My other life

This isn’t my real life. It can’t be. In my real life, I don’t read Cosmopolitan magazine, I don’t obsessively check my horoscope, and I certainly don’t go to fortune tellers.

Maybe it was a bad day, or week, or the accumulation of six long, frustrating months – but when a friend approached me one evening at work and asked if I wanted to go to a fortune teller, I was more enthusiastic than I ever expected. What did I have to lose, other than a few dollars?

One friend (I’ll call her “F”) is devoutly religious and felt a little guilty about having her fortune told – considered a pagan activity by her church. She didn’t seem to mind the guilt though. F had already been to two fortune tellers in the last month, but wasn’t satisfied with her readings. That night she wanted to know about her love life in the coming year. The other friend (“S”) was going through a bad breakup and breakups can make a girl do crazy things, like visit fortune tellers.

Me on the other hand, I had no excuse. I just wanted to try it out and maybe get a little insight into this making-life-decisions thing that I haven’t gotten the hang of yet.

We arrived at a bar where we could have our fortune told while getting liquored up. (How convenient for the fortune teller, I thought.) We had the choice between a tarot card reader and what the waiter called an “intuitive reader.” We ordered drinks and the tarot card reader; she didn’t cost as much as the intuitive reader.

When our reader arrived, F enthusiastically volunteered to go first. S wanted some time to decide whether she wanted to hear what this woman’s cards said about her. There is the chance that something bad will be said, and that was the last thing S needed.

The reader told F that her hard work would finally pay off at work this year and that she would be well rewarded. Despite the good reading, F wasn’t happy. She kept asking questions.

“Yes, but will I meet a man this year,” F asked.

“Um, well, yes…” the reader said.

“OK, then, will I meet anyone interesting this year?”


“Will I fall in love?!”

“That’s difficult to tell. It is probable that you will.”

Clearly frustrated with her less-than-stellar love report, F eventually gave up. S decided to have her tarot cards read. As S listened, stiff lipped, clearly holding back her emotions, the reader told her there was good news: She would meet three men this year. S’s face lit up. F frowned.

“But what about me?” F asked. I held back a laugh.

One satisfied customer, one unsatisfied. I would be the tie breaker.

As the card reader arranged my cards in a pattern that probably means something to people who know about things like tarot cards, I thought about what I would ask. The only thing on my mind was my job, and if I had made the right decision when I moved to the Philippines. In past weeks thoughts of decisions I could have made had looped through my head.

“Your cards are all very positive and strong,” the tarot card reader said.

I asked her about my job, my decision to move to Manila, my future career.

“It’s all good. You’re right where you should be.”

This woman doesn’t know anything, I thought. But as she spoke about the people who have reentered my life recently and the people who’ve always been there – I started to get sucked into the process. Choosing cards, flipping them over, asking a question. The reader didn’t give answers – she gave hints and clues. I liked trying to interpret the vague answers, like some sort of game.

My reading was finished in 15 minutes. S and F were chatting, comparing notes about their readings.

We invited our reader to drink with us. We chatted and ate chicken wings. At the end of the night I felt lighter, like I had been through the fortune telling equivalent of a therapy session. It could have been that I just needed to put into words what had been bothering me for months, or it could have been the vodka tonics, but for a moment I believed the tarot card reader – her assertions, her confident statements about my life.

But, I told myself, it’s OK to believe in tarot card readings when I’m not living my real life. Just like it’s OK to believe that my astrological sign is best suited for friendships with Libra and Gemini. But only now, not in the other version of my life.

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