There are two boys from the Valley who sometimes take a shortcut through La Mancha. The other day I saw them meandering down Gallagher Lane, talking and laughing and jostling. Stones were thrown into the Valley. Rocks were turned over for examination and discussion. En garde was proclaimed, followed by a brief sword fight with sticks. One of them unearthed, with considerable effort, something from beneath a rock. He carried it a few steps and then cast it away in disgust, wiping his hands on his pants. As they passed me one laid his hand gently on the shoulder of the other.
Then they saw me, and the magic was broken because I am an adult. I waved in a friendly way, hoping to repair the magic, hoping they would understand that I meant no harm or interference. But the magic was well and truly broken. The hand was removed from the shoulder and they marched in mournful dignity past Engelbrecht Inn and the Lost Boys Cabins, disappearing into the Western Wild Lands, where I presume the magic was restored and they continued their innocent explorations.
When they passed from my sight, the heavy reality of adulthood pressed on my shoulders and neck. I wish they hadn’t seen me. I wish I could have watched their antics all the way to the end of Gallagher Lane. I wish I could have held onto that magic a little longer. How long has it been since I walked anywhere with that kind of freedom and pure curiosity, unspoiled by shame?
Mickey, Lance, Mark, another Mark, Doug, Bruce, and Larry are the best friends I left behind in a string of towns stretching from El Paso to Houston. We moved a lot when I was a boy. I lost touch with all of them but Larry. He and I talk once a year or so.
We were all things for each other. Competitors, confidants, comforters, and co-conspirators. Walking home together after school, chattering about the latest thing, exploring whatever caught our attention. Arriving home meant entering the world of parents, so we took our time. The walk home was our world.
Mickey, Lance, Mark, Mark, Doug, Bruce, and Larry.
These seven shared the sacred magic of boyhood with me.
I wonder. Do you think boyish magic can be reborn in the heart of an older man?
Asking for a friend.