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Seeing stars 

What the palm reader really thinks

I've been told I'm psychic -- make that extremely psychic.

"You're extremely psychic," a palm reader told me five years ago.

"Really?" I squealed. "Me? Extremely psychic?"

"Yes. Look here," she said, pointing to a pale cluster of wrinkles next to my (too short-looking) lifeline, "you have a perfect five-point star in the palm of your hand."

Damn if she wasn't right. Looky there, a star in the palm of my hand. Until then I never even suspected I was psychic. I mean, OK, there was that time in high school when I nicknamed my math teacher "Tarantula," and then the very next day one of those massive black bumble bees landed on his arm and he smashed it there. After that the poor bee kind of looked like a little tarantula, smashed and furry and clinging to his sweater. I always felt that was an eerie coincidence.

Then there was the time in college when I predicted my bitch roommate would end up dead behind a Dumpster, naked and maggoty, with every orifice violated. Then a few years later, she ended up married and moving to the suburbs, apron-clad with kids, a philandering husband and a big bag of broken dreams, which is practically the same thing, right?

So I had to stop ignoring the signs. I am psychic. Extremely psychic. Should I use my powers for good? Or should I start stockpiling weapons and multiple spouses? I haven't decided. In the meantime, I just gaze at the star in the palm of my hand, then at social gatherings, I'll show off my talent. I'll stare into other people's palms and say things like, "You've lost someone close to you recently," and pretty soon they're staring back at me in wonderment, saying, "Yes, yes, how did you know?"

I'm extremely psychic, that's how. Plus, that lost-someone-close-to-you line is always a bull's-eye. People interpret it so sweepingly. One person had just put her poodle to sleep, another had had a friend move to Colorado, another had gotten divorced, and of course people die all the time.

It doesn't matter if it happened yesterday or a decade ago: If you've lost someone close to you, it always seems recent. So pretty soon people are following me around at these gatherings, palms outstretched, asking me things like, "Tell me if I should take the job in Jonesboro."

I always tell them yes, because the odds are always in favor of yes. If they did not really want to take the job in Jonesboro, they would have asked the question differently. They would have said, "Tell me if I should turn down the job in Jonesboro," and my answer would have been the same. It always is.

Before I found out I was psychic I remember reading about a couple who'd lost their 7-year-old daughter to cancer. They talked about how they could still feel her presence, and they were comforted by it. The mother had baked some sugar cookies the week before the interview, in the shape of angels, and after she had cleaned the kitchen and put away the ingredients, she noticed that one lone little angel cookie was left behind on the counter. "It was a sign," the mother sighed, "from our little girl, telling us she is still with us and always will be."

Oh, bullshit, I remember thinking. That poor woman, grasping at any ordinary thing, trying to twist it into a sign from her child, trying to survive the day by weaving these invented premonitions into some kind of emotional rope that can pull her through. How sad is that? And I put the newspaper down, folded it up like any child-free idiot would, a neat little bundle not in my mind or anywhere near it.

Then the psychic who told me I was psychic also told me I'd have children one day. Two to be exact. "They look like girls," she said excitedly. I peered at my palm wondering where the hell she plucked that news. Until then I figured I had all the maternal instincts of a very hungry pterodactyl.

My girl, Mae, was born two years later. She came like a comet out of nowhere, beautiful and brown-eyed and utterly unlike me except she had wrinkly little stars on the bottoms of both her feet. So if one star means you're extremely psychic, I wonder if two stars means you're able to bend things with your brain or something, because Mae can bend me, that's for sure. I am always bowing down to kiss the stars on her feet. I am helpless before her power.

And I think about that woman with her angel cookie all the time now. How weird is that? I make up scenarios in my mind. I go to her with my psychic self and show her the star on the palm of my hand.

"This means I'm extremely psychic," I say. She looks up at me, her eyes an ocean of pain.

"Tell me if my daughter is still with me," she says, her face fraught with loss. She looks like her emotional rope is running low, like she's longing for more threads to lengthen it. "Tell me," she implores, "is she still here?"

My answer, of course, is yes. It always is.

hollis.gillespie@creativeloafing.com

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