i knew Beloved would read my post. i didn't know if he would get it. but by george, Beloved - who may be many things, but insensitive isn't really one of them - seems to have got it. time will tell, of course, because the Stranger never goes entirely away. that particular mask is too necessary to one's own survival. but having recognized it, having peeked behind it, having exposed it to the light for just the time it took to read a few paragraphs...was enough to do the trick.
that -to me - is Real Magic. it doesn't require elaborate rituals or involve the chanting of arcane incantations. it involves observation, perception, and empathy.
but most of all, it requires love.
and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.