Going for the Ghost

I’m a sucker for a seer.  The more heightened the experience, the better.  And I have no shame in admitting that I would align myself with one psychic over another based on the buzz words found in an internet ad.  I want crystal balls, and tarot readings and auric charts.  I guess, at the end of the day, I want desperately to disbelieve in something I do quietly believe in.  The more campy the psychic hideout, the less likely I am to believe a word of foretold fortune.  And, I suppose, I’m really most afraid of hearing bad news.

Psychics have always held a special charm for me.  They are paid “professionals” who emulate my nervous tick emotions.  And these people are good.  If you are hunched and nervous, they are hunched and nervous.  If you’re bold and unbelieving, so are they.  It’s offsetting to see your very demeanor reflected in another, and I’m chiefly of the belief that people are more willing to confide and believe in a replica of themselves then they are something illusory.  And I think I’m one of some who understands the ruse.  That is the ruse of the flowery robe wearing, crystal ball consulting seers that masquerade under the guise of “Madame Helena” or her equivalent.  That’s just child’s play.  But there is something to be said for people of sound intuition.  People that just get it, get what has, and get what will be. These people scare the crap out of me.

And, to some extent, I am one.

The manager of the neighborhood bar I worked at as an undergraduate had an unconventional name and powers of premonition.  She was different.  A lot of the staff thought her weird and it was inadvisable to upset her at all.  But there was also just something about Lena that helped some people get close to her and drove a further wedge between others.  And she liked me, so much, that one night, over many drinks Lena confided in me that she’s had psychic experiences.

After a supernatural bomb is dropped the teller usually rescinds, blames alcohol and excuses themselves.  So Lena, dutifully, retracted her statement, attributed it to a now empty glass, and went off in search of a ride home.

But what she told me was personal and fitting.  She spoke of seeing auras in excruciating detail, so much so that I couldn’t let it go.  I had to find some way to sew in the supernatural in sober conversation.  So some days later I referenced a folkloric ethnography project I was assigned and coaxed Lena into agreeing to tell tale.

I’m not a ghost hunter, and I won’t speak to Lena’s experiences.  They are hers and I can’t do them justice – only that I have never believed in one persons ability to rely on intuition more than I have with her.  Her stories were sexy and scary and if we wanted to, we could beef up the content to make them camp fire ready.  But it was more a matter of Lena trusting her gut, forseeing things, experiencing “feelings”, and being branded an all over freak if she ever spoke of them.  I am ashamed to admit that she’s the kind of people that scare me.  Not because I’d ever think her crazy, but because I’m afraid she’s spot on.

I did do an ethnographic study on Lena and the women in her family, and the experience did bring us closer.  But after awhile I forgot how potent a premonition can be and went about my every day life.  That is, until I got all psychic-sick.

Alcohol promotes late night phone calls.  Sometimes love made me do otherwise stupid things, but never in my life have I ever experienced a moment of unintentional word play like I did in May 2005, at work with a friend.  Namely, I was having your typical late night conversation when I stopped talking, changed subject and said, unprovoked, “I don’t think I can go to Florida”.  It’s important to note that I was scheduled to leave for Florida in the coming weeks, precisely twelve days, on internship.  I was leaving the safe confines of Missouri to work a full time job in a city where I knew no one.  So Nicole said, “Oh, you’re just saying that.  You’ll be great.  You’ve wanted to do this forever.”  She was right.  I did want to go.  I wanted more than anything to go.  I’d been working low wage service jobs to work my way through school to go.  I had a ticket to go.  I had friends that were supportive of my leaving.

But mechanically, in a strong voice and words I did not summon, I said, “No, I can’t.  I just think something is wrong.  I really think my father is sick.”

Essentially, I had not seen my father in nearly two years.  I’d not known him the greater part of my childhood and early adulthood.  He left my mother, and then, consequently, lost himself.  He found God.  He lost God.  And then he was in deep financial trouble and I lost him altogether.  So for me to stake any concern on him was novel, much less foretell anything.  We never really had a sound relationship.

I must have seemed serious because Nicole ordered me a drink and changed the subject entirely.  To her credit, after a drink I thought little of what I said and talked and talked and talked about Florida.

Seven days later my mother called to tell me my father was dying.

Either Nicole can’t remember or Nicole chose to forget.  Lena had since moved on to a different job with a different set of employees to potentially open up to, and I, for some time, convinced myself of dissonance.  Of the sweet possibility that I envisioned the premonition.  It’s easy to convince yourself of anything when you have the time and aptitude to do so.  Especially when he was only sick.

However, my father died five months later.  Because my mother told me when she did, I was able to forgo the internship in Florida and return to Chicago to see him one last time.

At his memorial service I couldn’t speak.  I walked through the rooms of the funeral parlor in silence, willing the ghosts of unknown names to tell me something I didn’t already know.  I would have given anything, on that day, to have some mechanical something to say.  But I couldn’t speak.  And somehow the supernatural felt less crazy than the emotional present.

No one in my family knows I know.  And the psychic I saw in this, my fourth adventure didn’t know.  I guess I had to see her, after all these years.  I had to know that the camp-factor existed for a reason.  That she, in her parlor, with crystals and charms was the disingenuous one – much more than Lena and I.  That while my greatest trait may very well be my intuition, that not even a paid professional could properly diagnose it.  And for now, scary as it may be, I’ll protect it.

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