He could hear piano from the stage. His opening act was just finishing (she could play piano with her toes – he didn't hire her himself) and he was still in his dressing room, staring at the fake wood on the vanity in front of him. The mirror was covered in scratch marks and almost useless to him. He didn't need it, anyway. He wasn't one of those magicians who put makeup under their eyes to look mysterious. He hardly brushed his hair. The time he had wondered onto the stage after a four day conversation with his good buddy Jack Daniels had created maybe the most enthusiastic crowd he'd ever had. Everyone wants to see the most vile parts of you stumble around with a bunch of goddamn doves. That had been the show after the handkerchief incident. Old Jack didn't really wash away the memory as much as he framed it in an amber-tinted haze. It was just an old gag with a hankie. Pull one out, woops, there's another, and so on for about twenty seconds, then it's old and you move on. It didn't work that night. There was no moving on. He stood on that stage for thirty minutes, pulling hankie after colorful hankie out of the sleeve of his thrift store suit, the audience leaving one by one until very few stunned people were left. The hankies never stopped coming. He eventually took the jacket off, set it on fire and walked off of the stage.
He was Jacob Noon. His face had appeared on the front page of the Oakland Tribune and then the LA Times and then the NY Times four years ago when in his first magic show for a bunch of college friends at Berkley he made his girlfriend disappear. The police staked out her workplace and dorm building for a month. They kept him under surveillance for two. They eventually let him go – very reluctantly. They thought he killed her somehow, and the magic show was just a ridiculous excuse. He wished he had killed her, sometimes, staring at the bottom of a bottle on some corner in Bumfuck, USA. Then maybe he would have been thrown in jail instead of into the limelight of professional stage magic, picked up by an agent who knew "how to make things happen". Her words. That normally involved selling him as "that guy who made his girlfriend disappear". That worked for two years. Then people stopped caring. They asked, "Who?" He got smaller and smaller gigs.
And every once in a while, something would happen. A dove would appear out of thin air over the audience. He would be able to guess cards without any tells or cheats, hours of correct answers, one after another. Spontaneous, unending handkerchiefs. One time he had tried that David Blaine levitating shit – for kicks, you see, drunken spur of the moment – and he had floated right out over the audience. That had booked him solid for three months. He never tried it again.
He refused to work with people. He got mail every day from hopeful young women dying to become assistants, emphasizing their years of acting experience and their ability to think on their feet. He never bothered to reply. The answer stood at "No." He would never work with people again. That night four years ago, he had begged Jessica to be part of the show. Her part would take ten minutes, he said. All she had to do was stand in a little box for a few minutes then "disappear" at the right time. She had agreed – foregoing important studying and maybe ruining a grade – because she loved him and wanted to see him do well at his first show. And he had made her disappear. He would
never see her again. Her mother would never hear her voice over a long-distance phone line ever again. Her little sister would never trounce her in Monopoly.
The piano on the stage stopped and there was a spattering of applause. He heard someone speaking over a microphone – he didn't understand, but he thought he heard his name in there somewhere. He stood, throwing his threadbare suit jacket over his shoulders and gripping the doorframe, then wandering out to the small hallway that led to the stage, dragging along the wall. Someone put a microphone into his hand before he stumbled out into the blinding lights. The audience was very quiet, staring at him.
He never worked with people, but he had introduced a new trick to his routine a few months back.
"Hello," he said to the crowd of faces he could not see, "my name is Jacob Noon, and tonight I will make myself disappear."