Future perfect

The morning ritual at the computer goes like this: check the headlines, check the inbox, check the cover of the NY Post, McSweeney’s. Before I get to TGW or Go Fug Yourself, I check my horoscope.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21). Though you may not be out on a big adventure, you put your emotions into everything you do – as if it were a trip to the moon. And this brings you new thrills.

Maybe it’s the dewy California air or all the fresh berries I’ve eaten, but I believe a little in the twelve categories the zodiac has divided us into, a hodgepodge of fishes and scales and crabs. Or maybe it’s because I want to have a little faith that I see the traits they advertise in people: the folks I know who were born in early May are bullish in their approach to the world. Step aside and admire how they barrel through life.

Horoscopes give us the scope of the hours to come. They are a fortune from a cookie, dessert that doesn’t require a meal, a confidence that the hours will come, full of hope or luck or love or all three. They are chewable vitamins of faith. They offer a promise for the day to deliver, the hope that changing the litter box will be as exciting as slipping out of gravity’s grasp and into outer space. Just last Monday, my future was told in a ‘scope: “There’s a wonderful chance to reconnect with someone you’ve been separated from for years. It’s never too late to forgive.” That night, I ran into a couple who I haven’t seen in almost three years. We had a good talk on the way to our cars, passing the well-manicured lawns of strangers. Set, spike – the horoscope scores. The future is there for the reading.

Mid 2000, I was between jobs and spent a fair amount of time in my plaid robe on the grey carpet of my apartment, staring at the ceiling. I was between jobs; I wondered if I would ever work again. I also wondered if I would be able to get through a dinner without sobbing over the last break-up, which is not the best impression to make on a first date with someone else (waiters across Southern California were really very nice about it, talking to my dates as they slipped me fresh napkins). I didn’t know what, if anything, the future would bring and horoscopes weren’t enough. I wanted the Big Picture. I went to a psychic.

I went to two psychics, actually. I had the time and wanted a second opinion on the future. These weren’t gypsies on the street or women that operated under the blue glow of a neon sign advertising their third eyes. These were ordinary ladies doing readings in their homes with their collections of ceramic frogs and cat-shaped coffee mugs. I sat down across from them at their dining room tables. One worked with playing cards, spreading them out on the table and seeing my future in the Queens and Aces. The other worked off my astrological chart. They both said something about a dark period, which I guess is like a given when you’re going to a complete stranger who knows, like a slot machine can smell a freshly-cashed check, that you’re looking for good news.

And then, without knowing each other or me, they both had the same vision of what was to come. At first, vague: “2001 will be a powerful year.” “A call will surprise you.” But then, specific presages: “Gore won’t win the election and the country is in for extended darkness.” This came true! “You’ll be working with a female “L.” Another correct prediction: I did get a job! And my very next boss? Her last name started with an “L.” “Your father should go get a chest x-ray.” I mentioned this to dad and he “I’m fine”d it off and then was hospitalized for advanced pneumonia months later. These women could see the future.

But what were they really promising? That Everything Would Work Out. And after a time or two and the election where they were proved right, I full-on drank their Kool Aid. Their faith in my future became my own, which was more effective than alcohol, anti-depressants, therapy and shopping.

Then I began to find that I gave their predictions too much weight. Let’s say I met a guy with brown hair, first name starting with “M.” They said watch out for a guy with brown hair, but mentioned nothing about a “M.” If they didn’t mention it, it could’t be right, right? Oy. Dangerous thinking. I was waiting for their prophecies to come true rather than making them happen. And when life wouldn’t work out exactly like they predicted, well, as they say in Cali, it was a major bummer, dude. So I stopped cold turkey a year later, but wonder to this day if events they foretold will happen at all or just haven’t happened… yet.

I wrote down all my notes from their forecasts in a small notebook with a red plastic cover. Months later, I added a few Valium stickers to the cover, stickers I’d swiped from the hospital where dad recovered. This notebook has been a kind of valium since then. I have come to read this book like a novel, wondering what will happen to the main character, what the twists are, what shoes will she be wearing, and if she’ll be able to go against the current or be borne back ceaselessly into the past.

For time has repeated; I am in the same place I was mid 2000. I don’t know what’s next, job wise. Love wise. And I’m impatient to find out. Yesterday, I came across the frog-loving psychic’s phone number while digging through my desk. I’ve turned the numbers over in my hand, and thought about calling again. We write our own stories and must have faith in ourselves and it should be exciting that we don’t know what’s next. And it is. But when it’s foggy, we’re looking for the green light across the bay. I have a piece of paper in a red-covered notebook that says some stranger on Centinela Ave not just believes but knows I will fall in love someday. And be loved in return. I hope this is a truth that will be self-evident.

Or maybe I should pass over psychics for poets. Forget Olds, cummings, Neruda. Who doesn’t have faith in Rummy?

by Don Rumsfeld

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We know.

Rock on, Rummy. Rock on.

