Art by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Believe We Are Magic

1980

She pretends to skate around the living room. Bobby-pinned to her dark hair are a rainbow of used plastic ribbons she took from the special birthday and Christmas box her mother keeps in the closet. She imagines the ribbons cascading down her back, the breeze blowing them gently behind her as she swirls in her bare feet on the golden rug, its tasseled fringes needing to be smoothed out as part of her daily chores. She wants pale flowing hair and real roller skates as she sings “You have to believe we are magic,” wishing she were a muse and not a little girl.

1984

She stares at the man on TV, the man who is not a woman but wears makeup like he is. She knows there is something special about him. He rides a motorcycle, wears puffy sleeves and tight pants, his eyes lined, his lips full. He’s not a “mahu” as her mother would call him, and she wants to “go crazy” just like he sings, wear purple and white and pile up her curly hair to cascade down around her, but she doesn’t know how, and she’s too afraid to ask.

1988

She doesn’t tell anyone how much she likes the guy who is the blue alien, his golden skin and dark-lashed eyes so different from the boys at school. She sings “cause I’m a blonde” even though she isn’t. She shakes her “cosmic thing,” finally using the hula and Tahitian lessons she was made to take, performing for tourists or family at luaus, or for herself. She dreams of enchanting the dark-lashed man with her swaying hips, her lips opening in anticipation of his kiss.

1992

She is drawn to the lounge singer pretending to be a nun to hide from her Mobster boyfriend. The woman isn’t someone her mother would think is beautiful but she is captivated by her otherworldliness. She remembers listening to her mother’s albums, her body surrounded by the golden halo of the living room rug, singing “I will follow him,” blending her voice to the ones on the stereo. Now, she imagines all of these different voices, their hands and bodies entwined with hers, worshipping: “There is not a man today who could take me away. …” As they chorus together, she finally believes she is magic.

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