As I made my way down Park Ave after my weekly allergy shots, I had already picked my blog topic and was starting to write it in my head when a unattractive black woman handed me a piece of paper. It was an ad for a psychic, Madam Larue, or something like it. Spiritual reader. Tarot Cards. $10 special. I walked a block and looked back. The woman was staring at me. I walked another block and looked up 32nd street. There was a sign for a different psychic. This was kismet. I was meant to do this, besides, it was only $10 bucks. What harm could be done? At that moment I realized that I only had $20 dollar bills in my pocket. If I walked in there with only a $20, I would definitely walk out 20 bucks lighter. I’m an easy mark. I needed to get change.
I walked into McDonald’s and bought a McFlurry.
As I headed back, I wondered how a psychic could afford a Madison Ave address. How many palms did she have to read? How many desperate widows would she have to fleece to maintain this place? When I opened the door, it was like I stepped into a time warp. The stairs were dirty and broken, the air was foul and musty. I thought I was somehow on the Lower East Side circa 1981.
As I climbed the stairs, I imagined a raven-haired gypsy with a purple silk scarf. She would be spilling out of her tight corset as she stroked my arms while reading my palm. I could hear Cher in the back of my brain:
“She was born in the wagon of a travelling show…”
When I got to the top of the stairs, I was met by an ugly woman in a house frock and ratty slippers. The music stopped.
She led me to her reading room which was previously a hall closet. There were two wicker chairs and a table with crystals and a deck of tarot cards. In the corner was a small stone fountain giving off the sounds of running water. I tried not to listen, lest I have to pee.
There are two things that I am certain of when it comes to psychics. I know that there are people in this world who have certain gifts. They are sensitive to the world around them and can see things that other can not see. Some called them prophets, some called them seers. Others called them oracles or shaman. These people are rare, but they do exist. Having said that, 98.9 percent of the psychics you see are just frauds who are able to cold read and let you tell them things that they need to read you. As I sat down, I thought of Whoopi in Ghost.
I don’t know if the room was hot, but I began sweating immediately. As she sat down, I became aware of an aroma; breath or B.O., I wasnt sure.
She asked what I wanted and I told her the 10 dollar reading. She asked me my name and I thought to lie, but Jim escaped my lips. I tried my best not to give off and vibes, good or bad. She asked to see my palm and I was relieved when she didn’t take my hand.
She went through the usual platitudes. I see that you are a good person with a good heart. I see that you are going to live a long life well into your 80’s. I can see that someone has hurt you in your past.
Has someone hurt you?
– No, I’ve gone thru life completely unscathed. –
I can see that you are meant to be very successful and you are meant to be married.
– She sees that there is no ring on my finger. Not a real long shot. Next time I borrow a wedding band. –
I can see that there is a lot of stress in your life. Why do you have stress?
Life is stressful, I reply, not wanting to give her anything.
I can see that you don’t sleep very well. You get up in the night a lot.
– Lady, Im 48, I get up to pee. –
Im growing a little tense at this point. This is a waste of time. It’s getting hotter. Sweat is running down my neck. I want to leave before I catch another whiff of her aroma.
Ooops. Too late.
I can see that you are meant to own your own company.
– Yeah. J-Mac Enterprises. I’ve been CEO my whole life. – I’m trying to keep my cynicism in check.
I can see that you are meant to do something with papers. Do you do something with papers?
I try to hide any reaction. She obviously thinks I’m going to be a wealthy author. I look down and see my bag. It’s filled with 100 copies of my book flyer and 5 copies of the book. She’s trying to read me. I shrug my shoulders and say nothing.
Do you work with papers?
“No, not really. I work with computers.”
No, she says. Something with papers.
I can feel the hook in my mouth. She’s almost got me.
I say nothing.
You are meant to own three houses. One in your hometown, one in New York, and one in California. Have you ever been to California?
No, I reply.
You will, she says.
I can hear Cher again. This time she’s inviting me to a party in the Hollywood Hills. “You have to come, Eva Mendes is going to be there, she loved your book. She’s dying to meet you.”
I can see that you are surrounded by a lot of negativity. Where does this come from, she asks.
I don’t know.
I can see that you always try to get ahead, but always take two steps back. Why is that?
Fear, I respond.
Don’t be afraid. You were meant to do great things.
The sweat is running down my back now. I’m choking on her stench.
Do you have problems with your stomach, or your back?
– Lady, Im a middle-aged man. What 48 year old doesn’t have problems with his back? –
She goes back to the marriage thing.
I can see that you are meant to be married. You will be engaged for 7 months. This time I can’t keep silent.
“I don’t see myself as the marrying type.”
That’s cause you’re surrounded by negativity. It comes from your mother. But she was a good person with a good heart. Don’t blame her. It’s from her ancestors.
Friggin Italians. The whole bloodline has the Mal Occhi.
Now she tries to land the hook.
I can remove that negativity from you. I can remove it and you will be relieved of it. Otherwise you will continue to move one step forward, and two steps back.
I can hear Springsteen now.
I try and find my courage before she gets me.
“I only came in to get the $10 reading.” I reply.
She nods and opens the door. Cool air rushes in. “You can come back anytime.”
I drop the $10 bill on the table. I feel a little dirty. I pick up my bag and head down the stairs.
I’m giddy when I hit the streets. I’ve got a new blog topic. I start to write it in my head, but I keep hearing one word.
Books have papers.
I start walking south. Next time I won’t bring my bag. Next time I’ll give a fake name. Next time, I’ll wear a wedding ring and maybe a star of David, throw her off the scent.
Oh, there will be a next time. Just not Madam Larue.
I have to find out about these papers.