A few years ago, because curiosity took me there, I slowed my usual pace through the tunnel at Central Station and sat on a milk crate next to an old, old woman who promised me that my fortune was inscribed in my face and on my hands. Her name was Amy and she was 92. She told fortunes with a work ethic at least as good as mine. I saw her, every morning when I went to the office to grow my doctoral thesis from a few stray seeds into the rambling garden it has become. Here is some of what she said.
Stick with rivers, lakes and oceans, I promise you no flood will ever touch you.
I have been in love with a concrete river for eight years already. It is in Los Angeles. A world away and also right here, in my writing, my conversations, and my thoughts. The river meanders all over my emotional terrain. So yes, I will stick with rivers. I will explore lake edges where tea tree stained water is so crystal clear it makes sepia photographs of what lies beneath. I will keep seeking solace from oceans, wave after wave reminding me that time is long and slow, and that probably, everything works out perfectly in the end. Amy said this thing twice, that I must Stick with lake or river. I don’t need convincing, I am already there.
You born to be a doctor, for people sick physically. Not people sick spiritually, they need priest. If sick mentally they need a doctor not like you, sorry. Okay.
If I was seeking career advice, this would leave me thoroughly confused. I go faint at even discussion of injuries and illness. I am as certain as one can be that I will never be doctor for sick people of any kind. But soon, I will have doctor in front of my name, a degree in history rather than medicine. I hope that my writing will make people feel better, and that it might prompt attentiveness to sickly urban landscapes.
No one shoot you, stab you with a knife, or kidnap you, or blackmail you.
For someone who visits Los Angeles regularly, whose itinerary always includes South Central, East Los Angeles, Skid Row, and the urban wilds of the Los Angeles River I will take this assurance to heart. I often check the homicide map from the Los Angeles Times to keep my sense of safety in check, to know what has been happening where I am going, and to pause for a moment or more to be grateful for all the ways that we humans manage to stay alive.
You don’t have to worry, darling. I promise you no problem, no worry, I promise you.
I’ll take this. Worry knocks at my door a little more often than I would like, and it is a state of mind that makes no sense given my beliefs about the grace and beneficence of life. But nevertheless I am the person who turns things over and over in my mind sometimes, whose stomach churns with nerves, usually about not being enough of something or other. Sometimes I treat myself with the kind of disdain you would just never tolerate from anyone other than yourself. And none of this helps or makes good in the world.
You born in right place, right time, right there, right now. You very lucky lady, ten thousand to one. You were born with moon, ocean and planet all in place. Time bring everything to you, okay.
I am an impatient person. I carpe diem the fuck out of life and while sometimes that serves me well, I would often be better remembering that time will indeed bring everything. Okay.
I believe in psychic readings completely, but not in the way you might think. I believe in the practice of having a mirror held up to who I think I am, to noticing which imagined stories about my future-self make me feel alive, and which stories I rage against. As I approach the next big juncture of life, I am remembering Amy, who hasn’t been in the tunnel for a long time now. I think of her heavy European accent as she said “I promise you can do anything tomorrow, no problem.” And no matter what, I am almost certain that she is right.