I started crying when I asked her the question. I don’t know why I thought a fortune teller in New Orleans could tell me something I didn’t already know. I’ve had many readings in my life and none have been particularly revealing, though I have learned a few things about what makes one better than the other. A good fortune teller has the gift of reaffirming all your worst fears without you having to tell them the gritty details. Some seem to further have the ability to look into your soul (or your eyes…eyes are very telling), to see something that you don’t—or rather something you don’t want to see—and then tell you for the cost of a couple twenties. This particular fortune teller was named Fairy, recommended to my friend and I by a painter in Jackson Square. She told us Fairy was the only fortune teller she would see in New Orleans. She said she was the best.
It was sunny and hot and it was the beginning of November. November is usually the month I attempt to swear off drinking, burdened by ten months of bad decision-making and gin. In November I realize how close or far I came from actualizing my new years resolutions, which for the most part constitute doing less of something rather than more. Less vices. Less sadness. I don’t like to admit I am sad. I work hard and have a decent career as a writer, it’s tough but I do it well enough that it pays most of my bills and takes up the majority of my resume. I am in love and I have the best of friends and I have support, three quintessential tiers of happiness. At 27 though, I know sadness and happiness are not mutually exclusive. I know that what you have on the outside cannot make up for what you lack on the inside.
I looked at Fairy part way into our reading and I heard myself say, “I just don’t want to be sad anymore.” I have been sad for so long I am exhausted by it and no amount of prescriptions or talk therapy seems to have changed this. When I looked at Fairy and said those words, I realized it wasn’t so much a question as it was a declaration. I just wanted someone else’s opinion that wasn’t my mother’s or my therapist’s or 3 am versions of advice from my friends. I wanted an outsider opinion from someone who didn’t know anything about me. I wanted someone to tell me something new.
She looked at me and she said I’m not sad. At first, I found myself rejecting the words that she claimed came to her from the universe and exited through her lips. What do you mean I’m not sad? I found myself rejecting these things because I have blamed so much of my sadness on all those blips on my lifeline that I’ve attempted to bury under passing years and empty bottles and new accomplishments designed to make me feel something other than this dull ache. She said I am not sad. Then what am I? I felt mad so imagine my surprise when she said I am angry, but my anger manifests as sadness.
It’s a weird thing to have a stranger tell you that, someone who has no idea of the things thing you’ve been through, your fears, your regrets, your failures, or your desires. It’s strange to have someone tell you that you’re angry and then when you want to hate them for it, to actually find yourself becoming angry with those words and realizing that those words are perhaps then at least partially true. It’s weird to realize that you never realized this before. It’s such a simple truth, why couldn’t anyone see it? Why couldn’t I see it?
What I do next is up to me and no oracle or tarot cards can point me in the right direction, no amount of meditation can calm this, none of those crystals I’ve bought while drinking whiskey out of coffee cups on cold Toronto afternoons can find me salvation. I need to do something about this anger and I need to take responsibility for it starting right now. A while ago I interviewed someone, a role model of mine, someone who has been through hell and back, and I asked her how she’s handled everything with such grace. She said she’s taken responsibility for it. She says she has a life to live. This is the blurry part, the part I need to take some time to figure out. I thought first I’d write about it, but what I do now remains, for the time being, a mystery.
Fortune tellers can’t tell you anything you don’t already know. I placed American tens in Fairy’s donation box and walked away with a heavy heart, but it was no heavier than it had ever been. I had a sunburn on my arms and chest from sitting in the heat listening to a stranger tell me all the secrets I had been keeping from myself. Then, I felt lighter. I remembered it was November and I closed my eyes for a minute, listening to the flurry of jazz music that surrounded me in the hot New Orleans air. I opened my eyes and looked at all the fortune tellers lining the square, all the people wanting so desperately to know their truths. I thought about the nights I had spent on Bourbon Street that weekend, I thought about the city I was in and the city and the boy I missed back home. I let myself feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair.
I felt happy.
Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.