By Sydney Schwichtenberg
Despite the furious rattling of the air conditioner, the summer heat seeped through the thin window-panes of Mystic Moon, a psychic salon in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Before passing the shop’s yellow front door, I imagined a room draped with fabrics and beads, a levitating table and a crystal ball. Instead, there was a waiting room painted in a boring beige and a sign-in sheet with two names above my own.
I sank into the room’s lone piece of furniture, a cool leather couch, with my best friend, Morgan Burchett. Our day-trip to the hippie capital of Arkansas was a spontaneous Friday morning decision.
As we waited for my name to be called, I thought of just standing up, saving myself $45 and leaving before I could be scammed by a small-town psychic.
Before I had the chance to escape, a red-headed stranger swung her office door open and welcomed me inside.
In the reading room, there was an empty, foldable table covered in a long, red scarf.
The space was decorated much like the outside, comfortable with dark reds and creams.
The woman, Lisa, settled into her seat and welcomed me to sit in the empty metal chair in front of her.
I took in her appearance, much like she was taking in mine. To me, she didn’t look like a psychic. Before entering the salon, I pictured a bone-thin woman in blankets of fabric and heavy jewelry waiting to trade my future for a few bucks.
Lisa was soft and covered all of her curves in a simple red blouse and long skirt. Her cleavage swooped out of her top and stared at me as she bent over and took my debit card.
“Payment first,” she said.
Her smile showed off her too-pink cheeks and her eyes squinted from heavy, smudged eyeliner. Her curly red hair curved around to the bottom of her ribcage.
She reminded me of an elementary teacher, not a medium who could see into my future.
“I do Shustah cards,” Lisa said. She sounded like a nurse walking a patient through a medical procedure, only speaking in facts. “I can see the next six months of your life.”
Shustah cards originate from the early 1970s. According to Lisa, the deck she used once belonged to her father. Cards come in five colors and 14 variations. The same card meant something different depending on the color.
Behind me, Morgan patiently sat in the corner. Lisa beckoned her closer and handed my friend a pen and three sheets of yellow lined paper.
“Record this for her,” the psychic said.
Lisa shuffled the collection of 70 cards swiftly. Carefully, she swept the entire deck over the tabletop and asked me to pick the twelve cards that called out to me.
I stared at the deck, clueless to which ones I should pick. I hovered my fingers over their blue backs and wondered if the right ones would fly up and stick to my palms like magnets.
They didn’t. I blindly chose my 12.
After three minutes of deliberation, she lined them up in a neat diamond shape and turned them over carefully.
“Oh,” she said. “That doesn’t usually happen.”
Three cards were nestled together: a horse, for swift victory; a virgin, a card that explores identity; and the Gemini, which was my astrology sign and meant something would happen twice.
“You’re going to fall in love,” she told me. “Very soon.”
I laughed aloud. Morgan, with her giant brown eyes, just nodded along and dutifully scribbled down the promise.
Somewhere, my empty bank account cried out in bitter betrayal.
Summer was almost over, and there wasn’t any room in my schedule for men. It didn’t fit into my three-year, five-year or even 10-year plan.
I went home with a heavy pocket full of promises for the upcoming months. Lisa assured me an easy transition back into academic life when the semester started and a motley of romantic tensions with my new mystery man.
A week later, I was invited on a canoe trip on the Illinois River. With no expectations and Lisa’s promises already forgotten, I found myself rowing with a young man named Jesse Dunlap. He was a Gemini, too. What began as simple musings about the world around us earned me his number and a date to a local hiking spot.
Without even understanding how important he would become, I spent the remaining three weeks of my summer glued to his side. He told me he loved me within a month. It wasn’t the only time I heard a man say it, but it was the first time I said the words back and meant it.
All I could think of was how Lisa said it would happen fast. Weeks turned into months, and suddenly, we were celebrating our one-year anniversary.
It was only after Labor Day weekend, while I sat across from his grandmother, that I realized maybe his family possessed some kind of fickle magic.
“I went to Jerusalem a week before I met Dudley,” Sara, Jesse’s world-travelling grandmother, told me as we watched lazy rafts float down the Illinois from his family’s cabin. In most conversations, she speaks of her late husband like he is just in the other room. “I went to a tea café, and in my leaves, I was told I would be married in three months.”
“And I was,” Sara said. “Imagine that, my marriage announced in the Holy Land.”
I thought of the yellow notebook paper I still had. I stuffed it inside of my car’s center console, and sometimes, when I searched for change, I came across it.
Jesse found the paper once. In a bored voice, he read off Lisa’s promises like a grocery list. Jesse refuses to believe in anything strange or unseen. It’s the only thing I hope he grows out of.
“I think you were scammed,” Jesse decided after he read the entire document twice. “But I’m glad she was right.”