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Fortunes told

The night was yet to start, and the place was still empty, but the music was already blaring. Such was the scene of a club before the start of the party: tables still in place, hair and make up still intact on the face. The drinks were neatly arranged on the bar, with no spills. The girls-in-charge were still trying to put everything to where they belonged.

But the fortune teller already had cards laid out on the table.

When it was finally my turn, I said hello like a nervous high school freshman. It wasn't my first time - there was a fair from years ago, and I had my palms read in a dark little tent - but it was new having her all to myself. No other people waiting outside the curtains yet, no drunk couples making out before their turn. Just me, the empty bar, and the thumping music that no one is dancing to.

I said my name with my palms on the deck, as instructed. Then I cut the deck, and drew my first card.

The emperor, it said.

"An older man," she murmurs. "There's an older man watching over you."

This creeped me out a bit, and immediately the word Wrong flashed itself in neon lights across her forehead.

"Are you a bunso? Or the only girl in the family?"

My eyebrows shoot up, and I nod. "An only child,"

"And a daddy's girl?"

It just became interesting. I said yes, and she smiles, as if she expected the hesitation, and knew she was bound to shatter it.

Everything else seemed to happen in a flash, just as the blinking neon lights of the bar started gaining momentum.

Suddenly I wanted to know more. Questions that were ripe for asking came out with answers I wanted to hear. I pointed my finger at a card. Surviving law? Yes. I picked another from the pack. Passing the exam ? Yes. I cut the deck. Travelling? Yes. I was to travel the world, with my eyes and my feet, she said. I would find eventual happiness in the legal field. I would always, always find my father in myself. Everything that has ever happened and will ever happen is hugely influenced by my dad. My mother is my soulmate. 

She told me that there will be stories heard and told, to be put down on paper, to help the poor. My service will go to the needy, she said, but before that I must first go out and see the world outside the bubble I move in. There will be new shoes to walk into, new languages to speak. There will be peacefulness, at last, and for good.

The swelling of music started getting louder, outside, and in my head. I liked what I was hearing. A suspension of disbelief was still in order, though. At that point, I was glad with what I was being told but everything sounded too right. Like it was meant to make me feel good about what lies ahead. It was a party for law students - of course she would draw the destinies we wanted. Align the stars for us, if she must. But still I welcomed the auguries, out of politeness, curiosity, both.

After a few seconds of silence, I was ready to open the curtains and leave, my thank yous and polite pleasantries waiting to be said. I had heard what I wanted to hear - time to go out and go back to the entrance door to welcome guests. But then, she looked me in the eye and asked, "Anything more you want to ask? About..."

She didn't need to finish. I sat back down and drew the next card.

"You're the one," she said. "It was never like this with anyone else. You will bring him places, literally and figuratively."

She didn't look at me yet, the way she did after every question. Other cards were drawn, placed around a circle, around the emperor card that held the center of my orbit. There was a but coming.

"But.. others are still waiting. Two, in fact."


"For you."

I didn't even need to ask. Again, the details came in a flurry. From the past. Both arrived the same year. Feelings unresolved. Etcetera, etcetera.

And then for the first time that night, I was nodding along without much interest in what the other person was saying - kind of like how you usually do in parties, except I wasn't even tipsy yet. I appreciated the warning. I was honestly impressed with the accuracy. I respected the prognosis.  But at that point, I was no longer interested. It didn't matter anymore what the cards said. As much as I'd like to believe everything she said until that moment, it was of no significance. The cards, the stars, the universe - yeah, we all like to believe in that. Me, most of all, especially after I've long acknowledged the role that kismet has played for the great part of my life as I now know it. 

But the party and everything else has already begun. Outside the curtains, I could already hear people trickling in. The music was getting louder, the neon lights, brighter. As enjoyable it was to momentarily cling on to the magic of tarot, there was a much bigger belief I had to hold on to - something more real, and something actual. Something beyond the cards, the curtains, that club.

In my head was a sudden moment of clarity. I was brought back to a warm June night, made even warmer by the plate of sizzling steak in front of me, and quite possibly, other feelings. A moment after dinner was served, I remembered I have trouble cutting my own food. (I've always had my dad slice my meat and skin my shrimp for me.) I forgot about this little concern when I suggested the steak place earlier that evening, but alas, it was too late, because we were already there and I had no choice. I picked up my knife and fork carefully, like any proper young lady on her third date, and did my best with the slab of oven-roasted chops. But then, after a few seconds of trying (and failing) to cut up a bite, very nicely, my date suggested that he do the slicing for me. I asked him if it was okay, with a sheepish grin, and a very shy chuckle. He said he didn't mind. And he hasn't minded a lot of things since.

It was an evening of good steak. And many other good things.

I said my thank yous to the kind woman, hardworker that she is. She seemed like an earnest, kind-natured lady. There was already a line outside as I stepped out the tiny room - couples, candidates, friends, people who were ready to have their futures momentarily revealed. I already knew of mine long before I stepped in, I realized. It was never up to the cards. 

A friend handed me my first beer. A dubstep version of Frank Ocean was playing. The beat was barely recognizable, but the words were there. This time, it was the chorus asking me.

Or do you not think so far ahead? Because I've been thinking 'bout forever.

Yes, likewise.