This is Magic. Yes, he is a dragon with wings. Yes, he is a Beanie Baby from approximately the year 1997. And yes, he lives with me. And there's a reason for that.
When I was 11, the summer between my fifth and sixth grade years, my appendix burst and I subsequently got a really bad infection that put me in the hospital for two weeks. I had surgery to have the rebellious organ removed, then I was on an IV drip for a few weeks after that. My parents had planned a big vacation to DC and Busch Gardens in Williamsburg (suburban Virginia, not hipsterban New York), but obvs we weren't able to go. I was of course heartbroken, because when you're 11-year-old me, all you care about is summertime and roller coasters*.
So anyway. I was in the hospital, getting poked and prodded with needles, and I was sad because I was keeping my parents and myself from summertime bliss. Furthermore, I had no idea what was going on inside my body. I knew that I was on a lot of drugs, and that sometimes I hurt and sometimes I didn't, and that I couldn't eat good food (like ice cream) and that my mom now had to help me use the bathroom. Children live their lives in these very distinct and simplistic terms, because children have no concept of their own mortality.
At some point during my hospital stay, my mom brought Magic to stay in the room with me. In 1997 the Beanie Babies craze was just taking off and I'm sure they wanted to make me feel as normal as a kid spending her summer in the hospital could. So Magic came to live with me for a few weeks. I don't really remember the extent of our relationship, but I know he was always in the room with me, watching over me.
Time passed and nurses fed me jello. (PS, Why is this the only fucking food considered appropriate for people in hospitals? It just seems like the most unnatural choice possible for sustenance, and my constant consumption of it for weeks on end probably helps to explain my present-day disdain for the grotesque gelatin.) Anyway. Nurses fed me jello and I slowly got better. I remember after I was cleared for release, I was just so happy to be able to go home and eat ice cream again. By this point I had lost like 15 or 20 lbs. in less than a month's time. I actually remember thinking (foolishly) that this was awesome. Insta-skinny! (This just goes to show how fucked up our society is, that 11-year-old girls 1. feel pressure to be skinny and 2. celebrate weight loss caused by extended hospital stays.) Shortly after my arrival home, I was sitting on the couch talking to my parents about the experience, and I asked them how sick I had been. My mom looked at me directly and said point-blank, "You almost died."
Of course I had no clue this had been the case, because I was just a child. I had no idea how infected my insides had been, and it never occurred to me that I might be missing not just one summer of roller coasters, but lots of them. All of them.
To this day my mom claims that Magic watched over me that summer. That his presence was sort of like a cute stuffed guardian angel in the room. I mean, he does have wings, so it's basically like the same thing.
One important detail is that I did not pack Magic when I moved to New York. I opened my suitcase when I got to Z's apartment last December - where I stayed for two weeks before I found my own place - and there was Magic, folded in with my shirts and towels and shoes and God knows what else. Unbeknown to me, my mom had put him in there, just where he belonged, tucked in tightly amongst the rest of my entire life. I was not surprised to see him. He has been with me since my life was drastically changed the first time - nearly 13 years ago now - so it only makes sense for him to be present during what has certainly been the second most drastic life change thus far.
So, there he sits, on top of my DVDs in the corner of my room in Harlem, watching me laugh and cry and (not) do Pilates. He's heard every single conversation I've had in this room - happy, sad and pathetic - and he never judges. He's just a reminder that once upon a time there was a possibility that the life I love so dearly now would never have been. And yet, here it is, and here I am, and there he is, watching over me still.
Actually, I need to ask my mom if she even put him in there. It's entirely possible he found his own way into my luggage. He's tricky like that.
*I was obsessed with roller coasters. I had a VHS tape called "Roller Coaster Thrills in 3D" and I watched the shit out of it, because when you're a kid and you love something, it only seems logical to do that thing as many times as humanly possible
BESPOKE: GAVIN BROWN GALLERY IN MANHATTANVILLE
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