Psychic Tales: Seventeen and Twenty-one

According to a quick Google search, there are about ten psychic readers within a five-mile radius of my apartment. This makes me feel better. At least I must not be the only one looking for a third party to tell me how the hell to live my life. At least I’m not the only one thinking (or hoping) that maybe the answers are right here in the palms of my hands.

The first time I went to a palm reader I was seventeen. The second was two days ago; I am twenty-one. There is something eerily similar about these two ages. As a senior in high school I was searching for answers the same way I am searching for them now as a senior in college. The questions are different, but that nagging, itchy, can’t-get-my-head-above-water feeling is very much the same. What I didn’t know when I was seventeen was that the feeling only gets worse, more intense, as those unanswered questions start to hold more significance and start to dictate which direction my life is going to go in. When I was seventeen I was worried about leaving my friends and my family behind for a new city. I was nervous, but excited. At twenty-one I am mostly just nervous. The only way I can really describe this nervousness is to say that I feel an overwhelming urge to grab every freshman by their shoulders, shake them and say, Cherish it! It goes by too fast! And that when a friend jokingly suggested I fail all my classes in an effort to stay back a year and put off all of these life-altering decisions, I considered it for a brief, fleeting, blissful moment.

But I’ll start at the beginning of my search for the answers hidden in my hands.

We went because we had a coupon. Ten dollars for two palm readings; it was a good deal. My best friend Pia laughed about it and I pretended to. But in reality I really wanted to know about those vague, uncertain shadows that were my future. I’d just gotten my heart broken for the first time and Pia just was about to give hers away. At seventeen years old we were both unsteady.

“This is it,” Pia said, hunched over the steering wheel of her mom’s Volkswagen Beetle. We pulled up the gravel driveway and Pia shut off the ignition. We sat staring at the dilapidated white duplex in front of us. I couldn’t help but wonder if the psychic predicted that leaky roof.

Slowly, we walked up the front steps. We nudged each other back and forth until Pia finally rang the doorbell. A girl not much older than us answered. She was dressed like us, in jeans and a sweatshirt, her hair up in a messy ponytail. We thought we had the wrong house. Where were the gold bangles, the long patterned skirt, and the kerchief?

“Palm readings?” she asked. We nodded and she let us in. Daytime TV murmured in the corner of a mismatched living room. “Would you like to go together or separately?” “Together,” we both said. She led us to the kitchen table. We sat side by side as she studied our open palms with eyes almost as young as ours, but more focused than our pairs could ever be. She stared into our hands, moving back and forth from mine to Pia’s. Her brow furrowed as she traced the lines of our palms, her lips moving slightly like a child learning to read. Finally she looked up at me and said, as if she was simply talking about the weather, that I haven’t had very many past lives, while Pia has.

“Everything is newer for you,” she said to me, pointing to creases and lines on my hands I’d never noticed before. I wondered how she saw them; if they formed a map that only she could see. Maybe the wrinkles in my palms were actually measurements of miles and years not yet seen, not yet lived. Or maybe it was like Pia said later, she’s just really good at reading people, Jessica.

She told Pia the opposite of me and I thought about her rationality. People call her an old soul. No one’s ever said that to me. I thought of a day in fifth grade. It was the year we became best friends. Pia brought in a picture of her sister for show and tell and someone said they didn’t know she had a little sister. “She died,” Pia said, and the class took a collective breath in because in fifth grade only grandparents and goldfish can die. Pia knew differently.
She told us we will each have one marriage. I’ll have three children and Pia will have two. They sounded like down-comforter sort of lives. I left feeling happy and calm. She really seemed to know us.

“She didn’t really tell us anything bad, or scary,” I said to Pia on our way home. She looked over at me. “Because that costs extra.”

The only thing I could think about during the rest of that ride home was all of the things the palm reader didn’t tell us—more questions left unanswered.

A few days ago I went again to a different palm reader, the one that Google told me was closest to my apartment. I wondered as I walked there if maybe this was the exact date I went four years ago back home. It must have been close, because the early autumn air smelled the same, it was cloudy and slightly brisk, and the stores were starting to put out the miniature pumpkins like they are now.

I went because I was drifting. According to an article in Self Magazine, (which I only read at the gym because its there, I swear) drifting is a state of feeling like you are on autopilot, or that your life is happening to you — you are not in control. I nearly fell off the elliptical when I read this. It was exactly how I’d been feeling. I was forgetting to laugh at other people’s jokes, even when they were funny! I was mindlessly neglecting to do homework assignments. When I hung out with my friends they would ask me what was wrong, and I smiled and said nothing, because I didn’t know. I would come home at night and call my boyfriend and within ten minutes of the conversation we would be fighting and I didn’t know how it happened or why but all of a sudden it was one o’clock in the morning and I was crying. All of these things were happening to me or at me, and I needed help.

