All of the things Julian tried to teach me. All of the small ways of calming down. Of building concentration. Visualize props, he said. In your mind, follow the path of a bird flying down a canyon wall. See nothing else. Count every exhalation, every other inhalation. Slow the tempo. Stretch. Stretch and loosen each muscle fiber until your body is one long cord with no end.
But what if you are vaporized? What if you feel that you’re part of the ether?
Do it anyway, he said.
Up the ramp. My cape swirling around me. The heavens painted on the background. Across the stage. The deep bow, my arms extended wide. My empty hands and then a scarf billowing in them, stretching out longer than I am tall. The zodiac cards, though just for show. I am magical. Magical. Transported. For racing minutes I am full of of illusion, of surprise and quick changes.
Seven minutes exactly.
I set my cape aside. I hold my body motionless. Careful. My hands crossed on my chest. Only the escape vault is left.
This is what Julian taught me: the magician’s patience. It pushes the audience off balance. It heightens tension. Silently, I count from one to seventeen. By now, they know. They’ve heard Tina and seen Mac. They’ve eyed the box and seen the noose and coils of rope. They understand the pulley. They see me bound tight.