If you fire a Nerf dart from my love seat and angle it properly, it will bounce off the coffee table, off the opposing wall, back off the coffee table and into your hand. I was in the midst of discovering this a few days ago when a friend of mine arrived unannounced.
I knew who it would be and considered not answering. It was my friend Sam and most of the time Sam is a pretty good guy but of late he has become enamored with a psychic who sets up shop in Forest Hills. I live nearby so for several weeks I’d been receiving him shortly after having his mind blown by his palmist and it doesn’t take many recollections of the experience to bore me to tears.
“Come in”, I said over my own objection.
“Dude!” Sam said, thrusting his way through the door like Kramer, “I just came from…”
“Your psychic,” I finished and fired a Nerf dart a few inches off the mark. I had to stretch and reach for it, which totally killed the cool factor.
“Right,” he said, hastily tossing his jacket on the couch beside him. “I know you’re skeptical of this kind of stuff but after what she told me today…” he hesitated, searching the chunk of my living room above him for words grandiose enough to describe the magnitude of this revelation.
I saved him the trouble.
“What did she tell you?” I asked politely, reloading my gun. He moved his lips for a second but the words changed their minds and retreated.
“No…” he said with a shake of his head, “It won’t do any good. It doesn’t matter what I say, you’ll shoot it down and not believe it.”
I nodded noncommittally.
“I have a different way to prove it to you,” he said with a wry smile.
I tried to project dubiousness but it’s anyone’s guess to what degree I succeeded. “What?”
“You’re coming with me. She’s free for the rest of the afternoon.”
I glanced to the TV, which wasn’t on, and then back to the coffee table. “I don’t know man… these darts aren’t just gonna shoot themselves.”
“I’ll even pay for it,” he offered.
“It’s cold,” I complained.
“Tell you what, if you can hit that shot five times in a row and catch the dart every time, I’ll shut up about it. If you miss you have to come and have your aura read.”
Sam knows my weakness. I accepted.
So a few minutes later I arrive at this psychic’s place that has a vibe that I could only describe as “clinically hippie”. There’s a small waiting area but I didn’t have time to explore it. The psychic was desperately not busy so she urged us in right away. She did us the favor of not saying we were expected.
Now, I’m not going to spend a thousand words ripping on this nice woman who steals money from ignorant people by promising them something she can’t remotely deliver so I’ll just sum up the details of my Tarot reading (I know, I thought I was getting an aura reading as well).
In all, Madame Fraudulina (name changed to protect the guilty) never made any concrete or testable predictions about the future exactly, but she did make six statements that could more aptly be called predictions of the present. She said that I was dissatisfied with my job, married, an only child, I loved to write, I have great aspirations and a special connection to the month of April.
Now, this would be pretty impressive if it was true. I am married, I do love to write and I suppose that I have “great aspirations”, though I’m not sure how exclusive that club is. I’m lucky enough to have a job that I love, unlucky enough to have three siblings and can’t imagine what would be significant about April.
To be fair, my friend got a lot more than this for his $65. She also told me a lot of stuff like “you have a very old soul”, “your energy is focused in your heart charka” and “you’re more of a stone than a tree,” but I don’t think these constitute testable prophecy. In all, she made six quantifiable statements and had a hit rate of 50%. Even that’s being pretty generous because I have to believe the “great aspirations” line counts for more than half of us and though I don’t wear a ring, I’m far too careless with my appearance to be single.
Sam seemed surprised when my mind failed to throb visibly in my skull on the way back out into the bitter cold. His every molecule vibrated with anticipation as he regarded me with a smile. “Well?” he prompted.
“About what I expected.”
“Are you kidding me? How did she know you liked to write?”
“The fact that I used words she didn’t know probably clued her in.”
“But still,” he argued as though those syllables actually represented a cogent rebuttal.
“She said I was an only child. I’m the third of four kids.”
“But she still got most of the stuff right, though. You can’t expect her to get it right every time.”
“Well… the weather man has a better hit rate than that,” I said, turning into the Duane Reade and sighing when I caught sight of the line. I needed a Mountain Dew and the psychic’s place was too cold to get my bones up to temperature for the walk home.
“She was right three times out of six,” I reminded him.
“She said way more than six things.”
“Six real things. Whether or not I was an artist in a former life doesn’t count.”
“You’ve just closed your eyes to the possibility and you can’t see psychic powers when they’re right in front of you. Man, that’s kind of sad. What would convince you?”
I shrugged and grabbed a green bottle of yellow corn syrup. “How about better than coin flip odds?” I shuffled through the surprisingly ample greeting cards section and stepped into the red ribbon labyrinth that preceded the checkout. As usual, two cashiers manned the eight registers.
“I think you’re just too cynical,” Sam interjected.
“Man, anybody could guess right half the time. Look, I’ll prove it.” The gentleman in front of me in line had glanced back and I caught his attention. He shifted a muscle magazine under one arm. “You mind helping me test my psychic powers?” I asked.
I half expected him to dismiss me as a new age nutcase or lecture me about the sin of the supernatural but to my surprise he was quite amiable. I suppose it’s better than the entertainment one usually gets in line at the Duane Reade.
