Two weekends ago, I made good on a long-overdue promise to visit a law school girlfriend. I had been putting it off for years (literally), largely because I had no desire to ever set foot in Kansas City.
But a painful breakup recently pushed her into absolute misery territory, and she called and begged me. Since my own luck in love had just taken a (predictable) turn for the worse, it seemed like the universe was trying to subtly nudge me toward the heartland. So I booked a flight to Kansas City.
“I’m so excited you’re coming! I have some fun plans for us—I promise,” she said.
I assumed she meant two nights of drinking in the finest bars Kansas City has to offer. Or a Royals game in her firm’s box. In other words, something predictably Candace Bushnell-ish for two marketable young professionals on the mend.
I was wrong. So, so wrong. Apparently, she’s now taking her cues from Sonja Morgan instead of Carrie Bradshaw. And I’m not referring to the page in Sonja’s playbook involving tight dresses, plumped lips, and rabid man-whoring. Rather, Sonja’s predilection for spending time with toothless, thinning-haired psychics.
You see, my weekend trip happened to coincide with the Psychical Research Society of Kansas City’s 29th Annual Psychic Fair. I didn’t know such things existed—let alone that I have a friend who enters them in her Outlook calendar.
“Come on! It’s just for fun. And they might be able to offer us some much-needed guidance, don’t you think?”
Stonewalling. I emoted an undeniable lack of interest.
“Pleeeeease don’t refuse to go. You can pick the plans for Saturday night. I swear.”
Figuring it’s just what people in Kansas City do, I agreed to go. I didn’t have the heart to put up a fight. And, thanks to Chip Coffey, a recurring (and convincing) psychic-medium on two of my new reality-show addictions, Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal and Paranormal State, I will admit to entertaining the tiniest inkling there might be a few genuine psychics out there.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power. And I am utterly powerless when it comes to dating. Which means I’m not above spending a few hours with the Renaissance Fair-attending, crushed velvet-clad, crystal-toting set for some useful prophecy.
After plying me with a few mimosas at brunch on that fateful Saturday morning, my friend drove us to the fair.
Once inside, we did a quick loop of the vendors’ booths. Just for laughs, of course. I wasn’t in the market for a $20 photograph of my aura. Nor did I have any use for healing rocks and crystals—or an intuitive portrait of myself surrounded by my spirit guides, animal totems, guardian angels, and past lives.
I tried especially hard to avoid eye contact when we passed the booth of one Rainbow Woman of Liberty, Missouri—an ear candle purveyor who also bills herself as a pain wizard. She kneaded the shoulders of a man as he dutifully blew into a didgeridoo.
I was approaching my tolerance threshold for the scent of Patchouli oil when my friend insisted we enter the inner sanctum of the fair that housed the psychic readers. I checked my BlackBerry, telepathically begging for someone—anyone!—to send me an email about a client fire drill that would require me to immediately attend to a work-related matter, but there was nothing. So we proceeded.
Each reader sat at an individual table beneath a handmade sign bearing his or her name—or, I assume, persona, since I don’t think “Santa Shaman” was the given name of the middle-aged white guy sitting in the corner. The guidebook offered helpful information. Reading tickets were $10 apiece. Though some of the readers’ bios warned that one reading would cost two tickets, minimum. Such as Rich Fine, D.D. (I assume that means doctor of divinity?), who had been awarded the 2009 New Reader of the Year award by the Psychical Research Society.
The ticket vendor warned us that Fine was booked solid for the remainder of the weekend. So unfortunately, I would not be able to judge the accuracy of his bio, which promised that he is a very gifted “Psychic Surgeon” who will “connect with you by looking at the energy systems of your bodies and by accessing your Spirit Guides, Animal Guides, and past lives.” Dammit. I would’ve loved to meet my Animal Guide. I have a hunch it’s a Bichon Frise.
I started to survey the scene and chose my first victim. Though it seemed far more likely that I was going to be the victim, rather than the other way around.
I immediately ruled out a 65-year-old woman wearing a Disney princess tiara and a black gown covered in shiny paillettes. But to her right sat Carmela. Her bio maintained that she had “degrees” from Michigan, Indiana, and KU. An educated psychic. Her avowed academic pedigree led me to overlook her carefully maintained mullet. I scrawled my name on her sign-in sheet and waited.
