Short story submitted to Globe Writer's Group. Prague, Czechia. February 2020.
As inmate 458296 of the Baltimore County Detention Center, I had a lot to learn. So many women were there because they were obsessed with magic, however they could get it. I was there because I was wrongfully accused by a white woman who also loved magic.
Unfortunately, it did not matter what the hard evidenced showed, I am Black. She is white. The American system of injustice sees me as nothing more than a “nigger.” My very existence problematized their waters of whiteness from the time of my birth and the rape of my ancestors on this stolen land. I was criminalized from the very time my small, vulnerable, child body entered their formal systems of white supremacy, initially in the elementary school. Now, years later, the circle had been completed and I was finally back under the thumb of the carceral state. Inmate.
While inside, I had to adjust to a new world very quickly. One of the ways of staying alive was to “squad up.” My squad was Uche and Tink. Once we realized that I could be going down for the count, it was imperative that we found me a “biddie,” someone who would be with me, be my lover, be my… whatever, during the time I was inside. We went through some interested candidates. Pinky, she was also obsessed with magic and I just couldn’t go there with her. The others were irrelevant. The decision was between Jess and Michele.
Jess and I got along so well. We prayed together. Did devotions together. Enjoyed our morning coffee together and very meaningful conversations. Michele. Well. She was just goofy. A little closed off at first. After I saw her anger rise, I wanted to step back immediately. She loved the magic inside. I told her that I was not interested in being with someone who worked that type of magic. She needed it. She said once she got it, she wouldn’t need the magic anymore. But I knew it was in her.
On the morning before the elections, I decided it was time to end things with Michele. I had been released from incarceration. She was still inside. She was supposed to get out in two more days. I had time. This needed to be the end. Her magic would kill me. But then, she called, excitedly. I was surprised. Wasn’t she supposed to be at her jail work location? She’s getting out early. Today. I need to be at the jail within the hour. I was dumbfounded. This is not how things were supposed to be. She said I didn’t sound excited. I was not.
We tried to find our way to each other in the days that followed. I was her first real relationship with a woman. She was unsure and needed to drink or smoke before we were intimate. This felt terrible. I did not deserve to be in jail. She went with her friends to a magic show one night and was riding the waves of that energy. Came home. Saw her boyfriend in bed with their third and flipped. She forgot they were in an open relationship. She looked, frantically, for the gun but couldn’t find it. (That same gun was used just months later by her ex as he shot someone in an attempt to murder them.) She grabbed her son’s baseball bat and beat the woman laying in the bed, Alicia, within inches of her life. Michele was a magician and loose canon. We did not need to be together.
I (attempted too) reinforced my boundaries. “No magic, Michele.” She assured me that she was going to walk the narrow road, back home, in wellness. As the days turned into nights, all she kept saying was “magic, please, I need to practice magic.” Finally, I tired of her repeated and incessant requests. It was time to see the Great Magician.
We took off after midnight to Baltimore City. I knew this was not going to end well. When we arrived, he looked at us with pity. “We’re here for the magic show, sir.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out the surprise. Her eyes lit up. “MAGIC.” I could not believe this is where I was that my life had come to this. There’s a magic crisis happening all over the nation and I am in the thick of it.
Immediately, she needed to have the magic in her. She took out the magic bag and looked at it like a 5-year-old girl eating strawberry ice cream on a hot summer day. She was already under its spell. She took it, the magic bag, and held it to her face. She put it all over her. And now, the magic would become flesh as she inhaled, exhale, put her nose down and became… a magician. The world was new to her and she could laugh, relax, and perform tricks.
We snuck back into her mother’s house. We couldn’t let anyone see the bright light of the magic. I asked her what she was going to do next. “Set up the magic show, of course,” she replied. I wondered to myself what more there could be. She returned from the kitchen and bathroom. Multiple cups, paper towels, Clorox, a belt, and… syringes. She had to get the magic show just right.
She opened the magic bag and decided that she needed to have just a little bit more before her grand performance. She poured some of the magic into the cup with water. “Won’t that ruin the show?” I asked. She let me know that the show was just beginning. With tears of happiness streaming down her face, she continued to mix. Then, she got the needle ready. She poured the magic mixture in. Got the belt, tied it around her arm. Used two fingers to hit her arms and was so excited. Happy. Singing. “I got the magic stick… I know if I can hit once, I can hit twice,” she sang. Then, She cleaned off her arm. Primed the needle. Found the vein. And inserted.
“Welcome to the magic show,” she said. And the world around her was finally technicolor and she was the star of the Grand Performance. “Oh, I love magic so much. Thank you. I missed this magic. I need this magic.”
And the last words I heard her say before I left: “I. Am. Magic.”