It was out of sheer embarrassment that I didn’t tell anyone I was going and that I still haven’t. I knew my friends would just think I was crazy and my boyfriend would think I was crazy and foolish for spending money on something like that. Both are fair accusations. I know I’m crazy and a little bit foolish. I don’t really believe these things work. I just believe they maybe work just a little bit sometimes. And I’m fascinated by how well palm readers can assess people right off the bat. The one in Connecticut had it easier, though; she probably pegged my friend Pia and I just by comparing. Even just by looking at us, albeit looking closely, one can probably tell that Pia is the more sensible, the more rational, and the more grounded of the two of us. This time the palm reader had it harder. I went alone.

I’ve walked by the building several times before. I’ve seen the big poster in the window boasting, Psychic Readings, Walk-Ins Welcome. There’s a crystal ball in the window too, so you know it’s legit. I walked slowly up the steps. This time I found myself in an office building, not someone’s family home, which put me slightly more at ease. I was greeted at the door, and immediately my stereotypical notion of a psychic was indulged. She was middle-aged, round, and wearing a long skirt and lots of gold jewelry. But somehow it looked like some sort of costume. I don’t know what it was about her face that told me she was older—probably a few years older than my parents—because her skin was smooth, with no wrinkles to speak of. Maybe it was her eyes. She really looked like she could tell you the things you wanted to know, or the things you wanted to hear. The office smelled of incense and was filled with jewel-toned statues and wall hangings. She led me to a chair at a small table adorned with a silky cloth and a stack of tarot cards.

“I’m going to tell you everything I see, good and bad, okay?” She said. “Okay,” I replied, but I felt my stomach lurch in protest. Do I really want to know? Doesn’t that cost extra?! I thought.

She put her glasses on and took my right hand (my dominant hand) into her own. She started with a description of my character. She said I was honest, sensitive, and an overall good person. That was nice to hear. She said I would live a long life, and that I’ll get married. She said I will have two children, not three. Her eyebrows furrowed and she pulled my hand closer to her face and continued.

“You are very confused,” she said. I nodded thinking, well yes, why would I come here if I wasn’t?

“There is a lot of negative energy surrounding you. You are questioning things, about your relationship, your career. Sometimes you wake up, and you don’t know if you are coming or going.”

Now my stomach was doing somersaults. It was true. But again, my mind tried to reason with me. This is how everyone feels sometimes. She just knows that.

“Your lack of confidence is holding you back. It is what’s keeping you up at night.” I swallowed hard as I thought about the Nyquil I popped last night in an effort to sleep soundly.

“There’s something else, there’s something in New York for you. Do you have a connection to New York somehow?”

“I work for a company remotely that’s based in New York. I’m an intern.”

“Focus on New York,” she replied, and looked down at my hand again. I refrained from telling her that I know I didn’t know if I wanted to live in New York; that I wasn’t sure if it was for me.

Do you have a boyfriend?” She asked.

“Yes. We’ve been together for two years,” I replied. She nodded slowly.

“He loves you, but he has very funny ways of showing it.” She paused before saying, “Someone is going to come into your life soon and he is meant to be there,” she said. I winced. Ouch. “You’ll have to make a choice,” she said looking directly into my eyes.

“You will have success and live comfortably, but you need to get rid of this negative energy surrounding you. I can see it just by looking at you,” she said. I didn’t think people actually talked like that, not even psychics. “I wish you the best of luck.”

I paid the twenty bucks, thanked her, and left.

When I left that day, I felt as if it had all been a hoax. There were things that seemed right, but I chalked it up to being vulnerable and clinging to any sort of answers. The truth is I don’t know if she was right or wrong about everything. But, I know she was right about at least one thing. Two days later my first real relationship ended without much ceremony. It ended almost exactly at what would have been the two and a half year mark. In my mind we were supposed to tearfully hug goodbye and exchange friendships bracelets or something. It didn’t go that way. As Pia once told me, “This isn’t an indie romantic comedy you live in, Jessica. This is the real world.” She was right. He didn’t want a hug. Or that friendship bracelet I made with the half-heart charm hanging off. You know the ones.

It didn’t end because there was someone else, though. It ended because between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one a lot happens. A lot changes. In many ways these years are actually quite different from one another. So, maybe the palm reader did have a supernatural future-telling ability. Maybe she really knew that I was going to break up with my boyfriend. Or maybe she just knew that it would end because things often end in your late teens and early twenties. These are the years in which we become people—real ones—with things we want and things we need and things we can’t live without.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever go again, but I like traditions. So, in the fall of 2016 I will probably be thinking about going to a palm reader. I do know that when I walked home that day, I no longer felt like I was drifting. I was making decisions. My feet didn’t feel like they were detached from me anymore—taking me wherever they pleased. I was telling them which direction to turn. I looked down at the palms of my hands and I silently thanked them for bringing me there.

You can read more from Jess Harriton on her blog.

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