"Sixty dollars? Really? For a half-hour?”
My incredulity was futile. I had all but signed on the dotted line already, and if I backed out now, my sisters would be disappointed. Besides, they were both going to pony up the cash, and I didn’t want to be the only one left out. Still, my enthusiasm for a psychic reading to get in the spirit of Salem, Mass., had waned significantly when I found out how expensive it is. I don’t really buy into the whole thing anyway, so it was really just something silly to do as a family.
Salem seemed like an odd choice outside the months of September and October, but upon further study, I discovered that it was the kind of cutesy New England town I love, full of waterfront dining and unique gift shops. Being able to tour the Salem Witch Museum and peruse the local Wiccan entrepreneur’s collection of sage without battling a rabid crowd was a bonus.
Before the weekend away, Heather started an email exchange to find out what everyone was hoping to do while in Salem. My only request was the Salem Witch Museum, but when Kelley suggested psychic readings, I wasn’t opposed. My being cheap aside, I figured it would make for a good story, or at the very least, a column for the week.
And interesting it was.
Walking down the wharf, we didn’t see any signs for the psychic, who shall remain nameless. Heather called the number and the psychic (herein, “the psychic”) told us the exact address. She told us to call when we were outside, which seemed odd. Maybe she locked the door during readings to ensure privacy? That seemed pretty legit.
That wasn’t the reason.
The business was her apartment, which explained why we couldn’t just stroll in. Upon entry, though, it became abundantly clear that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I was struck by sensory overload. My nostrils filled with the scent of candles. Music in a foreign, unrecognizable language, played softly in the background. I wasn’t sure where to look first. Next to a closet door, a pair of decorative witches boots were on the floor. The room was full of lanterns, sculptures and unusual art. Above a roll-top desk, a dark image of an unfamiliar woman glared down at me. It struck me a little bit like a shrine, but I didn’t see any sacrificial blood or anything, so I shrugged it off.
Heather volunteered to go first, which was comforting until I realized that she and the psychic were walking about 10 feet away to the dining room table, separated only by an open archway and sound muffled only by the bizarre music. Kelley sat on a love seat where she could make eye contact with Heather and, with the psychic’s back turned, she took liberties at suggesting what questions she should ask. I couldn’t see Heather, but I can imagine a pretty solid eye-roll as Kelley moved her arm over her stomach in a wide arch, mouthing the word “baby” over and over again. I learned from Heather’s mistakes, and avoided eye contact with my sister at all costs when it came my turn in the hot seat.
The novelty of my odd surroundings wore off by the time Heather finished her session, so when Kelley stood up and walked into the dining room, I switched my focus to instead making Heather giggle. I walked over unannounced to the witch shoes and pretended to pull them on. Then, after confessing that I had to go to the bathroom, asked Heather, “Where is the little psychic’s room?” which propelled her into a hysterical fit. Kelley confirmed later that Heather’s attempt to cover her laughter was unsuccessful. The whole experience had what I call the “pew effect,” which is what happens when you get the uncontrollable giggles at a most inappropriate time. It happens most commonly in church, when the parish elders look at you with disdain, shaking their heads in disbelief, not buying your laugh-turned-cough for one second. It can also strike during a wake, a serious work meeting or, if you’re me, at any public meeting (where a scolding look can turn into the crack of a gavel if you’re not careful).
Finally, as Heather wiped away her tears, it was my turn.
There was a lot of hemming and hawing and what I can only describe as psychic mumbo jumbo, but for probably 10 of my 30 minutes, some actual observations and predictions.
*My numerology shows that I take a lot of pride in my work and am a perfectionist (true, this column notwithstanding).
*I’m controlling (I’ll just leave it at yes).
*I’m sensitive and sometimes overly emotional (I can’t even read critical comments on the website without crying).
*The psychic told me I would change careers (given my current hours, that’s not outside the realm of possibility) and live out of state (no offense, R.I., but yay!), but that there was a “block” in my way and I would be stuck for the time being (it’s called the 2012 election season, I think).
I was starting to drink the Kool Aid at this point, but then things seemed to unravel, and the content was both vague and quite likely guesswork based on my appearance.
*“You could be down to your last nickel, and trust me, you’ll find another nickel.” What else would you possibly tell me? That I’m likely going to go broke? This is customer service, after all – the chances of me coming back after a blow like that are slim. Plus, if I think I’m going to be poor, I’m not going to waste $60 on a psychic.
*She backtracked slightly when I probed the career change issue, and said that 8 appears in my numerology more than once, which could actually mean that I essentially multi-task and have more than one professional focus (I work at a newspaper. Second jobs are not uncommon, and are not a sign of prosperity by any means).
*And then the kicker: I’ve got a ring coming. You might expect me to go over the moon with this prediction, but give me a break; I’m a 20-something-year-old young woman who admitted to having a boyfriend after being asked (uh, shouldn’t you know that?). Of course I want to get married. If that’s the best you got, I could definitely pick up that second job moonlighting as a psychic.
Over lunch, my sisters and I shared our futures, nodding with the good predictions and dismantling the observations we deemed false.
“What is that?” my brother-in-law asked, glancing over at my plate.
“You took notes? I thought you didn’t believe in this stuff.”
“I don’t,” I said, defensively.
Or at least not until one of the predictions comes true.