I Count The Cards, The Cards Don’t Count Me
“The cards. The cards. It’s always about the cards.”
But they were wrong. It wasn’t the cards. Not by a long shot. The cards were only a conduit. They helped you see, but they didn’t divine. The divining rod was you and if you had the all-seeing eye inside, well then, there was nothing a silly card could tell you that you didn’t already know deep down in the gushy, old middle of yourself.
I had watched her work in the park before, on a vivid crimson shawl spread out on the ground so the stickers in the grass didn’t puncture the underside of her tan ankles. She looked like a Gypsy, or someone who wanted you to think they were a Gypsy. Long black hair tied up in a loose ponytail at the back of her head, golden-brown eyes that looked like breakfast mush, a sensuous curve of a mouth, heavy bosoms beneath a cream peasant blouse and long, black skirt. Her eyebrows were harsh, like fuzzy-brown rectangles above her eyes. Her nose sloped and curved and bent at an odd angle making her ugly. Her teeth were pale like stone beneath her sensuous lips.
She laid the cards out in front of her, one by one, not using the whole deck. I tried to count them as she worked, but she moved too fast, laying them down then quickly scooping them back up before returning to the deck and repeating. Usually she was calm, taking her time. Sometimes she formed patterns, pictures even, with her cards. Once I’d seen her lay them out like a gallows––but only once. It was for an old man who’d squatted down beside the scarf as she’d worked. When she was done he’d seemed satisfied with his reading and had thrown down a hundred dollar bill before leaving, never to be seen again.
But today was an anti-thesis day.
An opposite day.
Today I would read the cards to see what they had to say.
I sat on a nearby bench, the cold November air biting into the crook of my neck, cuddling my ears and ruffling my hair. I felt its kiss on my scalp and shivered––but not once did I take my eyes off the deck. I may not have been able to count the cards, but I wasn’t about to let them count me. As long as I had my eyes on them, I was safe. Because I knew in my mushy center what was going to happen––just like the cards did.
The Gypsy threw herself forward and gathered up all the cards, conforming them into a neat pile in her hands. The nails were chipped, no polish, I noticed arbitrarily. Suddenly, she sat up, her back ramrod straight like a cat sensing something on the air, its whiskers quivering. She looked around, her eyes darting like bees, but never once alighting on me for some strange reason. Finally, she pulled a red, hand-woven scarf from her bag and wrapped it tightly around her neck as if that would ward away the cold.
She shook as she threw down another configuration of cards.
I guess she was hoping for a better outcome.
Sensing the time was nigh I sat up from my slouch and stood, stretching. I covertly checked to make sure no one was around, that we were alone in the park––we were––then I lazily made my way down the path toward the Gypsy. She looked up at my approach, her dark eyes full of dread.
“No matter how you lay them,” I said with certainty, “they’ll just come out the same.”
I reached down and wound the end of her scarf firmly around my hand.
And then I yanked.