The Magic Shirt by Lena Bertone

I wear the magic shirt when I want to feel sexy. I don’t know what makes the magic shirt so special. It’s black and sleeveless with untrimmed edging. It’s a little low cut. I make sure not to wear a sexy bra with it because that would be too much. I only wear the magic shirt with jeans. It’s getting old, the magic shirt, but people look at me when I wear it. They just look at me or they say something like, “You look nice,” when all I’m wearing is an old black shirt and jeans. The magic shirt is magic that way. It doesn’t show much cleavage, but it shows the V of my chest, a hint of clavicle, and just the round edge of my shoulders. The magic shirt isn’t tight and it isn’t loose. It requires no additional decoration. I lost the magic shirt once for a few weeks. It was a worrisome time. I’ve used the magic shirt for sexual purposes. I don’t have much power in this world but I have the magic shirt. I won’t have it forever. One day, I’ll put on the magic shirt and it will be ripped, or stained, or stretched out, or worse. The magic shirt will not be magic anymore. Then the magic shirt will be just a shirt, maybe even a shirt that won’t merit wearing. What will I do with a shirt like that, that isn’t magic anymore? What will I do without a magic shirt?


The last time I saw you was the last time I saw you. It was a long time ago and the magic shirt was still bright black, no grizzle on the edge of the neck where you liked to touch it. When I last saw you, it was winter and I wore two scarves, chest to chin, and a coat down to my knees. I paid for your nine dollar cup of tea and mine with my credit card. We shared tiny shortbread arranged on the plate in the shape of flower petals, each cookie a teardrop, one bite. The shop was drafty, all windows, and almost as cold as it was outside. I kept all my clothes on. Underneath the humid frosty air that hung over us, that reached down from the high punched-tin ceiling, we drank our hot tea and watched teenagers making out on the sofa three feet away. Under my puffy coat and scarves, under my pilly dotted cardigan, I wore my magic shirt, but you didn’t see it. You put two fingers in the hole in the knee of my jeans. When I drove you home, you said that some day soon, you would get your rear window fixed and drive me around all day and night. I pulled my coat open when you kissed me and told you to kiss my neck, but there was too much scarf and the air was too cold and the magic shirt was hidden.

The next time I saw you it wasn’t you. It was a guy in line at the Hollywood with your hair, holding the hand of a girl who wasn’t me. He turned around and his teeth weren’t your teeth, too white and too pointy. The shirt I was wearing wasn’t the magic shirt, and when I got home, I tore through drawers looking for it. I didn’t bother to turn on a light. I grabbed through balls of clothes, feeling for the undone edge, the fading ruffle down the front. I found it, crumpled and wan in a crowded corner. It had a mysterious stain on the belly. The fabric had worn so thin that, in my hands, it felt like nothing.


Lena Bertone‘s writing has appeared in Caketrain, Harpur Palate, Wigleaf, Gigantic, Matchbook, decomP, NANO Fiction, Corium, Prick of the Spindle, Redivider, and other magazines. She lives with her daughter in Central New York, where she teaches by day and writes after bedtime.

One response to “The Magic Shirt by Lena Bertone”

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