There was a time I obsessed over the future and had an entire lot of psychics at my disposal. First, there was the tiny Guatemalan woman who read playing cards in the back of a botanica. For only $10 I’d get her shackazoolo voodoo. Plus, I was highly entertained by her clientele, who often hollered “Santo Dios!” and “Ayudame!” when seeking spirit-chasing remedios.
Initially, I was sold by her fortune-telling skills. As she flipped a spade, she told me I’d continue my studies in 2005. I was impressed – until she thought I was a high school student. Needless to say, that’s the last time I allowed that little lady to delve into my private parts.
Next, there was the Dominican woman who read barajas inside her hall closet. Cheap, metal hangers hung above her and nearly poked her eyes out while she lit a white candle. For a second I was afraid this hefty risk taker didn’t have enough customers to acquire proper office space, but I still gave her a shot. After lighting the candle, she asked me to cut the deck in three while thinking of a wish. I did as I was told and closed my eyes tight, like a seven-year-old who’s asking for a pony. My eyes opened as the last stack hit the table. I watched her take the cards, spread them, and flip them over with clumsy, rough hands. While scanning the patterns and symbols, her eyes widened. What is it? I wanted to yell. She gasped, pressed her fat hands on even fatter cheeks and let out a terrified squeak. I panicked, wondering whether I should bolt and face my fate like everyone else. If I was going to get hit by a bus after catching my next boyfriend in a compromising ménage à trois, so be it. I rather not know my expiration date. But I couldn’t leave. As much as I wanted to save myself from knowing my catastrophic ending, I had to discover what was next.
Dominican Baraja Lady perspired, fanning herself as a hanger almost attacked her left pupil. For the love of God, tell me what you see before I take a hanger and poke your eye out myself! She parted her lips and said, “I just pictured another terrorist attack in NYC, and there’s going to be a citywide flood!” Uhhhh, what did that have to do with my love life?
My next brujo was Arnold, a Dominican-Spanish-speaking Haitian recommended by a childhood friend. His spiritual center was located in the Bronx, downstairs of an income tax/real estate/cash delivery service. It seemed a bit sketchy, but hey, at least he had an office! As soon as I entered the dark hallway that led to his spiritual center, a slender Dominican woman greeted me. In Spanish, she directed me to take a seat and offered me a cup of water. I shook my head and masked my fear of the unknown with a smile.
Arnold’s place may have seemed like an office, secretary and all, but office it was not. Dark statues with menacing expressions guarded every corner and hung on his ceilings. I still stayed put. Because I thought it was normal to have a fortuneteller’s number on speed dial – especially Arnold’s.
He was such the master that I wondered if he’d stolen my social security number and done a background check with the FBI. He was so specific that I feared he would detail the width and thickness of my vagina. There was nothing Arnold couldn’t tell me. Why, that very first day he predicted I would hear from a former lover three days later – and I did! Nothing happened romantically but Arnold’s prediction was right. So I continued to confide in his skills and incomprehensible chants.
Unfortunately, every bad junky hits rock bottom. That’s where I was when I returned to his spiritual center a day after receiving my awaited call. No longer afraid, I skipped down the spooky corridor and entered his tiny, private room. This time I didn’t jump when a statue gave me the side-eye. I just plopped my ass in his chair and told him the news. After all, Arnold had become my new BFF.
While recounting details of my exciting encounter, Arnold nodded eagerly like a good, supportive friend. Minutes later, the conversation changed to money. While I sat next to his favorite skull, he urged me to break “the hex” cast upon my love life. Why, with just a bath of blood and feathers I would be cured and find the love of my life! Because this man, Arnold reported, wouldn’t last, just like the rest of them. This man would lose interest as quickly as he’d become enamored with me, just like the rest of them.
I stared at Arnold’s dark and smooth skin, holding back tears of fury, betrayal and, ultimately, fear. Was he right? I thought, petrified. There were always men vying for my attention and affection, but they showed no consistency or permanency; they said no “I love you’s” or “te amos.” In three to four months flat they’d grow tired, complain of my dramatic antics, including my incessant drunk dialing and texting, or insist they needed to suddenly roam free. Or worse – they’d ghost like they never kissed naked parts, made future plans, or held me at night. So, was Arnold right? Should I pay him an approximate sum of $525 to rid me of my misfortune?
