I Was a Sucker for Psychics
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because help works in mysterious ways.
I see myself as an elite lover of clairvoyance. I go only to special, selective seers.
My friend Helen? She took me to Chinatown, in New York City, hobbling up the spiral staircase of the old tenement. She served as the translator. But I’ve gotten charts done in Sri Lanka, and saw a specialist in Borough Park, among the religious Jews. I even paid a hefty fee to a woman in Indiana to cleanse my chakras over the phone.
But by far the most influential of the lot was Raymond, a gay psychic who lived in the West Village. You needed to wait months to get an appointment. Well worth it, I’d been warned: “I would be very careful, Elana, and limit yourself to only once a year. This can become addictive, and all this stuff … it comes true in weird ways.” This friend had bought a house like he told her she would, although he transposed the numbers in the price. “Take his words with a grain of salt,” she added.
Every time a relationship went astray, though, I went for my fix: fortune-tellers. I was in my 30s and not married; inevitably a friend would share a name of someone I had to see. A fixer. And I went. Every. Single. Time.
You had to go on a Tuesday, and he usually booked up six months in advance; that’s how in demand he was. I got a slot on a wintry January evening a few weeks shy of my 35th birthday, at a time when I was wondering if I’d ever find love.
And my new addiction began. I always thought people who used 900 numbers were crazy. But now I was just as bad.
I got there early and waited at a coffee shop, watching the snowflakes gently touch the pavement. Sipping my latte, I realized this was the most money I’d spent on any fortune-teller: a hundred dollars including my MetroCard. Was this verging on insanity, I wondered?
Someone buzzed me in, and I waited on the lower level of his loft, dreaming of what he’d say. His technique was different. He wasn’t going to break a hex like the woman in Williamsburg, or look at my time of birth like the guy in Sri Lanka. He was different; photographs were his thing. And only if he liked you, felt your vibe — then you could ask questions. I thought of Seinfeld and the Soup Nazi and knew if I broke protocol I was out.
It was finally my turn. I went upstairs and sat down. He started explaining the rules in a pronounced New York accent, through streams of smoke wafting out of his brown cigarette that looked like a cinnamon stick in his right hand.
“I ask all the questions — got it?” he said, and then firmly exhaled. I nodded, sat up and listened.
“So, what do you do?” he asked, and then scribbled something down on a piece of paper.
Before I could answer he turned the placard over and showed me the response. It said “teacher.” Hmm. Impressed, but he could have Googled that, I thought.
The questions got harder. Where I worked. Who my latest crush was. Where I lived overseas. He answered them all correctly, and then I finally got to ask a question.
“So will I ever find love?”
Drum roll …
My face lit up.
“Honey, do you really need a man? I mean, really, you got it all going on.”
I smiled. Then he continued. I had to bite my tongue so as not to ruin the momentum.
“You’re going to meet him naturally,” he said. “None of this JDate shit. He’ll be a few years younger than you, and his name will begin with the letter J.”
“Yes, and you’ll be rich, and you’ll be a writer.”
“Wow, I can’t thank you enough.”
I giggled like a schoolgirl all the way home. J, I thought. Who do I know with the letter J? And my new addiction began. I always thought people who used 900 numbers were crazy. But now I was just as bad. I began to keep an eye open for men whose names started with the letter J.
I gave Jared with the nubbed teeth more time than I would have; Justin too. I gave them all a chance until I realized that I was only holding on because of the first letter of their names. Could I really spend my whole life going around looking for love this way? Plus, Raymond was known to sometimes make mistakes. Maybe it was not J after all.
And then I did find love.
He was tall, and it was natural. And his name did not begin, end or have a single J in it. I didn’t care. I was finally going to get what I wanted. Until he left a few months later. My first instinct was to make another appointment, but Raymond was booked solid.
Instead, I spent another hundred getting my chakras cleansed. She too promised love any day now. Kids too. I waited, patiently. He never came. Sadly, the kids didn’t either.
Finally, my friend Anna brought me to a Hasidic specialist. She took the day off work because she was so concerned that I hadn’t settled down. She translated from Hebrew as I watched the man with the black hat and flowing gray beard find my parent’s name in a book — proof that this was legit. For another $100 (seemed to be the magical number), he gave me a scroll and placed it in a religious amulet (purchased separately) to put in my apartment.
“People come from all over to see him,” Anna said. “You seem like you don’t even care what he had to say.”
“I guess it’s all getting too much — I don’t want to hang this in my house. I don’t want to do this anymore.” She placed her arm on my shoulder. “I know you are only trying to help,” I said. “But there has to be another way.”
There would always be someone else to try. A horoscope. A reading. A quick $5 fix — but one day I simply stopped going. Cold turkey. I had to. This way of life wasn’t working anymore. I decided to let fate take its course and live the life that was in front of me.
It’s been more than five years since I stopped paying someone else to bring me hope. I still remember what Raymond said to me all those years ago, and I do hope it’s true, that love will come to me naturally. Until then, I remain hopeful.
But sometimes, when I meet a tall guy whose name starts with the letter J, I can’t help but think — is he the one?