic.  I'll give him magic--out on his ear so fast he won't know how it happened.  If only I'd been practicing that trick for a dozen years, like he does, I'd know how to do it.

                You'd think I was a slob or something, if you came into my house.  You wouldn't know I clean 24 hours a day and still can't keep up with the mess he makes.  Cards--playing cards--all over the place!  A three of hearts between my vanity and the wall, a jack of spades ready to start a fire on the stove.  God knows what else. I work and he plays.  So it goes.

                I should've stayed with David, by all accounts--after the fact, of course.  Nobody tells you how good or bad a choice you've made until, alone or with another schmuck already, you see your talent for lousing up is growing ever more perfect.  You won't believe this--nobody does--but David used to put the toilet seat down.  And every now and then he must have taken a tissue and given the rim a quick going over.  Without even hearing a word from me, I'm not kidding.

                Martin was a regular guy, cute in his own way it seemed to me.  Of course, I couldn't have been very attentive.  I was working late, as I always have done, and I didn't put the time in, maybe.  Our first night we waltzed, me in my backless dress.  That did it.  I had a feeling I should have worried, taken my time, but I stopped thinking then and there.  And here I am, a hike from a waltz, if you get my meaning.  I still have some life left in me, don't get me wrong, but what's the point?

                Martin has his routine.  Starts in the morning and goes till we give it up at night.  You think I'm telling you this for a laugh, you're wrong.  It's got to be a world's record, the way he lives.  

                After his mother died, he turned to magic.  Now, that's not the way he'll tell it, but that's the way I see it.  There was also some uncle.  Gave him a book about card tricks and such, he calls the whole business sleight-of-hand art, legerdemain, occasionally he’ll actually say magic.  Basically, I have to keep clear of his projects, an experiment here, an idea here, a display of some kind over there, but he asks me to play 52-card pickup all day long.  Oh, I don't mind so much, I've got a good back and I retired last winter.  Keeps me on top of the dust.   

                I got to tell you something, though.  What I saw this morning might be nothing to some people, I guess, but to me it was like seeing all of a sudden something that doesn’t fool you in a card trick and knowing you’re going to find out how it’s done after you've been going crazy wondering for years where the secret move is.  Not that you always do, but the feeling that you’re onto his hand, that’s what I felt.

                I'm cleaning this morning, like I like to do, just a little at a time, maybe two, three dishes, a couple of cups, seven or eight pieces of silverware.  I dry my hands and walk into Martin's back room, and then I see a stack of little papers in the corner that I at first think is a few old cards, sort of under a book and a load of dust.  Well, I reach down, ready to holler out what do you want me to do with these? and then I see they're all my notes, twenty or so scraps of paper I've written something on.  One is a grocery list, for Christ's sake, and another is a note saying "I'm out at the store" or something.  I’m crouching there reading when suddenly I heard him coming down the hall and I quick put it all back and messed around with the cat box near the back door.

                Now what do you make of that?  I could be anybody, I always thought, and here it looks like he has me on his mind.  Now I'm nervous.  I've been thinking all day whatIshould do when I jot down my next note, if I should say something extra, or if I should maybe put writing directly in his stack, or if I should go to him and look at him like I know.  And then I wonder if I know anything . . . or if I could have it wrong, somehow.

                I remember when we first got together and he kept saying he wanted to remember me, remember me like this or that.  I wonder if he’s trying to remember me again.

               So, he comes in and I’m screwing around with the cat box and I look up at him.  He’s dragging a chair from the front room and I ask where he’s going to put it.  He says in the doorway for now and I don’t ask any more than that.  His hair is long and getting longer, but I don’t say anything about that, either. 

                But I decide I’ll ask about me.   And I just say it.  What do you feel about me?  I wish I hadn’t once I do.  I think I could have found a roundabout way to find something out, but I know I probably couldn’t, because I work this way best, going the wrong way too fast, putting the brakes on too late.

                He starts to lie, which is okay, cause long ago I told him he’d better.  Who wants a guy who isn’t going to make you feel better than you’ve got a right to?  There are some real good lies, I told him, and I’m not about to miss out on any cause you take me literally when I tell you to be straight with me.  So he says he loves me, of course.   And he gets carried away, he’s having fun, and he says I’m intoxicating.  That’s where I stop him.  I start to stroll out, you know, dusting a little table as I go, not mad, just finished talking for now, I’m saying to him.  He walks after me a few steps, like he wants to say something.

                You never know, with Martin.  Ach!  At least, as a magician, he’s out in the open, you know, a professional and not some two-bit trickster.  He’s a real performer with a name. But something should change.   Martin’s life is crowding me out of this house.  I can’t find my own corner to sit around in.  I gotta hand it to him -- he makes it all work for him, down to finding me, a mom to straighten up his room.  That sure looks like magic to a woman, and a lot more interesting than knowing where a particular card is in a deck, which I don’t particularly care to know.  I got enough cards I know where they are and I wish I didn’t.

                I’m just standing here glad to be remembered before I die.  Without having to die, I might just as well say.  In the moonlight our house looks like it isn’t real.  It looks all smooth and freshly painted and even gleams here and there!  I start to think it’s Martin’s magic, I must be crazy.