I took the GED exam and scored quite well. I start classes at SCCC soon. Financial aid should cover most costs; my parents say they will help out if they can as long as I continue to live at home. I’ll be taking the bus and riding my bike though, because they do not want me to get my driver’s license, since that would raise their car insurance, which I will need to pay for even if I don’t get a car. If I live at home and don’t go to school, then I will need to start paying them rent. Given the parameters, the choice is pretty easy: live at home, go to college, and do not drive.

I tagged along on the bus with Kathy to an appointment in Schenectady. Afterward, we wandered around while talking and ended up at Union College. Neither of us had ever been in a fraternity house and decided to check out first one we saw. The place was a wreck; our shoes made squeaky ripping noises with each step as they stuck to the tiled area of the floor near a bar in the dining area. The room reeked of a sour odor that must have been old beer soaked into the thin carpet of what appeared to be a large family room with couches, a tv, pool table, and beer pong set up. I assumed there had just been a party, but that’s probably how it looks just about any day of the week. We headed right up the stairs acting as if we belonged, but must have really looked out of place, because this guy standing at the bottom of the stairs stopped us before we had gotten even halfway to the first landing, calling out with a really big smile, “Can I help you ladies?” I simply answered, “We’re just looking around.”  Why lie? He raised his eyebrows and pouted his mouth to a slight frown, but said, “ok,” so we continued up the flight, checking out the framed annual house photos that lined the walls, and wandered around the halls on the different floors, and peeked into open dorm rooms to see what it was all like. On our way back down the stairs, the same guy stopped us once again, introduced himself as Lou, and asked if we wanted to stay for dinner. Kathy and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. I said, “Sure, but I’ll have to call home to ask my mother.”  He walked me back upstairs to use a phone in this little room in the hall on the second floor. My mom said, “that’s fine,” without asking questions.

We hung out and talked before dinner was ready. The dining area had long tables lined up in a U shape; lots of guys came in, but nobody sat down. There were probably 50 guys all standing at the table behind their chairs, watching us talking to Lou near the center of the shorter bank of tables of the middle part of the U. Finally, Lou told us that nobody would sit until Kathy and I sat first. We both quickly dropped into the closest seats, and Lou sat next to me. Over the dinner conversation, he asked why I had such a dark tan, which was a legitimate question, since it was spring in upstate New York, and I looked like I had spent all summer at the beach. I explained that I was just back from traveling for months with my parents’ magic act on cruise ships. He asked a barrage of questions about what we did, where we went, and what that life was like, and then if I would do some magic. My dad is great with close up magic and can do all kinds of tricks using everyday objects, especially things that are on a normal dining room table. I don’t have a clue how to do any of that. I am the girl in a skimpy outfit who does the snake dance routine, gets cut in half, impaled by swords, appears and disappears, brings props on and off stage, and takes a bow. But I can’t make a simple saltshaker disappear, levitate a fork, or pull a coin from behind someone’s ear. But I do have one trick I can do just about anywhere, and I said I’d do it for the whole fraternity right there in the dining room.

I felt confident that I could pull off this one trick that I had been the assistant for my dad on countless times. I easily convinced Kathy to be my assistant, grabbed a few napkins from the table, and went into the tv living room area to show her what we were going to do. We have been close friends for years, yet she’s never seen any of the magic, so this was new for her. All she ever saw was the hand drawn sign my parents frequently hung over the doorbell of our house that read in big block letters, “DO NOT DISTURB, REHERSAL IN PROGRESS.” All too often, my friends came by when the sign wasn’t yet out, to ask if I could come out to play; from inside, I heard my parents answer for me, “No, Joey has to practice.” Kathy certainly saw all the costumes, magic props, doves and bizarre stuff all over the house, but never saw any tricks performed.

Everyone was still eating in the dining room, except one guy who was sprawled out on the couch half-asleep. I introduced myself and asked if I could practice a magic trick on him. Nico, my guinea pig, seemed unusually worn out considering the time of day, but he was friendly, and happy to oblige. I pulled Kathy aside privately to explain what to do, and we practiced on Nico before returning to the dining area.

