Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Queen of Hearts

I will never, ever read the cards again. An old Bulgarian woman passed down the secret to her granddaughter, who taught it to me. For a while, it was fun -- love, money, promotions, inheritances -- no fortune was bad.

I agreed to read the cards again on a lovely spring night. A few friends and their friends stopped in for an after-dinner drink. We talked about summer vacations, parties on Long Island, where to get the best food. Then someone announced that I read cards. All right -- I did it once or twice, then called it quits. But, Manhattan being Manhattan, "no more" was not an answer. I dealt one more array, three rows of three ordinary playing cards, for a young woman. She was there with her fiance, a handsome young man standing near the door.

Take a breath. Last time tonight. I lit the pyramid candle, sat down on the floor, and dealt the cards. The young woman sat across from me, cross-legged, twisting a lock of hair. "Now clear your mind and watch as I turn up three more cards," I said. She obeyed. I told her a few frivolous things and then asked her to think of a question. "Something you'd like to know ... anything at all." The young woman closed her eyes. In an instant, the room grew larger, the door taller. I fell into dark water. "I'm so sorry that your parents are getting divorced," I said.

Utter silence. Utter sadness. We said good-night and everyone wandered into the April evening, a Pandora's box, blossoms on the wind but storm clouds on the horizon.

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