What the Fortune Teller saw
Remember when we’d go down to the Seven Seas on Jasper Avenue to get our tealeaves read by Magda? We’d sit in a booth, holding our number, drinking the bitter tea with nervous anticipation. Magda, a small, red-haired, middle-aged woman, dressed like anybody’s mom, would come to our booth. She’d spill our excess tea into the saucer, peer into the teacup and tell our fortunes. We’d listen spellbound, hanging on her every word, trying to decipher her metaphors.
Remember the time she foretold that you’d have two children whom you’d watch swimming in a lake? I was 21. You would have been 23. It was late afternoon in January and already dark outside. My tealeaf reading was cloaked in imagery of a black swan, great sadness and a reference to the letter ‘E’. I thought she was forewarning me about my upcoming trip to Europe. I was frightened something untoward would befall me overseas. But nothing bad happened until I came back several months later. Your husband, Brian, was dying of leukaemia. That’s when I figured out the ‘E’ Magda had referred to stood for your name: Elisabeth. And she had foretold your loss through me.
It seemed we shared the same viscera, separated only by our physical bodies. We’d slept in the same bed during our childhood. We wore clothes Mom made for us: same style, different colours. Except for the sailor suits. They were identical. We played violin and tennis together. You were always better than I was. I was too distracted. You won tournaments. I was lucky to place. You were first violin. I was second. We became hippies and ran away from home together. I sold my violin; you took your savings and we caught a Greyhound bus to Vancouver. Dad caught me at the corner of The Bay within a week. I didn’t tell him where you were at first. We went back to find you a couple of weeks later, but you wouldn’t come home with us. You were 16 and could do as you wished. That was the first time I ever saw Dad cry. About a month later I was at home with friends – Jesus and Speed. Remember them? They’d convinced me to play your Leonard Cohen album. It’d lain silent since I got back from Vancouver because I missed you too much to listen to it. So Long Marianne was playing when the doorbell rang. It was you.
Magda died before we could go for another tealeaf reading. You did have those two kids and we did watch them swimming in the salt lake on your land. Now they’re grown. The salt lake has shrunk; it’s only ankle-deep now. You live in the country. I live in the city. We talk a lot by phone, as if we were still side-by-side in our childhood bed. We’ve never lost that visceral connection that Magda the fortune-teller divined so long ago.