I stayed overnight in Asheville, North Carolina with a professional psychic—the kind that answers 1-900 numbers and calls herself something mystical like “Raven.” She also has a WASPY given name, is Harvard educated and raising a child on her own. Something made me trust in her ability to give single women advice like, “No, he definitely loves you. I really sense that. He is just trying to figure out what he wants.”
Deciding where to take the direction of my trip, I had come to an unexpected turn: “Where would I go if I could go anywhere in the world?” I had never been in the position to ask myself this question, and now I only had to pick a direction. I could fly to New York and then on to Europe or go West to California and onto Asia. I could go north to Canada and then to Alaska. Venezuela or Cuba? Besides inherently distinct cultural experience to mark my travels, I had the feeling that the decision was going to alter the course of my life. What if I go to Asia and something terrible happens to me in Thailand? I have seen the movies and I was not interested in spending the rest of my life in prison for drug trafficking or stuck on some Lord of the Flies island like commune. On the other hand, I could meet Adrien Brody at Charles De Gaulle or I could die in a terrorist attack waged at some corner cafe in London. Something good, something bad. Either way, I had to make a fork in the road decision and thought I should get a second opinion on what my fate had in store. I asked the psychic for a tarot card reading.
“I don’t even think you need a reading…. I already know,” she says earnestly.
“That you are going to Europe.”
“How do you know?”
“Because that’s what I do. I’m a psychic. You are going to go to Italy, not for a short time, for a long time and you are going to meet a man. You are going to fall in love with an Italian.”
“How old is he?”
“Younger than you.”
“Like, how much younger?”
“Not very much. But he won’t speak very much English.”
Now for Italiophiles, or women who are easily wooed by the tall-dark-and handsome type (or just young men), this may sound like a compelling future. But, in my whole life, I have never thought I could fall in love with a non-native English speaker. Language is nuanced. How will they pick up on my witticisms, mind-blowing insights, and engage my late night pillow banter? Because I am a narcissist in need of the greatest level of attention and appreciation, there was something about this psychic’s premonition that was not very appealing. I need someone who will listen to me… with dedication and fluency. Maybe I should avoid Europe just to prevent the inevitable complications of breaking up with my future young, Italian, non-English speaking boyfriend.
While in Costa Rica, I met another woman—a psychic in training. We sat at the table while she made tarot cards and studied from her textbook, which read more like “Tarot Card Reading for Dummies.” I pick it up and ask her if I can give it a try. She gives me the cards, I shuffle them and ask her to pick the top three. Following the guidelines and basing most of my interpretation on a passing comment she had made about breaking up with a boyfriend, I gave her the most creative, but intuitively prescient, tarot card reading, I could muster. When I was finished, she said, “Oh my god, that was amazing. Really, you could do this for a living.”
Not that I was completely bullshitting her… but it is amazing how badly we want answers to the mysteries of life and fate and how easy it is to derive meaning from “signs.”
That same night I met a woman named Trixie, a sorority girl turned lesbian who cut off her hair and became a professional chef sometime after college. She had tatoos and a laugh that came from her belly. While we played with tarot cards she relayed the following story:
“So this was like early 90’s, maybe 90 or 91… shit… I don’t really remember, we were doing a lot of drugs back then. Anyway, we all used to go up to New Orleans, like, every year for Mardi Gras. And this one night, we’re all hammered at the bar and my little buddy, we called him Shady, but his name was Will Shadles, and anyway he was just pissing me off, so I was like, ‘Get the fuck out of my face Shady.’ I just wanted him to leave. Man, you know when someone is just, like, really pissing you off and you wanna punch em in the face? So that’s what I said, just, ‘Shady…get the fuuuuck out of my face.’ Anyway, so he left, and we’re all just doin shots, lines, whatever and then, I lost everyone. So I start stumbling back to the hotel and when I get in the lobby, the elevator door opens and my other buddy, Steve, is standin there with this, like, white face… I never saw anyone with that kind of look on their face. And he says real matter of fact, ‘Shady’s gone.’ I said, ‘What do mean, Shady’s gone?’ And he says, ‘He’s gone, like he’s gone out the window.’ Then, he told me that Shady was jumpin on the bed with this girl and when she got off the bed, he went flying through these floor to ceiling windows. There was like, this perfect hole. His body when shooting through and made a perfect hole in the glass! Can you believe it? And someone got a picture! Holy shit! Right as he was breaking through the window! And these mother fuckers still hadn’t called the cops. Of course, when the cops did show up, there was a huge investigation. We were questioned for fuckin hours. And everyone thought we fuckin killed him or something. But we had the picture, that showed him just flying off the bed. Yep. Then they thought it was suicide, but it was fuckin Shady man, he was just jumpin on the bed.”
Here is a true lesson in fate: the old “bed jumping-Mardi Gras-shooting-body-through-the-window” story I wondered, “What if Shady hadn’t gone to New Orleans for that weekend, or didn’t get into a fight with Trixie, or didn’t jump on the bed, or if that picture hadn’t been evidence that there was no murder, but an accident? When I left for New Orleans, Trixie said, “Have one for Shady for me,” and I did. I had a drink for Shady and inquired with some local federal agents in New Orleans to confirm this story. The only case they could recall out of the Fairmont Hotel was ruled a suicide.
I couldn’t worry too much about what might happen. I decided to go to Australia, Bali and East Asia, if only because the weather should be nicer through the winter. I am not sure if I believe in fate, because life is always a series of events, connected, unconnected, endless and infinite. Unfortunate things do happen: like, last night, I lost my 40 dollar umbrella in a cab in St. Kilda (Australia). I wandered around looking for the train, and then, within an hour, I met a man, who saw that I was a bit cold, wet and lost. He invited me to dinner and introduced me to his friends. And, when the sun cleared, we ate fajitas on the beach.