Can I show your friend here, a magic trick, he says to my husband.
He’s old, frail, his voice so thin
it sounds like it traveled from Ireland through a tin can.
Of course, I say.
With shaking hands he folds a dollar bill over and over
when he unfolds it
it becomes a two dollar bill
and I express the right amount of wonder and delight.
One more, he says, taking out a stack of cards.
I need a pen he says.
There are two in his shirt pocket
and I point this out to him. He frowns.
I imagine those are not real pens.
Write on the lamp he says. You know, so the genie will come out.
Write your phone number, he says and I raise my eyebrows.
He laughs and apologizes to my husband.
It’s hot in this bar,
where they don’t have any air conditioning
on a ninety degree day
and we were going to leave but the bartender is already
filling up our pints.
My husband wants to buy him a drink
but the girl says he only ever has the one.
Ready? he says and I pull out the card, the genie now visible.
I am wowed again and ask to keep it and he nods.
One more? he says.
I think of him late at night,
his shaking hands carefully
lining up the one dollar bill
and the two dollar bill
so the edges are neat and clean
so that none of the glue is visible
so no one will be able to tell.
Doing all the hard work of illusion
so that we’ll keep believing
because the alternative
is more than this old man can handle.