This was all my fault. When I drink, I become what has been described as “extremely flirtatious.” Friends who care less about my feelings say that I become “what an Austin Powers impersonator wishes he could be,” which is probably more accurate. It was on one of my amorous benders that I met Magdalene the Magnificent. I hate magic, but the way her auburn hair fell across her gently pressed tuxedo startled something in me that made me walk up and say hello. I would have left it at that if she hadn’t pulled my phone number out of her top hat. I still don’t know how she did that. And despite there being plenty of opportunities for her to look at my phone, or ask a friend for my number, I still find the trick unsettling. This is how all magic leaves me feeling: unsettled, distraught, anxious, knowing that I was looking in the wrong place. I agreed to meet for dinner that Saturday, but only because I feared waking up sawn in half in front of a wildly applauding audience.
Magdalene the Magnificent made reservations at a crumbling, repurposed, Pizza Hut that she described as “where the real magicians hang.” My blood pressure rose, but I soldiered on, what was one more bad date with someone on the periphery of the entertainment business? There was a valet who offered to make our car “disappear,” but there was ample street parking next to the Pizza Hut that wasn’t a Pizza Hut so I never did get to see what he meant. Once inside, the dim light radiating from the faux rustic glass lamps colored the entire restaurant red. “Isn’t it great?” She asked. I was disappointed that she didn’t say it looked magical.
We were seated at a large booth meant to hold a family of four, and I couldn’t help but worry that we were being mistaken as a magician and her bumbling assistant. Before we could even look at the menus (although I suspect she already knew which entrée she wanted), a man wearing only a leather vest, and matching pants sauntered over and gave Magdalene the Magnificent a peck on the cheek. I didn’t need a subscription to Magic Bi-Monthly to realize that it was Criss Angel. The red streaks in his perfectly mussed hair, and the belt buckle that read “CA” was all I needed to know who was lording over our table. I pretended to be extra interested in the engravings made to the table top. JL + MR, FUCK SKOOL, MANOWAR. Some of these scratches had been here since the 80s, carved by teens who could never dream that their favorite haunt would one day be the home of an appetizer called “Abra Cabagge-Davra,” and where most of the cocktails featured absinthe in one way or another.
After a few minutes I ran out carvings to pretend to read and did my best to look bored while I eavesdropped on Magdalene the Magnificent and Criss Angel. They mostly talked about new tricks they were working on (Criss was perfecting something called “The Devil’s Teardrop”), and a magician named Randy whom they both shared a general distaste. Before he left, Criss slapped his hand down on the table. The seven sterling silver rings on his fingers each cut their own groove into the cheap wood. He leaned over and whispered, “Three of diamonds” into my ear. I stammered and asked what he was talking about, but when I looked up he was gone. Later I spotted him sitting at the empty buffet line that now served as a bar.
Our food arrived and I dug my nails into the fat of my thigh when the waiter offered us another round of drinks because we made our first set “disappear.” I excused myself to the restroom and screamed into my jacket when he dropped off our check, once again noting that we made our food “disappear.” Someone at the other end of the restaurant had a birthday, and a hostess pulled a free meal voucher from behind the birthday boy’s ear. The maître d’ pulled the tablecloth from under our empty plates and we left. I dropped off Magdalene the Magnificent at her apartment, and as we made out in my car I felt the unmistakable impression of a handsaw nestled in the front flap of her jacket. A few minutes after I drove away she sent me a text message with dove emojis, which isn’t really magic but I didn’t feel like arguing. When I finally returned home I pulled off my jeans and watched as something fluttered from the pant leg. Shining against the hard wood floor in the darkness was my card, the three of diamonds.