The Trap I Set For You

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When a student finds a book of ancient magic, he uses it to try and unlock the secrets of affection, infatuation, and love.

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The Trap I Set For You

Dear ——-

Folks often use the terms “weave” and “cast” a spell interchangeably. But, in fact, these are two discrete, sequential steps of using magic.

That may seem like an odd way to begin this letter. Bear with me, please. I promise it’s relevant. What I’m getting at, and what I’m sure you’re most interested in, is an explanation for my complete and sudden disappearance from your life. I swear I never meant to “ghost” you, as you put it.

When we first started hanging out, I thought I was in love with you. I mean, hell—I worshipped your every step. I was infatuated. I realize now that isn’t the same as loving though. My journey toward magic and true love started only recently.

You know how my job back then was to help move all the university library crap to its new building? Well, part of my work was to gather up the trash from the move and take it out to the compactor. I found myself quite a little treasure trove. You wouldn’t believe the gems folks threw out: A cream journal with silver gilt-edged pages (yes, I used one for this letter to you); a black walnut picture frame; a smokey, bronze-tinted mirror, undies (no doubt from some secret tryst)—you name it.

Anyway, it was the day before our first date that I found this old, beat-to-hell leather-bound book with yellowed pages and one of those metal locking clasps. The title said ‘Grimoire,’ from which I inferred it was a book of ancient magic. I was instantly hooked. I guess no one else ever checked it out ’cause the library card was blank. Anxious about our date and eager for distraction, I paged through it and discovered it was written in Middle English, which might explain its disuse.

Magic itself, I learned, is made up of strands you can find all around you when you know where to look. Usually, it emanates from everyday miracles: pregnant women, old married couples, the last fry at the bottom of a fast food bag. Magic has the same sheen and texture as spider silk: fine and sturdy. The only difference is its distinct shimmer, like heat rising from a black top, and it has a marbled coloring like soap bubbles.

That brings me again to weaving and casting. I couldn’t work out much of the book on my own (despite having taken several god-forsaken Chaucer classes already), but what I could gather was those two concepts: One, that magic is something you weave like fabric — that’s where the silly finger motion comes from in cartoons — they’re an inaccurate pantomime. The truth is you need a loom. Even a little cardboard one will do. And two, once you’ve woven your spell, you cast it like a net over whatever you wish to bewitch.

For me that was you.

I started by auditing a weaving class at school. I learned every kind I encountered: basket weaving, knitting, crochet. It was weird being the only guy and (under forty) in these classes, but hey, I was on a mission. Ever wonder where magic wands came from? That’s right, they originated as knitting needles. So don’t screw with old knitting ladies: even if the hex fails, the can always just stab you in the throat— those things are sharp as hell. Soon enough I was applying my knowledge to basic spells. I wove a lidded basket that appears empty to all but its owner, knit a sweater that feels to the wearer like a constant hug, and crocheted a hat that stimulates meditative introspection (I call it my thinking cap).

Next, I found an old fisherman down by the river and got him to teach me net casting for catfish, how to reel in the net, hold it so the lead line hangs just right, aim, and cast. I even got him to teach me how to mend broken nets… just in case a spell went wrong.

One of the first bits of bewitching magic I tried was a simple affection spell. I used a cat hair from my sweater after visiting your place, and well, I’m sure you noticed the change in Reptar’s attitude toward me. Most recently, whenever I left, I had enough cat hair from him rubbing up on me to crochet a whole other cat. ‘Reptar two,’ if you will.

And then there was the infatuation spell. This one I cast on you during our third date, a net perfumed with cocoa powder, rose petals, and cologne. Favorite things of yours. I tucked it over your shoulders along with the blanket you asked for as we watched that goofy horror-romance movie you like so much. The one about zombies in love? You really should think that one through before showing it to your date. But then I was the one practicing witchcraft, so I guess I can’t really judge. Anyway, something felt wrong when you began kissing me. It didn’t seem earned. Love would be different, I assured myself. So I stole some of your hair as we were necking and, after giving some lame excuse about having to leave to trim my bonsai tree, stayed up all night at my little cardboard loom.

Well, the spell was larger and more complex than I could have ever imagined, and I got entangled in it myself. It’s like they say in the Old Testament, the trap I set for you caught my leg instead.

After that, something in me changed.

I’ve gotten rid of the Grimoire. The world around me now seems to be so overflowing with magic already from sources the book never mentioned, sources I never noticed before. Now I see magic everywhere.

It’s like suddenly I’ve learned to live in my essence, to be comfortable with just me. I no longer feel the anxious need to define myself first in relation to you. I realize that may sound cold but I wish the same freedom for you.

You’ll find in this parcel a small basket, which, if it really belongs to you now, will contain a pink hat and sweater, a bronze mirror fitted into a walnut frame, and a tree clipping to prove that, yes, I do actually own a bonsai tree. Don’t worry, I threw out the undies.

I entreat you to find time to don your hat, feel the sweater’s warmth as a self-embrace, sit in front of your mirror, and find the courage to reflect on your own beauty until you experience that same self-love. That way, if we meet again, we can truly be together, because we’ll no longer be distracted by our expectations of one another. Because we’ll be content within ourselves enough to fade away and focus wholly on each other.

I haven’t bewitched the mirror, but who knows— maybe it will work like this one piece of magic I read about. Maybe you’ll see in it, not your own reflection, but your true love’s. Maybe you’ll see me.

With Love,


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