Lou stood and quickly got everyone’s attention and introduced me as a girl named Jo who was a magician. I said I needed a volunteer, and it was no surprise that Lou eagerly raised his hand first. I had him sit in a chair in front of me, and said I was going to hypnotize him. First, I held a napkin high in front of him, and confirmed that he, and everyone else could see it. However, I explained, once I had him under my spell, everyone else in the audience would be able to see the napkin, but it would be invisible to him. For my special type of hypnosis, he had to look deeply into my eyes. I held his gaze for a while, and then dramatically buckled my knees as if I was going to faint, catching myself from falling by reaching out to hold myself up by his shoulders, and gasped, “that’s long enough,” as if the eye contact with him had an effect on me. Next, I showed him the napkin again, crumpled it into a ball into my fist, tapped three times, and then opened my upturned hand, and pulled out and held up the ball of napkin that was invisible to him, but the entire group confirmed with a laugh that they could clearly see, then I tossed the invisible napkin to someone near the front. I repeated this same effect a couple times, and then said I could give him the power to make the next napkin disappear. I had him hold his short sleeved right arm straight out, and again established eye contact while I ran my hand down the length of his arm, not touching, but close enough that I knew it would create a sensation both of heat and chills, and asked, “Can you feel it?  Can you feel the power?” He enthusiastically agreed that he could feel it. After I balled up the next napkin, and closed it in my fist, I had him use his now empowered magic limb to tap the back of my hand and once again, it became invisible to him. Of course, you can’t leave someone in a hypnotized state, so I said that at the count of three, everyone who held the napkins should throw them back to me and the spell would be broken so all the invisible napkins would suddenly reappear as they landed. I held my open hands cupped out right in front of his face, asked the entire audience to count to three with me, and the pile of napkin balls magically were once again visible to him. Lou looked mystified, and kept looking to his fraternity brothers for answers, but they only laughed. Kathy and I had fun talking about it on the bus ride home.

The next day, Lou called my house. He got my number by checking the yellow pages and easily found the listing for the only magicians in Scotia; I had mentioned the town when I said we had to get the last bus back. He said that he really enjoyed talking to me, seeing my magic trick, that my life seemed really interesting, and that he wanted to have dinner with me again. I had told him that I had a boyfriend currently living in Canada, so if I went, it would just be as friends. Again, I asked my mother, and she said it was fine.

He arrived at my door dressed in a form fitting silky patterned shirt and tight Sasson jeans, which combined with a heavy New York City accent, reminded me of a stereotypical Long Island Italian character from Saturday Night Fever going out for the night. However, he doesn’t strike me as the dancing type. He towers over me, at probably six feet tall, with a runner’s thin, fit build; he has thick, wavy jet-black hair and eyes that appear to be just as dark. He was polite, and took time to introduce himself to my parents, speaking with a wide, big toothy smile, giving them a brief bio, and shaking my dad’s hand. He walked me to the curb and opened the passenger door for me to get in his brown Pontiac Grand Prix. The car obviously has a few years on it, but it’s in pretty good shape for its age.

We went to Mother Ferro’s, a popular, but simple little Italian restaurant in Schenectady. The food was good, and I enjoyed picking up from where we left off our previous conversation, hearing more about him this time. Lou is 21, and appears to be a hard-working guy, dedicated to his Chemistry studies. He just returned to school after taking a semester off to make enough money to pay this year’s tuition. He learned how to repossess cars in New York City, and now repos cars here, too. It sounds exciting, but dangerous. I guess it pays well though, making it worth the risk for him. Apparently, his parents are no longer helping with school tuition, so he’s on his own. Student loans don’t cover all the costs at Union, and he isn’t eligible for much financial aid because his father earns too much as an Air Traffic Controller, even though he isn’t supporting his education. Lou said that his father lost interest and stopped writing checks when he had to quit the football team due to a knee injury. Nobody else in the family has ever been to college, and his mother would have rather seen him go into the military.

He asked, so I told him a lot about Gino and explained that I really loved him, and I would not date or get into a relationship with anyone else. He said he understood, and that he also has a girlfriend on Long Island. So, it is fine for both of us to be friends, but it is definitely not going to be anything more. He drove me home after dinner; I said thanks, goodnight, and just got out of the car. There is absolutely nothing for me to hide or lie about.

In fact, I called Gino from a pay phone earlier in the day and told him that I was going out to dinner with someone. I was clear that I wasn’t dating and that the guy knew I was in love with my boyfriend. Gino was disbelieving, and obviously annoyed through the entire conversation, which ended with him stating that I should have a good time on my date. His sarcastic tone provided the air quotes around that last word.

Gino and I have been writing to each other frequently since I got off the ship. He sends my mail to Kathy’s address, so my parents don’t see it. He’s back home too now; my purse is weighed down from the pay phone change I carry to call him in Canada. He plans to drive down to visit soon, but I’m fine just writing and talking on the phone in the meantime. He’s still trying to get me to run away from home, but I definitely will not do that. Maybe after graduation, I’ll transfer to another college for my bachelor’s degree and be with Gino. If he can’t wait those two years, then it isn’t going to work in the long run anyway.

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