Of course this happens to me. I stopped believing in the divine a few years ago. Maybe it was growing up with a spiritualnotreligious mother. She thought the universe somehow had its own power one week and rattled on about a god the next. Maybe it’s that old adage, “someday you’ll see/experience something that makes you believe.” These people must ignore the tragedy, despair, and general randomness of the world around them right now –screw someday.
What’s the one thing you want on a red eye to SeaTac? It’s sleep. I wouldn’t want to imagine the person who picks a red eye flight so she can chat someone’s ear off. But apparently I’m sitting next to her. “What’s your sign?” she asks, some nonhuman combination of a goofy grin and genuine concern on her face. You’ve got to be kidding me. What’s my sign? “Quiet, please.” But I didn’t say that. I’m that unique sort of asshole who engages in friendly conversation while my patience silently stews.
“Oh,” I feign interest, “Cancer.”
“Ah. A carer!” She couldn’t be more wrong on this one.
“I’m a palmist.” It’s really taking everything in my power not to roll my eyes. What the hell is a palmist? Just say palm reader. This sounds like you’re good at gripping basketballs with one hand or something.
“Oh, interesting.” I’m doing it again. Every time I end up in one of these conversations, I try to say things like this to be dismissive. Instead, my responses invariably sound open-ended and welcoming of further discussion.
“Give me your hand. I’ll give you a reading, no charge.” Did she think I was going to offer payment?
“Uh, I’d rather not. They’re quite clammy. Takeoffs make me nervous.” This is utter bullshit. I’ve been flying since before I can even remember. I’ve landed at airports where the crosswinds seemingly turned the plane 90 degrees and the only thing that’s ever crossed my mind is, “WHEEEEE!”
“Oh we’re going to be just fine. Trust me. I know. Come on. Give me your hand. I’m telling you: In my line of work, I’ve held much dirtier hands.”
She takes my hand and starts tracing the lines with her long, garishly painted fingernails. Here comes the life line bullshit. “This is your life line.” Yeah, I know. I was in middle school once too. If this lady thinks she’s going to send me to the Alamo to find my bicycle, she’s lost her mind.
“It’s very long. You should be around for a while.”
“And this is your marriage line. It’s also nice and long but it’s very feathered. You’ve had a lot of loves in your life, right?” Not really. I’ve had plenty of relationships but I’ve only really loved a few women.
“Hmm, I guess.”
“OH. Your head line is split nearly in two. You see both sides of issues. You’re both creative and logical.” P.T. Barnum over here. She’s got something for everybody.
“Your fate line is very faint. It’s hard to read anything from it.” She hit the nail on the head this time. Fate is bullshit.
“So, it looks to me like you have a very long life filled with love ahead of you. You’ll be successful because you can approach problems from many angles. Your fate is the only thing you need to be on the lookout for.” To be on the lookout for? I’ll remember that next time I’m unicorn hunting.
“Well, thank you.” It feels like she’s had my hand for an hour.
“You’re welcome. Thank you for letting me give you a reading!”
I pull my hand back and excuse myself to the restroom. I wonder if she knows I’m going just to wash my hands –a nearly obsessive habit I’ve had for most of my life. I return to my seat, grabbing a pillow and blanket from the overhead bin. I don’t need them to sleep. I just want to make it clear I’m done chatting.
The palm reader looks at me and grins knowingly, opening a book: ‘Keys to the Universe’ or some such nonsense.
The plane shudders as my eyes close.
I dream. I’m standing at the top of a plateau, my back to the valley. My feet begin to slip and I slide backwards. I grab and come up with handfuls of loose dirt. I’m sliding so slowly but I know I’ll eventually free fall. Finally I feel a rock. I grab it with all my remaining strength. The sharp stone digs into the middle of my hand as I continue to slide. It tears at my flesh and I finally lose all grip as it slides loose between my middle and ring finger.
I’m falling. As the ground nears, time stretches into oblivion.
My hand burns.