by Alissa Hall
He looks nervous. New clients always have the same look about them. They come in and sit down, try to make things start too quickly. They might even smile. But, then they open their mouth, and the same old phrase pops out. “I’ve never done this before…”
“Relax, it’s fun. There’s nothing to be afraid of,” I murmur reassuringly, same as I have thousands of times. You do this long enough and you can tell just by how they react — the tone of their voice, a nervous flutter of hands — this is a virgin. Uncharted territory. Scared and excited all at once.
He smiles, just a flash, like a light bulb — bright, and then it’s gone. “What do I do?”
I push my dark hair behind my ear, “Just relax. I’ll light some incense and candles for us, help set the mood.” Plucking a stick of the lavender blend, I light the tip; nice, not overpowering. Soft and welcoming.
He smiles again, that flashing, nervous grin — incandescent teeth, there and gone. “How did you begin… I mean, how did you start doing this?”
Turning from the incense holder, I let my match touch the black wick of my favorite red candle. It sputters into incendiary life, the glow smoothing out the small room’s shadows. They all ask the same questions; I give them all the same answers. “I started when I was a teenager.”
“You were just a kid!” he says, scoffing.
Dispassionately, I face the stranger again. “I knew what I was doing… both then, and now.”
The man rubs his palms on his blue-jeaned thighs, shrugging. “Sure, if you say so,” he offers, an apology perhaps. His face changes, brightening, as he adds, “my friends all said you were really good, that you really knew what you were doing. That’s why I’m here.” He glances around my tiny room once more, his eye never stopping on the curiosities for display. “So how we do this, do I give you the money first, or…?”
I cock my head and smile at him before turning my back to this stranger while I speak. “When you’re here with me… it’s entirely up to you. This is about you… it isn’t about me.”
His eyes change, darkening as he hears those last words. Ah, this is the moment. Now he’s dropping the façade. “Why don’t you tell me why you’re here? What are you looking for?” I probe.
The last traces of polite chitchat leave his voice. “My wife and I are unhappy,” he begins.
I know better than to speak aloud as the confession leaves his lips, allowing my silence to draw forth more words. One of the reasons they come to me, as anyone in my profession well knows, is to talk. “I don’t know what’s happening any more between us, I don’t know what to think. I don’t even know if she loves me any more…”
He drops his head and I hide my smile as I catch him spinning his wedding ring. Freudian. “You’ve been unhappy…” I repeat back to him, just a moment before the silence becomes uncomfortable for us both. Scented smoke curls into the air, ethereal arabesques dancing above us before dissipating, like the words we speak.
He nods slowly and even with his head lowered, I hear the tears creep into his voice. Perhaps he’s ashamed of his emotions. His face is strained; it hurts him just to talk. That’s why they usually end up at my door. They need someone.
“We’ve been married for years, but I just… I need to know. I need to know…” he repeats, looking at the red candle’s flickering instead of at me.
With a small smile of encouragement, I nod in understanding. It’s a fine line… you don’t want to pry. “I can help,” I say, quietly. My voice becomes smooth with the confidence of a woman who knows her talents and abilities.
He looks up and nods. “I don’t really do this, you know,” he insists again.
I grin, taking one of his hands in mine, “I can tell.”
At the joke, he smiles once more… not the light bulb pop, but a slow authentic smile, one I can see reflected from within his amber eyes.
“You ready?” I ask softly.
He doesn’t speak, but squeezes my hand in a positive response. As his eyes meet mine, I see him beginning to fall inside of me, and I turn my gaze away, unwilling to use my charisma as an unfair advantage.
“I think I’m a little scared,” he finally admits. Honesty, at last. This might yet be a good experience, for the both of us. I nod slowly, dropping his hand, as well as my eyes.
“It’s ok,” I say softly. “I’ve done this for a long time. Nothing will happen here that you aren’t ready for. The Universe has taught me that.”
He shrugs, acting disinterested once again. “So how do we begin?” sitting forward, his voice loses the softness of emotion while attending to business.
Unhurried… at last, I sit down at the small, mahogany table in the chair across from him. If you sit down too soon, you may never know why they think they’re here, asking their favors of you.
But, essentially, they all want the same thing.
Show me… show me…. Show me what I’ve never seen but always wanted to believe in. Tell me that I’m right. Make me believe I’m not alone in this world. Help me understand the pain I feel. Make sense of this nightmareÉ I’m scared, and I don’t know what to do.
Gently, I ease the tools of my trade from their pouch. My Tarot cards slide into my hands, familiar rectangles of cardboard and ink — the cards are scratched, the color slightly faded with time, their edges soiled. Years and years of shuffling; a thousand times I’ve riffled these cards for those who sit before me, wanting to take a piece of my gift for themselves.
And, I give it to them. I give it away.
When it’s over, they often say, “I’ll never forget you,” but that’s not what they mean. They mean your words will live on, inside me, long after I’ve forgotten your real name. Even those who mock me, they too will remember what I’ve said, if only to live their entire life to prove me wrong. But, they remember. I know it even better than they do.
So, I give them something worth remembering. I put away my insecurities and fears while speaking aloud the flashing pictures that no make sense, firing between the synapses inside my mind. What if they laugh? You can’t let those doubts in. Because those fears… they make the reading about me.
And, the reading… it’s never about me.
Softly, I turn down the light.
originally posted on Aeclectic Tarot