“Leave him, he’s not the one.”
What upset me more at the time was that he didn’t show any sign of the typical charlatan. No arrogance, no intimidation, no stupid smirks or toothy smiles. Actually, he barely looked at me at all. His voice was disturbingly calm and careless. His gaze was deep into reading the cards in front of him. Absorbed in his job – actually more like a hobby – like his life depended on my future. Or better, on mining my future before it had the chance to become such. And he was doing it for free.
I was eighteen.
I had so many options; drop my not-the-one in the middle of the vacation, wait till our plane landed back home, use the fortune-teller’s own words and tell him straight he wasn’t the one. But with the rebellion of my young age, I stayed. You don’t dictate to a teen girl who she’s supposed to date or not to. Especially to a teen girl who’s on her first vacation with her boyfriend. It’s nothing more than reverse psychology. Every parent knows it. But maybe the fortune-teller didn’t have kids.
So I took his words, packed them on the dusty bottom of some unreachable drawer and buried them under fifteen years of marriage, a son and a slobbery dog.
I have to admit, sometimes I dared peeping. When things were rough, when I was mad, disappointed or frustrated for whatever reason. Just a quick glance back at those words, wondering if “the one” was next to me, if we crossed paths already but I couldn’t recognize him, if I had to meet him yet and all these years had served the purpose of preparing me for something bigger and better.
There had been Emile, my first real crush – a crush returned with the most horrible timing. I still remember making such a fuss with my friends because he was the coolest and cutest guy in town. I also remember the hate on the face of every girl who happened to meet us on our way back home from license school. Now he’s married to my sister’s best friend and has two girls.
There had been Alex. I still don’t know so many years later what the hell I saw in him. He couldn’t possibly be the one. Now he’s married with two girls.
Then Manuel, never much into him, to be honest. Or Raphael, so boring I could never picture a whole day with him, go figure an entire life. Or Daniel, possibly even worse than Raphael.
And then there was Luke. Same firm. Different offices. For a long while we’ve been friends. Flirting friends is maybe a better way to define us. Lunches together, pleasantries, attentions, a sympathy that made people wonder if we were something. Except we weren’t and we’ve never been. It was just that, a sympathy. Guess his fate? Married a couple of years later, now father of two girls. And I start to see a pattern here. It’s like some higher god is looking down and making fun of me for the two daughters I always wanted and never had. Haha, look what you missed with your teen rebellion?
Maybe they all could have been the one. Maybe no one. Maybe the one never existed and never will. Maybe it was simply the fortune-teller’s way to tell me I was destined to something different and the one wasn’t some guy but maybe a mission?
Eventually, Luke fell into the same oblivion of all the other potential “the ones.” He became my boss, we settled easily into our working proximity, getting along quite well. Until one day I found out that back on the old days he used to have a huge crush on me. Hello blindness, my old friend. I took the revelation, stored it still burning in a different drawer so it wouldn’t meet the infamous fortune-teller, moved on again with the wisdom of knowing it didn’t matter anymore. It seemed to be the dancing story of my life. One step forward, two leaps back. Two steps forward, one leap back. Right to the start. Forgotten. Remembered. Restored never to get retrieved again.
The cafeteria is particularly noisy today, more than it generally is on Fridays. Cutlery clinking, forks scraping, dishes clattering. The tv is on, playing the highlights of a reality show nobody cares about. Chatter is loud to surmount the tv. Mindy keeps blabbering about something. I’m not listening, lost in my own thoughts. It’s lunch time. Six coworkers taking a break from one chaos just to jump into a different one.
“Have you already moved?” Mindy asks, with a surprise that shakes the bills off my mind. Nothing ever surprises Mindy. But this thing just did.
“Of course, what should I wait for?” It’s Luke who, in-between bites, confirms the move.
Great. Luke and his perfect family apparently moved to a new house. I can already see it. Huge, clean, compulsively tidy because his wife doesn’t need to work all day.
“You sure didn’t waste time!”
Of course they didn’t. Meanwhile, last time I moved, it only took me five months to pack things. They’re still packed two years later.
“Yesterday I did my first grocery all alone. And I had so much fun.”
Something in those words is off. Something that makes me prick up my ears.
“Oh, the first grocery is always fun,” Bob chimes in, “I separated five years ago and still have stock on toilet paper for another five.”
Everyone bursts into laughter. Everyone but me. I’m still trying to process the whole situation. Separated? Is that what he meant with moving? Moving out? Alone?
I’m suddenly beset by an odd feeling. Good or bad, I can’t say. It’s a conflict bound to drive me insane. I want to be sorry, I want to think it’s bad. For him, for his wife, for his girls. But I can’t. The selfish, wicked witch in me is already doing a happy dance in front of a boiling cauldron. I do my best to ignore her, but she chants louder to make sure I hear her. Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Shut up!
I don’t ask him anything. Not that day, not the next. Not for a couple of weeks. I hate to intrude, it’s not me. But as the days go by, I can’t help noticing his attitude. There’s no anger, no resentment. It’s like he’s completely at peace with the choice. He’s the usual himself. And truth be told, I don’t know what I was expecting. But I keep being silent, regardless of how selfish and uncaring I may appear. I guess I simply don’t know how to tackle the issue, at work, with discretion.
That night I sit on my couch, watching a movie, enjoying the calm of my son without homework for once. A terribly performed fortune-teller issues his catastrophic verdict, the Hanged Man is rarely a good sign.
The fortune-teller. It’s been a long while since I last thought of his words. Maybe the events of these past weeks are meant to mean something? Of course not, I’d only be fooling myself.
Leave him, he’s not the one.
The words are acrid and come with a strong aftertaste of camphor. When I realize that the old drawer has been opened wide, it’s too late. Its content has sneaked out, almost unnoticed, and has started hissing into my ears. I had forgotten how upsetting those few words could be. What gives a man the right to decide your fate based on a worn piece of cardboard paper? Maybe the Hanged Man is only a joker and all this damn movie is based on some misinterpretation.
Maybe the Hanged Man is really an asshole.
It’s a sunny, but terribly freezing Wednesday, when the coffee machine is not crowded and I finally dare to say something. “I’m sorry if I haven’t asked you anything about… you know what. It’s only that I don’t like to intrude.” I couldn’t be lamer than that, but Luke is polite enough to chuckle and pat me on the shoulder.
“You never intrude.”
That’s actually true. “Good. So now, what?” I attempt, unsure about the answer I’ll get, about the answer I’d want to hear.
“I don’t know. I’m still adjusting.”
How long has it been? Maybe two or three weeks. I’ve seen people still trying to adjust after two or three years. All I can do is nod and stare down at the coffee cooling in my hands.
“You know what’s funny?” He reawakens my interest with an odd question. What’s there so funny in a divorce? “Many years ago, before I got even married, I was on a vacation with her, and a fortune-teller told me, leave her, she’s not the one. Took me quite a few years to believe him.”
3 thoughts on “Short story: The fortune-teller”
Very well written, Sabrina. I wasn’t able to stop reading till the end. I hope it’s a story only… Often, don’t need a fortune teller to tell us about it. But we keep lying to ourselves in a hope for…
Thank you so much, Mohamad! Ah, you’re not the first one to point at a possible real story behind it. I guess I’ll plead the fifth 😛
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Hehehe. Wish you happy and blessed life always, Sabrina