I have a confession to make, and as a writer, it ain’t easy: whenever I pick up a newspaper or magazine, I flip fervently, immediately, to the horoscopes. I’ll read the rest of it, eventually, duh, but, as a Virgo, I cling to this ritual. It’s comforting to craft the illusion that I am somehow in control of my future through knowledge and, therefore, preparation.
I just gotta know. You know?
So I scan each pseudo-prediction carefully, bug-eyed sometimes, savoring the inked words like a special sandwich layered with nuance and meaning. I pick out some of the pickles, and then I analyze the flavors of each bite–clues that might help me navigate the ever-undulating quagmire of Life.
(Needless to say, I have a superstitious streak and a longstanding love affair with self-fulfilling prophecies. Whatever, it could be worse.)
Perhaps because of this fascination, I did something brand new when I was in Vancouver last fall: I visited a soothsayer.
And there, amid tattered tarot cards and the invisible swirls of a hopeful aura, I learned a valuable lesson: You can’t dupe a psychic, no matter how hard you try.
It started innocently. I was wandering around the Granville Island Public Market on a sunny afternoon–October 6, actually–hands tucked into the sleeves of my sweater, my heart nearly fluttering out of my chest. The air was salty and damp; it smelled like Maine at Halloween.
The previous twenty-four hours had been a whirlwind: I’d wandered the steamy streets of Gastown, sniffed spices in Chinatown, climbed up an observation tower, and took a brief respite in a Japanese meditation garden. I photographed a gallery full of pink balloons and a boutique window lettered with the phrase, “FALL IN <3.” Then I sweated out some errant loneliness in a hot yoga class to avoid heading back to my lodging: a dark, depressing hostel in a seedy section of town.
Later, limbs energized and cheeks flushed, I set out into the dark night, where I ended up hopscotching from hot artisanal restaurant-of-the-moment to subterranean speakeasy to musty dive bar with some rambunctious new pals. It was the first evening of our friendship, and someone’s birthday. Party favors were in healthy supply. I, foreigner in a foreign land, had infiltrated a close-knit group of competitive Canadians hell-bent on showcasing their staminas, honed during harsh winters on a frozen tundra.
I didn’t go back to that dark, depressing hostel in a seedy section of town.
Nope. By the time the magnificent glass skyscrapers glittered with the hazy glow of sunrise, I was smitten with Jackson*, a lifelong traveler and one-time professional hockey player with the ass to prove it.
His eyes were the color of glossy burnt caramel; his short hair tufted up in chocolate waves. His front teeth were crooked in a way that made him look mischievous, a minor imperfection that most people would call, oh, how you say, quirky. Otherwise, he was 96 percent brick-house beefcake, and at 6’5” he made me look small. We bonded over stories of our long-ago Europe travels and laughed, a lot. He was Peter Pan in the body of an ice athlete, and remarkably, lacked any obvious signs of concussion-related brain damage.
So when, the next day while wandering through the market, I glimpsed the sign on a shrunken door promising access to “Vancouver’s Best Psychics!”, I totally fell for it.
What can I say? I was in love.
I sat down at the small table facing Embers, Medicyn Womyn [sic] and Spiritual Healer. Her hair was a mass of wild spirals; she looked like a Zulu tribeswoman stuffed awkwardly into a faux Burberry blazer. Soothing synthesizer melodies emanated from a small stereo set next to a bamboo screen. I waited. Finally she scraped a pile of bones, stones, and crystals into her palm with her long, opaque fingernails and held it toward me.
“Blow on them,” she instructed.
She shook her fist briefly, and then let go. The trinkets pitter-pattered onto a large black mat painted with a crude, multicolored compass and strings of strange letters. She clasped her hands together tightly and smiled. Her eyes didn’t leave the mat.
“Do you have someone in your past still in your life? An old boyfriend?”
Dammit, I thought. I’d just driven 5,000 miles to escape that Toxic Situation, and now this lady wanted to talk about it.
“Not really,” I lied.
Of course, she knew.
“You’ve just gotten out of the relationship. And your obstacle is how you’re feeling about yourself…he’s still working on letting go…it’s changed how you think about relationships.”
Has it? Can we talk about something I’m interested in?
“Your dream about relationships is about to come true for you,” she said brightly. “This is all happening…in the next year.”
I straightened my spine in the cold folding chair and threw in an imaginary fist-pump for good measure.
No sooner had my ears perked up than Embers was on to the next topic, and her generalizations–about my “sacred space,” family, friends, money–were hokey, sure, but, they were stunningly accurate.
Eventually, she returned to the good stuff. Yet it wasn’t so good.
“Nothing new is happening in the area of the heart–”
“–Wait, what do you mean?” I interrupted.
“I don’t think you’re going to have another relationship for at least another year.”
“Really?!” I murmured. Did she just contradict herself? I stared at her, dumbfounded. Visions of Jackson’s broad body-checking shoulders swirled overhead into a melancholy daydream.
“Were you thinking about it?” she asked. “Do you have someone around you now?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Well, sort of…”
“Oh, there’s someone in your life right now?”
“Yeah.” This time I said it firmly. Optimistically.
“Okay…” I could hear confusion in her voice, and it sounded like a red snake slithering, hissing, through the word. She cocked her head.
“He’s not happy with his career right now, this person?”
“Maybe?” I shouldn’t have added a question mark to that, I thought. But come to think of it, this Jackson fella did seem sort of washed up. I mean, he used to score goals for thousands of cheering fans and now he sold fucking copiers or something.
“Do you KNOW him?” She sounded like Ace Ventura as the Trainer talking about Snowflake, and no, I didn’t exactly call this guy at home, either.
“A little bit?”
I was so busted. Right then, my cheeks caught fire.
But she pushed her glassed back toward her face and continued.
“He’s not listening to the ancestors. [Huh?] Maybe he doesn’t like what he’s doing, but he doesn’t like himself as much as he should like himself. It’s more than just his job, its got to do with him.”
Hmm…that’s not cool.
“In the past you’ve had this bo–young man…”
I smirked at her verbal hiccup.
“He’s fiery and passionate, but he can jump into things without thinking. This is the energy of the man in your space now: he’s really sweet, really romantic, but he’s the dreamer that doesn’t step into the dream.”
And then the kicker:
“It looks like you’re headed into a trap.”
Say no more, say no more! I thought. And with that the sweet drama of the last day was sucked out of my consciousness and I was no longer in a mind set like a Crazy Girl. I was karma slapped, and it felt so necessary.
I learned another valuable lesson that day: Sometimes all you need is the Best Psychic in Vancouver–to save you from yourself.
*name has been changed to avoid embarrassing anyone else