The psychic’s name was Kim and she had a gap between her two front teeth. Her bracelets rattled as she shook my hand. Through the gap between the curtain and the vestibule, I locked eyes with a garish Mexican vaquero, his painted boots fused to a plaster base with a nameplate reading “Jack Sour.” Everything smelled like gumbo, and soul music from the 1960s crooned out of the speakers.
“Are you an Aries?” the psychic asked. I shook my head. “A Libra?”
“Pisces,” I said.
“That was going to be my third guess.” I could see her empty drink perched on the windowsill. “You have a lot of air about you—I bet if you got your star chart done you would really see that. Have you ever done this before?”
“No,” I said.
She needed me to touch the cards, so she held one end of the pack while I held the other, and we closed our eyes. I tried to send whatever it meant to be me through my fingertips and into the frayed deck. After a minute or two, she said I could let go, and then she said, “I have a background in Native spirituality, and the animal I’m getting for you is the dolphin. Has there been a lot of change in your life lately?”
“Yes,” I said.
“The dolphin is a sign for you to open up to the possibilities you’re swimming in. Don’t resist it; just let yourself be carried.”
The psychic said a few things about my other spirit animals—the fox and the turkey—and then asked, “Okay, so what’s your first question?”
“Um,” I said, “I, um.” The psychic looked at me expectantly. “I read this really scary book,” I said, and then I started to cry.
I hadn’t gone to the psychic for this reason. The timing just sort of worked out nicely. My friend wanted us to go to a psychic for his birthday, and I had been staying up all night with all the lights on for almost a week because I had read a supernatural thriller with demons in it.
When I was a kid, I had to be excused from class at Halloween when our teacher read scary stories to us, and I once screamed and ran because my mum pointed out the full moon and smiled at me—reading between the lines, I assumed she was telling me that she was a werewolf. I had a boyfriend who thought it was funny to hum the Twin Peaks theme song to me before bed, but he didn’t find it so hilarious when he had to walk me down the dark hallway to the bathroom in the middle of the night and wait outside for me, keeping up a stream of small talk to reassure me he was still there.
I live by myself, and I worry more about ghosts and vampires than I do about break-ins. In the week before the psychic visit, I had reached a level of paranoia that made me start to worry about myself.
The psychic was outraged. Not at me, or at demons, but at society for providing me with such unwholesome entertainment. “When my kids watch that stuff on TV, those vampires and stuff, I just get so angry,” she said. “It really freaks me out. Don’t you think they should keep that stuff off TV?”
“Yes!” I sob.
“Okay, here’s what you do,” the psychic said, and I was imagining she would tell me about some kind of sage-burning ceremony, or possibly she’d have some greater wisdom about how my fear of demons is actually a fear of something else in my life which I will conquer with the help of a man I’ll meet whose name starts with an S or an N. Instead, she told me that I just have to accept that life is made up of the dark and the light, and that if I pray to Jesus he’ll suffuse me with his light and the dark will never get in.
“Um, I’m not really Christian,” I said. “So it seems maybe weird to pray to Jesus, no?”
“Oh, no,” she said, “you don’t have to be Christian. Jesus doesn’t care about that. You just pray for his protection every night before you turn the light off and you’ll feel much better.”
“Um, okay,” I said.
“Also, you should wear a star necklace,” she said. “Do you have a star necklace, or like, a mother-of-pearl pendant?” I shook my head. “What about a purple stone, like an amethyst? No? Ultramarine? Well,” she said, “You just pray to Jesus, then. That should do it. This book really affected you—my spirit guides are telling me it’s because of something in your past life. In England. This book reminded you of something from that life. But don’t worry—just ask Jesus to watch over you. And don’t read that book again.”
I drew a star on a piece of scrap paper in blue pen and coloured it in with yellow highlighter. Then I cut it out and taped it to myself. Before I go to sleep, I touch the crinkly Scotch tape and say a little prayer to whatever force for good I can picture. The past few nights, I’ve felt a bit better. It reassures me to hear the Spanish family upstairs walking back and forth across the creaky floor, and I’ve progressed to turning the overhead light off and keeping my reading lamp on as a nightlight.