There is (or was--in my happy place in my head nothing actually changes unless I am there to witness it) a fortune teller on 47th Street in Manhattan. She has a neon sign in the front window of a brownstone in an otherwise residential block. You walk up the steps and ring the buzzer, and maybe she answers and maybe she doesn't--I know because I went back a second time a few years later and no answer.
In 2003 I was having a bit of a rough weekend--Jeff and I had split up, and all signs pointed to Nora Kissed Another Frog Funny How She's Smart And All But With Her Taste In Men You'd Never Know It. I was living out my familiar role as the one whose love life makes you feel superior and that you'd dodged a bullet yourself. Can you imagine? So public. I think I would DIE. Poor Nora. I don't know how she does it.
I was in Manhattan with my family for a restorative weekend of plays and restaurants and such. On the way back from one of them, my dad and sister and I passed the brownstone on 47th street. On a whim we rang the buzzer. I think there's something to some of these fortune tellers, you know, said my dad. She let us into her impossibly small studio--the size of the bay window in the front room curtained off to hold a tiny table and two chairs.
She was a vision of only-in-New York. A diner mug of coffee with cream with a lipstick ring, clearly not the first cup of the day, a cigarette nearby. Her accent was mostly New York (new yawk) with just a hint of something else--European, maybe? She named her price and looked me square in the eye and said you won't be disappointed, I have a gift. My father forked over the cash and she invited me to sit down.
Before I was fully seated she reached out and took my hand. I thought it was a handshake situation, sealing the money exchange that had just taken place. But the moment our hands touched she started talking, and didn't stop for quite awhile. Like us touching gave her the connection she needed.
She knew about Jeff. She knew his name. She said all he needs is time, he really loves you. She said I should not consult my friends about what to do, I should act first and talk later because I have friends close to me whom I cannot trust. She said I would be a student soon and that I would have surprise trips to California and Florida.
The thing about Jeff, about me being a student, and about the trips, those all came true. I'm sure my face that day made her job easy--it wouldn't have taken much to see I was going through something of a time. But she could not have known that I had just been accepted to graduate school. She could not have known about Jeff, about what we had been through. She could not have known that I did need a little coaching in listening to my own still small voice--that in spite of my past blunders and his recent ones I knew he was The Real Deal, that he was Worth It. And that a gentle whisper inside was still saying so even as the voices around me were warning me away.
She said a few other things that I will wait to see if they come true. Who knows? Some will, I imagine. Some I don't see any path to from where I am now. She probably doesn't know that her raspy fortune-telling brought me great peace and strength. She might have been the first person to tell me in words that made any kind of sense that my opinion about my own life was more valuable than anyone else's.