Alas, only seconds before she called my name, I noticed on another page in the guidebook that Carmela had given a free lecture at the fair on Friday night. Topic title: “The Pleiadians and the Missing Link.” The summation explained that her guide of many lifetimes—a Druidic priestess from 3500 B.C. named Elaine of the Midnight Eyes—had revealed “how the various hominids on earth came to be homo-sapiens through artificial insemination by extra-terrestrials.”
It got worse when I sat down. I was at least hoping to be able to ask something open-ended, but she got out a pendulum and insisted that I ask it a direct, specific question. That felt shady. If I ask whether it’s a good idea to continue flirting with a married man who’s my professional superior, the nature of the question itself would suggest how she should answer. I wanted cues from the goddamn universe, not a pendulum.
While I tried to come up with a cleverly veiled question, I noticed with envy that my friend was receiving a reading from a cross-eyed albino woman who looked way more psychic than my pendulum-wielding L. Ron Hubbard. In any event, the pendulum told me to stay away from my new love interest because it would be trouble. Big surprise. Huge.
Dismayed by my initial experience, and by the fact that my friend had scored the cross-eyed albino’s final reading of the day—“She was amazing,” my friend gushed—I decided to switch it up. I signed up for a male tarot card reader next. Of course, my heart sank when he pulled out his deck. I’m a sucker for cards that look like they’ve been passed down through generations of gypsies. Dale’s, on the other hand, were shiny and unworn and bore Magic: The Gathering–style graphics. For God’s sake, I wanted a reading from a psychic, not a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast.
Needless to say, the reading was a bust. Dale made me ask his deck yes-or-no questions, rapid-fire. After each question, he dealt three cards and then offered nothing more than a “yes” or a “no.”
I slunk away from the table with only one reading ticket left. Across the room, my friend was apparently having her aura cleansed and her energy cords repositioned by Antonia. She had clearly won the psychic shopping contest.
I sat in a chair and sulked for a moment.
Then someone caught my eye. A fairly normal-looking woman named Adrienne was finishing up a reading. Her bio was quick and simple. And she didn’t appear to be using any pendulums or cheesy cards.
As soon as I sat down in front of her, I felt reassured that she was probably the real deal—mainly because she was dressed in normal clothes. In other words, she wasn’t trying to outwardly project mystical qualities because she was secure in her legitimacy.
She took a deep breath and focused on me for a moment. She didn’t even ask me what I wanted to know. Now that’s what I’m talking about. A real psychic just knows. Her eyes went out of focus for a moment, before…
“I’m getting… that you’ve had a rough time recently with men. But… I’m also getting… that things are going to get better for you. You’ve just recently met your soul mate. And it will be a rocky road at first. I’m seeing some complications with this man… I’m not sure why specifically. But I’m getting that he is your soul mate. You should pursue him. But be wary that it will be difficult.”
Then she offered me a little mixture of bath salts and instructed me to bathe in them on a day when I want to tap into my psychic energies. Unless I’m allergic to peppermint.
I floated away from her table, filled with a new and powerful knowledge. I didn’t even scold my friend for buying a wad of rolled sage on the way out (the cross-eyed albino had suggested it would help cleanse the negative vibes left by her ex-boyfriend). The universe had offered me its blessing.
Right at that moment, my BlackBerry buzzed. An email. From none other than my goateed soul mate. Nothing work-related. Just a quip about how lame it was that he had to be in the office that day while I was probably out gorging myself on BBQ. I felt a little quiver of excitement. From somewhere deep within my psyche, a little voice murmured, “And so it is.”
Why did I think that? Where had I heard that before? It sounded vaguely familiar.
As we drove away from the fair, I realized with horror that the familiar phrase offered up by my subconscious is the exact sentence used to close “prayers” by the glassy-eyed high priestess of The Secret and her scantily-clad, tattooed lunatic daughters on E!’s Pretty Wild. Holy Mary, mother of God. Has it really come to this?
But by then, it was too late. And so it was.