Gloria pulled the thin, gauzy curtain aside slowly and cautiously. “Hello? Are you open?”
“Come in child!” The voice of an old crone beckoned.
“Do you remember my name?” Asked Gloria sitting down at the small table adorned with a large crystal ball. She had been to the fortune teller once but it was still too soon to tell if the woman’s predictions were coming true.
“Can’t say that I do.” Replied the fortune teller. “But I sense your name is not what you came here to ask.” The bangles on her wrist jingled as she propped her elbows on the table and built a bridge with her fingers then rested her hairy chin on it. “You know I demand payment before a reading, right?”
“Of course!” Gloria pulled her purse unto her lap. “How much do you need?” She asked unzipping it.
Without a fuss Gloria reached into her wallet and pulled out a mangled five dollar bill and slid it across the table. The fortune teller took it, held it up to the light, then slipped it into of her many pockets underneath her shawl.
“What is your question?”
Gloria shut her eyes, inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly “Will I be a success in life?”
“You know, will I get into a good college, meet a nice guy, have kids, hold a job? Be a success!”
“Oh honey.” The fortune teller sighed heavily and grabbed the bridge of her nose. “You wait right here.” She rose and went to a different curtained door. “And don’t try anything! I see all!” When the woman returned she had her white and gray kinky hair pulled away from her face with a bright purple, orange and pink bandanna that looked a lot like the sunset and held two steaming mugs in her hands. She sat one before Gloria and then sat down and took a sip from the contents of her cup watching Gloria through skeptical jade green eyes.
To be polite Gloria the mug and raised it to her lips. Its hot contents burnt her tongue but at the same time felt good pouring down her throat, warming her from the inside. Its flavor was bitter but she enjoyed it.
“It’s sage.” The old woman said. “Hope you don’t mind it.”
“It’s very good!” Enthused Gloria, nodding almost too convincingly.
“Mmh.” The fortune teller’s head bobbed and her chandelier earrings swung back and forth as the light danced on the shimmering jewels. “Is going to college, getting married and child rearing how you define success? I can tell you who you are to marry. I can tell you the number and sexes of your children. But that’s not what you need.”
“What do I need?” Asked Gloria with both hands wrapped around the cup taking a sip.
“A cup of sage tea and my advice.” Answered the woman plodding a boney fist on the table.
Gloria’s eyes widened.
“Success.” The elderly fortune teller began, “Success is when you’ve completed your mission. Success is satisfaction. Success is the completion of a project—The completion of your dreams. Unless doing well in school, raising a family and having a job is your dream then I say: no. You won’t be successful.” The hag leaned back in her chair and looked at Gloria through slitted verdant eyes. “You remind me a lot of myself when I was younger.” She laughed through her nose. “Most fortune tellers would tell you your past but let me tell you mine.” The woman shut her eyes and inhaled. “Back in high school I lived for my grades. I was an A+ student. I strived to have a, by definition, perfect life. I dressed nice, looked good, had a wide circle of friends, dated a boy everyone thought I was going to marry. I was little miss perfect.” She shook her head. “The only things I let myself dream about back then was getting a degree to become a teacher, marrying my boyfriend and when the time came being a good wife and mother.” Gloria felt sympathetic to the fortune teller when she watched the ugly old lady suck her lips into her mouth to moisten them. She was trying to gather herself before going on. In Gloria’s imagination the woman’s ugliness melted away and she pictured her young and beautiful, somewhere around 17 or 19. The wrinkles smoothed themselves out and her skin firmed, her kinky hair turned so dark brown it could be mistaken for black, her lips were full and pink but her eyes stayed the same.
Gloria’s day dream popped like a soap bubble when the woman spoke again. “I had secret, suppressed dreams. Dreams of travel and adventure. To wake up in a new place every day! Meet new people try new things, see the world! But I never let myself dream.” She said conclusively. “So all these dreams showed up in my dream dreams. Sleeping dreams. Though I enjoyed them I ignored them and laughed with friends over morning coffee saying things like ‘I dreamt I went to Egypt last night!’” The elderly gypsy did an impression of a young brainless girl’s laugh and crossed her arms.
“So anyway,” the old woman leaned forward and her earrings bumped her cheeks swinging back and forth. “I pursued a teaching degree and married my man. Three months into marriage I realized I was not happy— or satisfied rather. I couldn’t understand why. I was working hard, I had married the man I loved, I was doing well! Or so I thought. I was fitting society’s standards to a T! I realized that was the case one day, folding laundry and I wound up crying mascara into one of my husband’s shirts.
“Despite it all I ignored my epiphany and did my best to be a good student and a wife. I worked harder and found myself un-happier.
“One day I was driving myself to the college and just drove right past it. I knew what I had done but I didn’t care. It just felt right.” She paused and laid both palms on the table. “I drove until I ran out of gas.” She said softly “I must have been sub-consciously planning it all along because I had $100 in my purse and the bank book.
“I tried in vain to call my husband but just wasted a quarter. So instead I wrote him a letter trying to explain myself. I also told him I’d be taking half of our savings because 1.) It was only fair. 2.) I needed something to live off of for a little while. It was just like him providing for me like a good husband I reasoned. And so that was our final correspondence. I told him I loved him and I really did but I just couldn’t be happy with the life we were trying to build.” Shining ponds of tears welled in the old lady’s green eyes but she only let one roll halfway down her cheek before quickly wiping it away. Her voice trembled when she spoke again. “I loved him and I still hate myself for hurting him the way I did. However, I did what I needed to.”
The old woman cleared her throat. “I traveled around a long time. Just aimlessly going wherever the wind took me trying to slick my wanderlust. I did all those things I dreamt of in those suppressed, happy, little, dreams. Though, it wasn’t always quite so rosy. I’ll spare you that lecture.” The gypsy coughed and smoothed out her clothing. “Mid-twenties I met an elderly fortune teller.” The elderly fortune teller smirked at Gloria. “And I became her friend and apprentice. She taught me everything I know!” Her bangles jangled clanking against one another. “So, I got into the business and here we are. I am successful because I’m happy. I lived the life I dreamt of. I’m too old to travel now.” She said sadly and took a sip of her tea then pulled a face and pushed the half empty cup away. “I’ve since settled down here, made connections, built relationships, all that jazz.” She waved a ring laden hand through the air. “But I will conclude my tale by telling you the moral of the story with a quote from Shakespeare.” She leaned in as close to Gloria from across the table as she could get. “To thine own self be true.” She straightened. “Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Dream.”
Gloria sat quietly staring at the gypsy’s blank expression and said “Thank you for the tea and advice.” Rising to leave.
“No, thank you for your business.” Answered the elderly fortune teller rising. She saw Gloria to the door and said “Goodbye.”
Gloria walked staring at her palms. They say hands tell your life story. It had been so long since Gloria’s had been covered in paint. She had been too busy with school! That evening she went home, blew off her homework, and made 1,000 sketches of cups of sage tea, elderly fortune tellers, young gypsy girls, and a young woman learning to read tarot cards from an old woman, landscapes with great promise, and forked paths through forests. Gloria was well on her way to finding her perfect path.