I had to run to the second level basement at the New York Public Libary on 42nd Street. Every day. I worked across the street at HBO and I would usually hold it in until I really had to go the bathroom. But there was no way I was going to go to the bathroom and have my boss’s boss or whoever sitting or standing right next to me and we’d all be doing disgusting things at the same time.
I’ve never been a social pee-er. You know, where everyone is just standing at urinals and talking. I’ve never even used a urinal. My dad never showed me how. It seems very complicated. There’s a zipper, there’s the opening in the underwear. It’s like making an invention or doing a lab experiment in order to pee. The one time I thought I was going to try, I peed in my pants and had to spend the rest of the day at the school nurse. My mom had to pick me up with a clean pair of pants. I was six. The next day everyone in my class laughed at me.
Some people have no problem. “Hey Bob, how’s it hanging?” And all you men talk sports, etc. Every now and then something horrible comes out of the stalls but whatever. That’s what bathrooms are for. But not for me.
I need a completely SECURE ZONE in order to go to the bathroom. There must be nobody else in the bathroom and I need to have decent odds that nobody would be coming in for a good ten minutes before or afterwards. Buried among the ancient tablets of Tutankhamen at the second level basement of the New York Public Library was the exact bathroom I had been looking for.
Which of course brings me to the question, “Where is the magic?”
Like, here I am, at the bottom of maybe the largest public library in the world, with perhaps the most ancient documents outside of the Vatican, and I find a basically empty room that for all practical purposes is used only by me. I want some magic to happen.
Like CS Lewis type of magic. Instead of it being a “Wardrobe” couldn’t it be “The Lion, the Witch, and the NYPL basement bathroom?
Or maybe if I look in the mirror I can switch places with a James from a parallel dimension?
Or how about this. Every day I sit in the stall in that bathroom there is a cut out page from TOMORROW’s Wall Street Journal lying on the floor.
Maybe at first I would be scared. Like, how can this be real? How can this actually be happening to me? So I try again to go the bathroom with all my colleagues. But I can’t handle it. So finally…in the middle of a meeting…I just can’t … hold it… in …anymore. I dart down the stairs, run out the building, down the street, in the side entrance of the library, down two flights of stairs that nobody has even walked on in 79 years and into the bathroom where…
a genie bottle floats up out of the toilet after I flush.
When I was a kid I didn’t want money. Or even sex (depending how little I was). I didn’t want to be a VP at a company, like all my friends’ parents were. I wanted to fly into outerspace. Or be a hobbit. Or a prince of the world of Chaos. Or a minor demi-god on Mt. Olympus. Everywhere I looked I saw opportunities for magic.
And magic did happen! I grew up. I grew up into this amazing world where I can have all the freedom I want if I stay healthy, and keep my relationships clean, and not worry too much, and stay creative, and have an over-abiding sense of gratitude.
It’s so hard when the stresses knock on your door for the first time. When the anxieties start to sneak into your bedroom at three in the morning and whisper into your dreams. When petty angers don’t disappear like a shooting star but instead form a crater in your heart that never gets filled.
We forget quickly the sense of magic. The power of daydreams. But the truth is: the world that seems so real when we are adults still contains just as many mysteries, if not more, as when we were kids.
The key to restoring that magic: just for this second, forget the stresses caused by yesterday. The worries brought about by tomorrow. Right now, this second, picture any scenario you want and imagine it already exists. It takes practice to find it, and the demons from the past and the future will fight you. But ignore them for just this second. Practice.
Today, when I come to a red light, and snap my fingers, it’s going to turn green. Today, when I smile at someone crossing the street, they are going to smile back. Today, I will use my powers to save a life. Today, if my imaginary friends offer to help me, I’m going to invite them into my house and serve them elixirs from the gods. I’m inviting the magic back into my life. Hopefully there’s still room in me for the magic to find a home.
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