Pier 39 is where the magic happens.
It’s where Peter plies his trade, teasing the tourists with bad juggling and card tricks that don’t always quite work out.
He’d been at the entrance of the pier when I first laid eyes on him, next to the donut stall. I was curled up on a bench a few metres away, rather bored, feeding half a crab sandwich to a huge seagull. I Noticed his particular raggedy charm from the corner of my eye and sat very still for a while, watching him in his long, Artful Dodger coat, charming the tourists out of a pound here and there.
When his custom had drained away, I let him see me – I’m very good at being invisible when I want – and he wandered over, no doubt thinking there was a last chance on this late afternoon to make a tiny bit more cash.
I let him draw me into a card trick. It was pretty terrible to be honest, I could see the elasticated bandage hidden up his sleeve every time he moved his arm; his shirt sleeves were too small. Inevitably, he stumbled at the crucial moment and I saw the switch clearly – and he saw that I saw. He abandoned the rest of his patter, shoved the pack clumsily into his deep coat pocket and asked me out on a date that evening.
So here we are, back at Pier 39. This time we stroll right to the other end. He is still wearing his long coat and too-short shirt, but he’s plastered his hair back with gel or water. It looks endearingly bad. “I’m amazed you turned up,” he says with a sheepish, lopsided grin, “after that terrible magic earlier.” And from behind his back, as a magician might flourish a rapidly-produced bouquet of flowers, he reveals two bundles of fish and chips.
We sit at the end of the pier, our feet dangling just above the cool, salty water, greaseproof paper in our laps, eating chips and chatting. He is not, as I suspected, a professional magician. But he’s always loved magic and, while he has a perfectly respectable job as a teacher – qualified a whole 18 months ago, doncha know – magic is his first love and this is how he spends his school holidays, working the piers of rundown resorts, jostling with the donut stalls and the arcades for holidaymakers’ cash.
He playfully performs a few tricks for me when we’ve finished our chips, his long feet dangling in the water; he is totally relaxed even though his magic goes terribly wrong.
As the sun goes down, he gives up on the bad magic. His arm around me, we chat about many things and I dip my feet in the water next to his. What would be perfect right now, I think to myself as the last of the gorgeous orange of the sunset fades away and the sky takes that silent, long breath before the light goes altogether, is a bright, romantic full moon. But last night there was only a skinny crescent.
And so, as he turns away to tuck one leg beneath him, I mutter a quick incantation and focus all my thoughts and breaths on a full moon. He turns back and takes my hand just as it rises, a beautiful, ripe full moon, the best I have ever conjured. As he looks at me, I find myself thinking, I would magic anything for you… I would pluck the stars from the sky and light your way home as you stagger drunkenly from the pub… I would send lightning bolts to pulverise anyone who mocked you and your bad magic… and, if you were to place your hand in mine and tell me I am everything to you, I would make you a real magician.