9 responses to “Future perfect”

  1. MarleyFan says:

    What a way to start my week. I just rely on TGW, and if the first post of the week is great, the week will be great also. Big thanks to you…

  2. bryan says:

    ww: i like your description of fortune telling’s appeal, the way prophecy or the stars or some kook in the tabloids can give you something to go on: “will it start with an m?”

    but even more i loved how good the writing was. so many great lines! the whole thing was fun to read, start to finish.

  3. Tim Wager says:

    It’s always spooky and amazing when psychic stuff or horoscopes come true, but then there’s the other 85-90% of what they say that doesn’t. The suggested chest x-ray for your dad is very intriguing – specific enough that it lends credence to the psychic.

    When people start acting as if what psychics say will come true without any effort on their part is when I think it starts getting strange. I know someone who got a psychic reading at approximately age 40 that said that she would find the love of her life at age 50. She took this as a free ticket to not even try for 10 years. Now she’s 50 and still not trying to find someone, just expecting it to happen. I think you have to put yourself out in the world in order for anything good to develop.

    Sorry to hear about your current in-between-ness, Wendy. In the midst of job-seeking, I’d advise taking some time to appreciate the things you miss when you have too much work to do. Once you get another job (and you will, of course), you’ll want that opportunity back. Just remember what St. Morrissey said, “I was looking for a job, and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now.”

  4. PB says:

    “They offer a promise for the day to deliver, the hope that changing the litter box will be as exciting as slipping out of gravity’s grasp and into outer space.” Yes! that’s exactly it.

    Bryan is right, so many great lines.–with love from a capicorn–a fish tailed goat woman–fixed earth–very solid–trust me.

  5. bryan says:

    thanks, pb. i hadn’t even noticed that one!

    somebody once told me that pretty good writers write great last lines but damn good writers drop them in every paragraph. amen.

  6. autumn says:

    I won’t go into Aleeki Jones. But I will share the poetic and thought provoking words of Rob at Free Will Astrology. Sometimes it’s just a kick in the pants that gets your…thoughts…moving. WW, I like your style.

    Even though it’s illegal, marijuana is now America’s biggest cash crop, generating more revenue than corn and soybeans. Official government sources won’t acknowledge this fact, of course, and the major media would prefer to ignore it. Let’s use this situation as a metaphor for your personal life, Sagittarius. Meditate on the following three questions. (1) Is there a valuable asset that you neglect to account for when you take inventory of your total resources? (2) Is there a Big Important Thing that you don’t fully acknowledge? (3) Do you play down the power of a transformational agent that’s taboo or not fully accepted?

  7. […] It’s not the crippling mental illness of the brutally impoverished homeless that was the draw for me, seductive though that may sound—seriously, it was what the experimentalism of their different identities seemed to signify, and the fact that as troubling as their situations revealed our government to be, they were humored and sometimes respected by most residents rather than scapegoated and ghettoized. (I imagine they might disagree, but at least I didn’t hear them derided by anyone. More like they were local heroes.) I like about Northern California what I like about Vermont: the hippie liberal supertolerant mentality, the sense that if you’re not living communally and thinking globally, you deserve the contempt of society. I know how repugnant that sounds, but try living in Southern California and you’ll crave a smidge of that holier-than-youguys, self-righteous liberalism. Vermont, though, is way too rural for me, progressive though it is. Berkeley’s washed-up ex-hippies are the perfect mix of urban and new age: the arugula is organic, the recycling is implicit, the massage therapists are also psychics, the more modern complexes are industrial in aesthetic but eco-green in design. Eco-industrial, hippie modern, new age urban, vintage modern, sustainable designer—it’s the soundtrack of a conservative’s nightmare, probably like words like “family values” or “homeland security” or “collateral damage” sound to me. Though it’s certainly not part of every Californian’s vocabulary, the language of liberalism is part of the construction of the myth, a comforting lullaby that sounds like home. […]

  8. MF says:

    I’ve been thinking about this post for several days now. I grew up in a family so caught up in religious superstition, they paid no attention to black cats, calendars, palm reading or otherwise. When I realized I didn’t believe in god, I determined that no other kind of supernatural forces or events could possibly be real. Certainly nothing more than cooincidence or unexplained science.
    You have described so well what horoscopes, psychics and other phenomena have meant to you, what they offer and what they don’t. Maybe I’ll have to pick up a NYPost and see what in store for Capricorns today.

  9. Stella says:

    Wendy – I’m finally catching up on 2 weeks of TGW and I find that you are me — I actually started a post on this very subject…I know it’s wrong to believe in horoscopes but when you’re godless, it’s hard not to have some sort of life compass substitute. I’ve been fighting the urge to go to a psychic because I’m in a transitional stage and I crave that sense of reassurance.

    I’d like to know, is this whole area a girl thing? I feel like it’s only the women I know who go to psychics, astrologers, tarot card readers etc?

    BTW, years ago my tarot cards announced that a female friendship would blossom and that there would be transition at home — that night I got together with my female roommate, the start of a 7-year relationship.