I proceeded to make six random guesses about the guy and for the sake of recreating the actual circumstance I tossed in a few neo-pagan buzzwords. I told him he was a moon bearer and a temperate soul. I also offered the same six guesses that the psychic had given me. I said that he was married, siblingless, filled with great aspirations, hated his job, loved to write and felt a connection to April.
As it happened, I was right on four of the six guesses and he also seemed to agree emphatically that he was a moon bearer. I’d managed to best the psychic’s hit rate on a random stranger and felt that the argument had been settled. I turned back to Ian with a victorious grin.
“Holy crap,” Sam said as the revelation sunk in. “You’re psychic too.”
I rolled my eyes and shuffled forward in line. “I am not. How many people hate their jobs? How many people in their thirties are married? Who doesn’t have great aspirations?”
“Come to think of it, I used to like to write songs,” the man in line remarked. “Maybe that’s what you were sensing. I think you actually got five out of six right.”
“I was just repeating what some supposed charlatan told me today,” I assured him, “There was nothing psychic about it.”
“And my sister and I haven’t spoken in years…” he continued.
“Next!” a cashier yelled, saving me from any further states of epiphany from my demonstration.
“You try,” I said, nodding to the woman in line behind Sam. Like every woman ever standing beside me in line at a Duane Reade, she was carrying a box of tampons. “Ma’am, do you mind if my friend tests his psychic powers on you?”
She laughed a bit but agreed. The elderly woman occupying the other cashier was arguing about a coupon so I figured we had plenty of time.
Sam hesitated but eventually he recited as much of what I said as he could remember. He forgot the only child part and he called her a moon baron, but other than that he nailed it.
“I am a moon baron,” she said with a face-devouring grin. “And my husband was born in April!”
“Do you hate your job?” Sam asked excitedly.
“I loathe it!” she agreed.
“Do you love to write?” I asked.
She considered for a second and nodded with something of a visible asterisk in her expression. “Kind of!”
“Okay so that’s five for five,” I summarized, “See? Anybody could say that to anybody and be right at least as often as they’re wrong.”
“But what if I’m psychic too?” Sam offered as I plucked a pack of M&Ms from the counter front.
“Oh, you’re definitely psychic,” the tampon lady offered.
“You said the exact same thing as I said. How can you be psychic if you’re just repeating something somebody else predicted about somebody else?”
“Next!” the cashier said in typically inviting New York fashion. I reached into my wallet for a five-dollar bill with Sam in tow.
“Maybe we predicted psychically what spot to get into in line. Heck, you don’t know why we happened to wonder into this particular store.”
“Because it’s on the way to my house,” I said, taking my change and cracking open my soda.
“But we could have stopped at any of these stores,” he said with a wide gesture as we exited back onto the street. The guy who I’d offered my psychic wares to greeted us on the sidewalk and presented his wife.
“I was just telling my wife about your abilities,” he said.
“No…” I protested but he cut me off.
“Can you see her aura? My sister says it’s green.”
“You hate your job, you dig April, you’re married, you love to write, you have great aspirations and you’re an only child,” I blurted out. “Oh… and you’re a moon bearer.”
“Oh my God!” she screamed excitedly, “can you talk to dead people?”
Of course, like anyone, I can talk to dead people but I didn’t feel like explaining the semantic error. “Was any of that stuff true?”
“Well, I’m not an only child and I don’t have a job but the rest was dead on.”
“When’s my birthday?” came a random voice from the street.
“I don’t know,” I said, tearing open my M&Ms and glancing over at a Starbucks employee on a cigarette break, “June?” I guessed.
His expression froze. “Whoa…” he remarked.
Sam jumped excitedly. “Was that right? Was he right?”
“No, August, but still…”
“Only two months away!” Sam said with a proud punch to my shoulder.
“Yeah… I kind of nailed the season,” I conceded sarcastically. “It’s really cold…”
“How do you do it?” the wife demanded, “What’s your secret?”
“There is no secret. I’m just saying random stuff and as often as not I’m getting it wrong. You want to believe that I’m psychic so in your mind you’re exaggerating the veracity of my claims.”
Her husband nodded slowly but she seemed unsatisfied. “He doesn’t want to tell us,” he whispered.
“He doubts his powers,” Sam argued.
“No…” I tried, but the woman interrupted again.
“Please? I’m very into the occult and sometimes I see auras and stuff, but I’d love to develop a power like yours.”
“It’s in the M&Ms,” I said. I’d given up on trying to argue. It was cold and it seemed the easiest way to end the conversation. “I divine based on the color of the M&Ms.”
She nodded and smiled as though she’d always suspected as much. “Can you tell me about my grandmother?” she pleaded.
I shook three M&Ms into my palm; two yellows and a blue. “Well,” I said as I pondered them, “Blue represents imagination and intellect based in the stillness of yellow. The more her mind opens, the more she will be at peace.”
She grinned and her husband poked her excitedly. “Thank you so much,” she said and shook my hand. I turned away and the Starbucks employee offered me a wide berth.
“That was amazing,” Sam uttered and remained silent for the rest of the walk.
As I reflect on that afternoon I’m left with two distinct possibilities. Either I’m the last sane man on earth or my M&Ms are psychic. I refuse to believe the former.