Arnold silently waited on my response. He was always a patient and tolerant BFF. I remained in my chair, sinking deeper into despair. Suddenly, I heard a whisper. Have faith! My eyes scanned the room. Arnold’s lips hadn’t moved and the statues hadn’t inched closer. Don’t give up! I heard next. I closed my eyes and inhaled and exhaled, inhaled and exhaled. Those comforting words from coming from my heart. In that moment, she pled that I live my life bravely, and that I would leave behind my obsession with the occult. She knew I felt so unlovable that I’d consider paying for a fix to cure me. Besides, she continued convincing, what kind of BFF would make a quick buck off their buddies insecurities? My Haitian comrade and potential cousin (he knew everything, I tell you), that’s who. So I rejected his offer. I shook his hand, threw $27.96 in a metal bin, and bid the skull and Arnold adieu.
I walked out the door and felt my self-imposed shackles lift. Chin pointed to the sky, I strutted down Jerome Avenue, swinging my hips to the rhythmic screeches of the above ground 4-train. I even deleted Arnold’s number from my smartphone. This was it, I thought as I hoped on the Bx35. No more psychics! I beamed at the thought of living an easy existence without the allure of barajas and taza readings. Then I remembered the tarot cards secretly tucked inside my panty drawer. Would I have to give those up too? My forehead creased with worry. By no means was I a “professional” tarot reader, I reasoned. What would be the harm?
And just like that I was on track to break my promise.
The next day I opened my top drawer, reached in and grabbed my tarot cards. I shuffled the deck and asked for answers. I was an addict who could not quit cold turkey. Rehab centers wouldn’t wean patients of heroin and crack without a dose of suboxone, would they? Nooooo, they wouldn’t, which is why my tarot cards became my new and improved BFF. They didn’t talk back, ask for money or grab a yummy French fry from my plate like the women at the Guatemalan woman’s botanica. They also didn’t complain of exhaustion when I asked them the same question four to five times because I didn’t appreciate the answer. It was the perfect psychic connection – until I realized I was a shitty psychic.
I couldn’t describe the skin tone or height of my next lover. I didn’t have telepathy, ESP, or even ESPN. My lack of skills coupled with my obsession with specifics frustrated me. No matter how hard I tried, whacking my tarot cards repeatedly didn’t spit out a clear vision of my future. So there I was: useless as a fortuneteller, unhappily single, and itching for a fix. I plotted to find a new psychic, practicing the sly phone calls I’d make to friends to help me in my search.
“So…Dionne Warwick sure has great friends, doesn’t she? Have you ever spoken to any of her friends?”
For a second I thought of riding a New York City bus in hopes of bumping into someone who looked like one of us but was much more powerful. Then I realized I had that damn song stuck in my head.
Weeks later, I was still (psychic) friendless and desperate. Like a crackhead, I took to the streets, roaming in and out of botanicas in search of the good stuff. Soon, I was sent an angel in the form of a loud and cranky public-school social worker. She walked into my classroom slightly red in the cheeks. Her wrinkles were much more noticeable than usual, yet she seemed happier than usual. She ran her fingers through her bleach-blonde boy cut, and said she’d just come back from a fabulous, weekend getaway with her new man.
“I didn’t expect to meet anyone after my dick of an ex-husband ruined my life, but here I am…in love!” She cocked her head back and let out a hearty laugh. I smiled though I envied her fortune.
“Good for you,” I managed to murmur in between gritted teeth.
“I’m just so crazy about him!” she declared. “I hated anything with a penis, so when J.D. told me to stop being a bitch and give this new guy a chance…”
J.D.? Who’s J.D.? I thought.
“He told me I’d meet him,” she continued. “I didn’t believe him but look at me now – I don’t hate dick!”
My eyes lit up. Just like a junkie knows street talk, I knew psychic talk. J.D. was just the dealer I needed.
It took me two months to book an appointment with J.D. So when the day finally arrived, I charged his front door. A tall, thin man opened up and let my friend Chloe and I into the trendy, Greenwich Village apartment. Chloe also wanted to get a reading from J.D. I was happy to bring her along, if only to pass on the new psychic connection.
He motioned us toward the living room, which was decorated with bamboo plants and colorful paintings. As we took our seats, he offered us a drink from the water cooler that stood against the wall. Chloe and I declined the drink, but I was impressed. Water coolers were commodities in most psychic facilities. The prim secretary opened a black notebook and asked for our names. Intimidated with the properness of it all, I mumbled “Sujeiry” and Chloe followed suit. Then it was all business. While still looking at his notebook, pen in hand, he asked us to pay $75 dollars each. I paid up, sunk back into the couch, and stared at the sculptures and paintings. J.D. was making quite a living as a psychic.
