Magic twinkled everywhere. The sky was lit with neon flickers trailing down to earth like an exploded firework; except it didn’t go out and sink into the darkness but remained forever, purposely alive. Alive and burning to the brink, same as the coat wrapped people that marched through the shopping parade like seventy-six trombones. Mission: delight. Some stood idly, unaffected by the energy burst; hypnotised by the ensemble of glittery pieces beckoning in the window. For you. For her, For him. With love. Sparkle with a painted smile. Strobe lights paved the way to exit but not before passing the gigantic, happy penguins that frolicked in the fake snow with glee and the chocolate shop window professing “Because you’re special.”
The old stood silently, their faces lined with life. Watery blue eyes peered out from under flat, tweed caps holding stories that replayed through their heads as they watched the sprites playing in the elf garden with exuberant spirit. A time of innocence. So short lived before making way for the rebels; the party goers and the world changers. Where magic is an everyday possibility because possibilities and dreams are all that await you. Rule the world; pave the way until one day, oh too soon, you are watching with the same sweet melancholy and wondering where you got stuck. Memories evoked and heightened by the illusion of the season. Each surge of joy being followed by an aching pain. Pain for what is missing and also for what you may never have. Time flies fast, blinking away like the blue lights on the grand fir tree. So speedily that it doesn’t move at all and you find yourself suspended in a vortex of cheap tinsel promises.
“God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing ye dismay,” the Dickensian clad choir, sang in harmony at the edge of the shopping centre as the inharmonious rushed by. The cool air lingered with the scent of cheap plastic and overdone chestnuts.
She reached into her bag to find some change for the car park, pulling out her pocket purse and opening the tight clasp with cold fingers. The burly man, pursued by an unfit security guard knocked her off balance and her purse to the pavement. Shiny coins, like flat baubles sprinkled the sepia concrete like fairy dust. Some even came to life and made a bid for further afield. She followed them quickly, picking them up between the spatters of aged old chewing gum that dotted the pavement in new age, contemporary art.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
The man, sat huddled in the disused, shop doorway startled her. “Oh..” she giggled nervously, “I don’t think they’re even worth that much.”
“Not if you don’t tell them to anyone.”
She didn’t know how to answer that. The mans eyes studied her with amusement and kindness as she looked at his face. The shadows from the evening blended in with his shabby, homeless attire.
He shuffled over on his blanket of yesterdays news and offered her a place with a gentlemanly gesture of the hand. She looked around her, not knowing what to do.
“Take a moment.”
Clutching the money in her hands that was getting hotter with her tightened grip, she ventured carefully forward. The heel of her leather boot caught on some of the dampened tabloid and ripped it. “Oh…I’m sorry. Here…” she tipped the coins into his lap.
She did as he asked and pulled her jacket tightly around her and kept her knees up close to her chest. The burden of the day, fraught with forced enjoyment eased away as she hid in the doorway with the stranger.
“Merriment, merry men and merry me,” he said. “A drink?” He pulled a half filled bottle of Pusser’s Rum from a satchel at his side.
“Oh no, no I’m fine, “ she gushed, but couldn’t take her eyes from the bottle that used to be her grandfathers favourite tipple.
“I have some paper cups. Clean from Starbucks. You can drink it from there.” He began to pour a tot into the red, cardboard cup. “Rum’ll not hurt you.”
“I know, my grandad said the same thing.” She took the cup from the mans hand and smiled, wondering why the hell was she doing this and yet it felt so liberating. The smell of the dark liquid reminded her of her grandfather and she could picture him holding a glass with his strong hands, each tattooed with a swallow.
“Always remember but don’t get lost,” said the man.
“Don’t get stuck. Keep your doors open.”
She drank some more of the rum. It burned. It burned all the way down.
“The thing about magic is that it’s not outside but within. Find it. Find it with others the same and share it, “ he continued.
A woman walked past them. Her heels clicked on the floor and her beige bag swayed in time with her camel, cashmere coat. She didn’t even see them sitting on the floor. It was nice to be unnoticed background for a moment.
“Did you find magic?” she asked, wondering if perhaps rum was the answer.
“It finds you.” The mans eyes twinkled more warmly than any lights in the city and his smile was more genuine than any she’d witnessed. She leant back on the shop doorway and closed her eyes for a few seconds allowing the warmth of the moment to comfort her.
“I have to go now,” she said softly, “but thank you.”
But when she opened her eyes the man wasn’t there. Just a few sheets of old paper and a her pile of spilt coins remained.