In and out in ten minutes. No conversation, just the nicey nice.
I couldn’t go there. I just needed my salvation, not the reminder of why I’d crucified myself. She gave me the books and I walked away knowing it would only be a matter of time before I found my peace.
Why the occult? Such an odd question.
First, it was different. It was a piece of humanity that hadn’t been chewed up by the men at the top. It was also more balanced than the misogynistic thoughts of Christianity. And it was something I could control myself. I didn’t need a church to get in with the gods.
And mysterious. The dark shadows and the sunny goodness. I liked its dichotomies.
I devoured the books as soon as I got home. I hid them. I was a professional at hiding books.
The pack she gave me had one more treasure: a deck of cards. They were beautiful, with hand-drawn pictures. I had tons to learn, but I wasn’t getting any younger, and this kind of secret education held my attention. This was mine and no one could touch it – not my kids or my husband or friends. Not that I had friends, really.
My immediate obsession gave me something to pay attention to. It gave me little visions of joy and got me out of the house sometimes. I uncovered a tiny bookstore, the Gypsy Hole, with more literature. I drank coffee and tunneled into the ether while sitting on a couch at a reading room.
Because I was doing so much better, Roy began to spend more time at the office. A good thing since we were probably getting tired of each other after so many days with only each other and the kids as company.
Though I’d tried not to become a daily presence at the Gypsy Hole, some weeks I just needed to be there. At least then I could try to talk to the shopkeeper about her newest additions. She wasn’t quite a friend, but we were friendly enough and I was lonely enough that this was at least something for me. As the weeks went by, she started saving pieces for me behind the counter. She became my enabler on this latest addiction, and thank gods it was so much less dangerous a drug to be dabbling with. Her name was Femi.
“Toni,” she said one day, “Dis is a very special piece, here.” She patted a smallish book and lifted it to me.
“Thank you, Femi.” We smiled at each other and I can’t remember what else but probably spoke about the weather or maybe she complimented me on my dress. I don’t know. What I do remember is that I looked at my watch when I sat down and made a note that that day I had less time than usual. I had a late start that morning and wouldn’t be able to lounge there for hours like I wished.
I loved the way a smell of old libraries wafted into my brain when I cracked open a book from the Gypsy Hole. Very few of these books hadn’t already been pored over and I loved the way my higher senses read the energy from them right through my skin. Inside the front cover lay a note.
A community was what I needed, I agreed with Roy. A community of women who could give me notes to run mine against. So when I decided I was going to attend one of the meetings, Roy sounded really happy about it.
What I didn’t tell him was that the meetings weren’t about being a mommy.
I made a hundred excuses about why this wasn’t a lie. Can’t regret it, though, because so much changed inside of me when I walked away with the feeling of not being so alone after all.
She was nervous when she walked through the door. I saw the wetness under her arms, and her lips fluttered a little when she spoke.
Mathilda, Sonci, and Perry were kind enough to let her settle in before busting out de very strange stuff. I was grateful for dat.
Although I didn’t know her well, Toni had been coming into my shop so often I felt like I did. She was moved by de same things me and de girls were.
I tested her at first. Saw what she liked, and what she left on de table next de couch. But Toni didn’t know any better, so she didn’t make effort to hide it. Soon, I knew she was one of us.
It was a very different time den. You don’t just go around announcing witchcraft and dings like dat. But if you are curious, you uncover someding like de Gypsy Hole, and I can see if you are only curious yourself or… someding else.
Four women welcomed me into their fold. And it was like coming home to a place where I could just be myself. What I learned in the first several weeks eclipsed everything I had picked up from the months of reading books.
We decided to meet once a week to talk about spells and read our cards and practice any type of divination we could get our hands on. I particularly loved learning to make my pendulum speak to me, and the cards were something I could do alone, too. I got better at reading them.
Every week one of us volunteered our home to the meeting. It was unnerving to think that our plans could be changed at the last minute if our husbands or children came home early. A risk if something unexpected happened, for certain, but the sisterhood was worth it.
Roy didn’t question my new friends, either. Like he didn’t really care what I was up to as long as I was home every night and my daytime activities didn’t involve intoxication, with or without Harold.
“Your ex-wife came to visit me,” she said as she sat down at the card tables. Cindy, my current wife, shuffled a deck of cards as though she hadn’t heard.
Play it cool, I thought. Brush it off.
Through my haze, I looked her in the eyes and remained very quiet. I could play cool. Until my insides started falling with the speed of a runaway elevator. Silent. An inaudible gasp crossed my lips – the same mouth that whispered her name all those nights before.
“You’ve nothing to say about that, eh, Harold?” she wouldn’t let it go.
“Erm, well… what did she want?”
“A deck of cards.”
Cindy, playing it cool much better than I, began to deal our first hand. She averted her eyes from mine.
The problem with the occult is that there is only one rule: An if harm none, do as ye will.”
When the thoughts would come, I’d chastise myself. “You’re forgetting the ‘an if it harm none’,” I’d say. But the tapes in my head, even after these three years, wouldn’t pause. They kept playing my old love song. I’d see him in the back of my mind and out of the corner of my eye. I’d hear his voice answer questions I asked aloud.
My longing would win out in the argument of reason. It would harm none to do a reading about Harold. All it was was divination – cards to guide my decisions – it’s not like I was going out to rendezvous with the man. I didn’t have to see him, and no matter what the cards said, I didn’t have to change anything about my life right now.
It would have been easier if the man had left me alone in my dreams. But he insisted at least once a week on appearing to me.
“Harold,” I’d say in a sigh. Relief blanketed my skin, made my fingers tingle. And he’d wrap me in his arms, breathing in the smell of me.
“I can’t stay long tonight,” he’d whisper, careful not to wake Roy, sleeping in the bed next to me. Looking over at my husband, he shook his head in apology. His eyes pleaded with me that he was sorry.
Sorry for everything that had happened, that he’d lost me over stupid decisions.
“Are you well?” His hands enclosed mine, and I leaned forward. I needed to put my chin in the crook near his collar. It was a perfect fit. The room around us spun into a tornado and we stood together in the clear calm bubble.
“I’m alright, my love,” I said. “You?”
The spinning grew more frenzied. The force of motion was building in pressure in every direction. We spun and spun until we shattered and I awoke. Startled.
The first time I read for Harold wasn’t intentional, really. It was more of an… accident, I suppose. Like my body was going to do these movements regardless of what my head thought about it. I laid out the cloth. I lit candles. I created a circle of protection, calling forth the gods of the north, south, east and west.
Someone else had control of my body. I watched from the corner of the room. As I shuffled the cards, I held him in my attention.
The spread was simple. Four cards. I flipped over the first. Queen of Cups. The queen of emotion. Beautiful and introspective, she is alone and filled with confident longing that comes from the very depths of the soul. She is compassion and sensitivity. Represents a good wife and loving mother and emotionally secure. A force of emotion, her connection with the subconscious is only bettered by that of the High Priestess. She reflects like a mirror the depths of soul. She tells you to trust yourself.
The second card was The Fool, upside down. Indecision, delays, and being a martyr.
Third: the Nine of Cups. Wish fulfilment. Happiness, satisfaction, joy.
My eyes grew large as I watched the reading unfold. The final card sucked the air out of my lungs: the King of Pentacles. A financially prosperous man who doesn’t struggle for any achievement. He is like King Midas, where everything he touches turns to gold. He provides a richness of life both financially and spiritually.
When the part of me watching from the ceiling corner saw this, I rushed back into my body and swept up the cards as quickly as I could. I blew out the candles and hurriedly folded the cloth and wrapped up my cards. Into the satchel they went. I needed a cigarette.