30 minutes later. I was the first to go. Chloe wished me luck and continued flipping through fashion magazines. I took three steps, pushed open a door and heard a voice.
“Come iiii-iiin!” he said in a high octave.
I entered another immaculate room, and there was J.D. – bald, overweight, and rocking a red, blue and yellow silk- pajama set. He sat behind his desk, swiveling in his chair and waving me in, like a restless kid wanting to build a fort at a slumber party. I approached slowly. He stopped swiveling and began scribbling notes on post-its. I took a seat in front of J.D. and he continued to write. I waited for him to light a candle, moan, or sprinkle holy water, but he just kept doodling. I leaned back, staring at his perfectly trimmed goatee and waxed eyebrows. He put his pencil down and met my gaze.
“You’re 24. An Aries. So you’re a bit of a handful at times. Men – the bastards! They have a hard time keeping up with you!” he rattled in a nasal voice.
I chuckled, tickled by his precision and flamboyance. “Something like that,” I replied between giggles.
“But they’re the ones missing out, honey. When you’re in love, watch out world!” J.D.’s arms shot up and he drew an imaginary circle in the air. I leaned in, intrigued to learn more and hoping for jazz hands.
“You’re passionate, loyal, trustworthy, giving…and you can go anywhere and have a blast. They’re fools, I tell you, just, ugh. I’m getting hot and bothered just thinking about it, honey.”
“I also see children around you, lots of them. You’re a teacher.”
“Yeah, that’s right. Man, you’re good,” I said.
I wondered how he knew all of this. My eyes scanned his enormous office, filled with books and precious porcelain figurines. I didn’t see any hidden cameras or any of my relatives feeding him lines . J.D. was gifted – a true psychic friend.
“Honey, it only gets better,” he continued. “Let’s talk about why you’re really here – your love life.”
He clenched his heart and leaned in, like a girlfriend whose about to share a secret sexual maneuver. I inched forward, sitting at the edge of my chair and pulling at my pinky ring to ease my nerves.
“Your next relationship will be at…26!” J.D.’s arms shot up again.
My eyes widened. “What?” I shouted in disbelief.
“Honey, don’t get all huffy on me. This is going to be good for you. This man is going to sweep you off your feet. He’s going to show you things you’ve never experienced, honey. You are going to be in heaven, in L-O-V-E: LOVE. But at 26.”
“But I’m 25,” I whined, pouting like a seven-year-old who woke up on her birthday to only find a picture of a pony.
“Listen to me!” J.D.’s tone shifted from glittery gay to Mommie Dearest. “It’s going to happen at 26,” he pressed. “And his first name…his first name will begin with the letter…”
I held my breath, tummy flat as a board, while J.D. fiddled with the Post-its again. He glanced up at the ceiling for a second and returned to scribbling. J.D. finally stopped writing, leaned back on his reclining chair and folded his hands on his round belly.
“…the letter E!”
E, I thought. Who do I know whose name starts with the letter ‘E’? My mind raced through my Rolodex of men –
past and present.
“Stop in the name of love, honey!” J.D. shouted. “I see what you’re doing!” he lectured while shaking a finger in my face.
“What?” I questioned innocently though I knew he noticed my plotting.
“26! Not now at 25!” he yelled. “You can’t fight Destiny, honey!” J.D. yelped.
I nodded like a good girl and gave him a sheepish smile. It was all J.D. could tell me. I would have to take it or leave it.
J.D. shook my hand. After all the commotion, I thought it odd he opted for a formal handshake. I expected a kiss! I walked toward the door. When my hand reached for the doorknob J.D. quipped, “Come back at 27. Not in a month, not in a year, but at 27.”
I turned to face him and nodded, long tresses dancing on my back. 2 years, I thought in a panic. Could I live a life of uncertainty and survive months with that one inside tip? I held on to the banister and scanned the living room from the top of the staircase. Three more women waited to see J.D. They were also seeking answers and a version of the truth. One of the women gripped a stack of photographs; J.D. reads auras through the eyes. Unlike the others, this woman sat apart, isolated and distant. I observed her bitter expression for a few more seconds before making my way down the last set of stairs. I didn’t want to become her. I couldn’t. I just wouldn’t. So I made another promise to myself: to let go of control and just live.
Meeting Mr. E at 26 would just have to do. Because I couldn’t fight destiny, honey.