I had been inside for hours and needed to get out of the house. A coffee, some air, a good meal, the company of strangers was my plan. After walking 10 minutes straight down my street, dark sky lit by street lamps and market interiors, I stop on the sidewalk with purpose, turn to my left, and as though I’m expecting it, see the sign: “Palm Readings, Tarot Cards, Fortunes - All Day, 9 AM -11PM.”
This is my confusion crying loud and clear, I think, instantly intrigued, attracted, thinking about it. I’ve got all this back and forth uncertainty of what I’m doing these days, all this wondering about who I am, what I’ve got, the choices I’ve made. All these quick mental switches from light and high to blind and lightless. Getting a palm reading right now, at this hour, is me looking for validation. Someone to tell me what is what, and at a price.
I think of an old yoga teacher of mine who once ended class by saying: “God save us from the psychics, who we pay to tell us what we already know. Namaste.” Something like that.
When the buzzer sounds and I’m accessed, a buxom woman maybe 65 or so, wearing a dark red purple patterned muumuu, shouts down from the top of carpeted white stairs, holding a curly brown haired baby who’s gnawing on a toy.
Her leather firm voice: "You have an appointment?"
"Ah, Nope." I’m instantly filled with a rolling fear that she sees my insides: the outline of my lunch, specific dates of future failures, sexual fantasies.
She puts the toddler down, opens the baby-gate, and like a dumb dog I ascend. I enter a pristine white room with a white leather couch.
“It's $15 for palms, $30 for tarot,” she announces without my asking. Behind her I spy a round clean dinner table with a pack of Marb Reds at the center. Above it, enormous, is a framed painted lady in a dark red dress, striking dark eyes, her hands across her lap.
It feels clear in here, I notice, elevated somehow; high and quietly removed from the street. They must sleep deeply, I think, laugh a bit, have narrative-free dreams that look like night sky. The baby comes over to me and places her tiny palms on my thigh, brown eyes smiling, I pat her head.
“So you want your fortune read?” The woman slaps open a door to a little room, a porcelain reclining Christ hung high near the ceiling looking anguished back at us. Two white chairs face each other. A long table lies against the wall.
"Well, WOW." I whoop, eyeing JC. “Whoa-kay!”
“What WOW”? she asks. “You want your fortune read or not? It’s not me who does it anymore, it’s my daughter.”
I look at the baby, slapping her palm against a glass sculpture of a face on the coffee table, and furrow.
“Not her, “she scoffs. “Nadia is in the other room. Do you want me to get her or not?”
I freeze a bit. Feel dry in the mouth. Nod my head.
She points to the white chair and I sit and wait, the cracked glass feet of the wall hanging Jesus dangling just above the crown of my head.
When Nadia comes in, my palms are already turned. She is small. Calmly beautiful with powdery tan skin and surprising eyes laughably similar to precious jewels.
She says hello by locking eyes with me and smiling soft. I feel the tightness in my limbs release a bit.
She adjusts in the chair and looks fast at my hands, says right away I’ve got a long time to live.
"And you're single now."
I don’t see how that is so readily obvi…
“You’ve dated, but never really been in love.”
“No, no. That’s wrong. I see it's that your longest love is coming.”
That’s a comfort, I suppose.
“You’re at a career flux, still not doing exactly what you want. Moving toward your goals. You’re doing well, but things are still hectic, there are questions unanswered.”
“That will change.”
“You write?” She asks.
I nod, finally speak. “Uh huh.”
She switches between talking vague and sweeping, to little specific things, tiny truths about my life. She tells me the past few years have been turbulent, that I just left a little spell living with my family. That my life will only fall into place when I am doing my work.
“What work?” I ask.
“Your work.” She answers fast, like look it up in the dictionary, like you know what work.
I feel my body begin to calm as she speaks, even as she says things that I don’t want to hear, things I know but don’t often confront so simply, so unattached, so quickly. My eyes are tired. My body feels how it does after a hot, hot bath or a guttural sobbing. Cleaned out.
“You know it’s not just that things will change,” she adds. “You need to change them.”
She asked if I had any questions and I shrug. Anything I most would like to know. I do, but I don’t know quite how to ask. “Nothing in particular.”
She continues to look. Stares down at my hands, lets a quiet drop between us. I become almost embarrassed my hands are still turned, begin to wonder if I’ve missed a cue to curl them up and put them away.
Then she says it. Slow and steady. Answers one thing I’ve really been wondering, the very something I’ve been waiting to know. I’m shocked when she says it. Also not surprised at all.
"I say it not because it’s something you want to hear," she tells me. "I say it because it’s true."
I feel, when I leave, more in tune with the universe; Singin’ in the Rain good, like I’m watching the dancing alignment of my life’s tiny bright stars. A little high, which, in a sense, makes me feel just as dumb as it does happy. I do believe what she tells me. I did need to hear it. Even if it was some things I may already know. To be honest, I think, I believe in all that magic, just as much as I believe in mugs and senators and every other little thing that makes the world go round. It’s just as necessary, really, just as practical.
Not knowing where to go, maybe to bring me back down to dirty earth, I walk into a corner McDonald's and get a soft ice cream in a clear cup, a hot coffee. There’s nowhere the light is quite brighter than a Mickey D’s at night time. I sit on a high stool and on one side of me a man is furiously scratching his eczema. I begin to feel the high pass out of me, that strange and lovely feeling I had just been holding of having my unseen be seen and recognized, it just starts to seep from my body, as an all-too-familiar sense of separation, of confusion, begins to blossom back.
"I've never seen you here before," the scratching man says.
Uh, we’re in a fast-food joint in a busy city, I think, but then nod at him when I notice, on my other side, a table of wigged Polish women eating rectangle red-boxed pies and milk-less coffee. Passing around pictures of kids, presumably grandchildren, all quite comfortable in their seats. They come here often.
“So you’re new in the neighborhood or something?”
I nod, look down, pour a bit of coffee over my ice cream, and like a strange little cosmic wink, he says it, too. No questions, no prompting. Same sentiments in quite different voices, just moments apart.
“You’re going to do well here,” he says, letting his skin have a breath from his nails. “You’re going to be just fine.”