It was Halloween and my parents had taken my sister and I to a children’s party in one of the more popular hotels in Cairo. I was 6 years old and dressed up as a cowboy. I had a hat, two guns in holsters on a belt with a buffalo buckle, and stirrups on my shoes. The whole shenanigans.
My sister was dressed up as The Pink Panther, whose gender was still under dispute I guess.
The hotel had arranged for a magician to give us the show of our lives. And boy was I ready. I was always fascinated by magic, and this was my chance to keep a close eye on the trickster!
As he performed one magic trick after the other, he asked the children to volunteer. And when the magic trick was over he would give the child a gift from a bag on his table. I saw children walking off with toy cars, toy guns, bows and arrows, dolls, everything. So when it was time for the next trick, I volunteered eagerly.
He chose me and I could hardly contain my excitement. I will get to observe the trick up close and figure it out and I will also get a toy!
First, the trick:
He pulled out a deck of cards and chose the Queen of Hearts. He asked me to hold my palm open, then placed the card on it and asked me to close my other palm over it and hold on tight.
So there I stood, holding the card tight between my palms, as the magician pulled out a red balloon and began to inflate and tie it. He then pulled out a pin and, in a grand flourish, popped the balloon. In its place, now held between his thumb and forefinger, was the Queen of Hearts. He asked me to open my palms, which, to everyone’s shock, were now empty.
The card had teleported!
As a child, my mind was blown. As an adult I now know that he had pocketed the card while instructing me to close my palms. Distraction; it’s what magicians do.
Next, the treat:
As the applause exploded through the hall, it was time for my gift. He reached into his bag but, alas, it was empty. He apologized to me that he was out of gifts. I was heartbroken as I walked off and he, seeing the look on my face, called one of the waiters and whispered something to him. The waiter ran off and returned a few minutes later with… an orange.
My gift was an orange. And disappointment. My gift was a fruit-shaped disappointment.
That night in bed, I thought hard about the magic trick. I still couldn’t believe it. But then my thoughts turned to all the toys the other children got, and to the orange that now sat in the kitchen. I tried to come to terms with what had happened.
I finally managed to console myself by saying, “Sure, it’s not a fancy toy, but hey, it’s mine. I accept my luck and I’m grateful.” I fell asleep at peace with it.
The next morning, I woke up intending to have my orange for breakfast. It was, after all, my hard-earned orange and I was going to enjoy it.
I walked into the kitchen and found my father sitting at the dining table, facing a plate that contained a knife, a fork, the peels of my orange, and a few drops of orange juice.
My father had eaten my orange for breakfast.