Two Meetings with a Wizard I can’t believe how much that used to make me angry. How much I hated you. How smug you looked. I thought you were smiling because of all the shit you knew that I didn’t. The stuff you’d picked up from old Gabriel Komisar books, weird teachers, and long talks after midnight. I didn’t know back then you were smiling because you saw the hunger in me. That same I can never tell whether your eyes are too big or they just look that hunger that put you on the path. You knew before I did that I wanted to way because of your round glasses and the way you stare at people. The know everything you had to teach me. You knew before I did that I would first time you looked at me, I felt like a leaf being looked over by a bug. follow you forever. You knew this from my face, and my eyes and the way My sword was under your chin, touching it a little; I remember because a I ran out of words after that and just sat down beside you, my rough fingers thin rivulet of blood came down across the blade and into the gutter a little reaching out to the chirping wisps of fragrant smoke that danced around us. bit before pattering onto your footwraps in little red drops. But you didn’t But most of all you knew from the red flower still in my hair. You’d make stop looking at me. And I said, “Don’t make me say it again,” and you said, me better ones after that. “You’ll have to because I forgot what I said,” and I said, “Your gold or your life,” and you said, “And how would you take anything as big as a life?” and I said, “With this sword, dipshit,” and then you said, “What sword?” And you tilted your head like you were stretching your neck out, not taking your eyes off me when the sword tilted with you. You smiled real wide as it coiled itself useless between us. The blood on the tip where I bled you bloomed into a little red flower. I couldn’t move when you put it in my hair. When you and your pony and your ramshackle cart and your big steamer trunk and your big eyes and your weird clothes were gone it was just me and my boys in the clearing picking our jaws off the floor. I never thought I’d see you again, but you probably knew better. I’m in the tavern with the boys like we do, when this guy, Sven, bursts out of the hookah room and he’s screamin’, “Some guy turned my clouds into cats!” and the bartender, Rachel, says, “What the fuck are you talkin’ about?” and Sven says, again, and louder, “This guy!” he points at the door to the hookah room, “Turned my clouds! My clouds! Into cats!” And the boys all look to me because they remembered what happened in the woods, because who could forget. And I just sigh and nod like it’s some tired thing even though I’m scared out of my mind, and everyone’s watching when I walk in that room. In the middle of it there you are, sitting all proud and pretty on some big yellow cushion, surrounded by cats made of hookah smoke just walking around rubbing up against shit like they’re normal. Like you see hookah smoke cats every day. And all of that ruins me, for sure, but worse than any of it is those eyes again. Like you knew I was coming. Like you put on this big show for me. Like half the fun of looking at me is seeing me look at you, and fair game you’ve won because I can’t look away. And I said, “How are you doing this?” and you said, “I’m not doing anything,” and you smiled again.