Only ten bucks

The studio is located at street level, next to a tattoo studio on Bourbon Street in New Orleans; N’awlins as a native would say. I walk down three steps and open the door.

The humid warm sultry air outside is crowded out by the room’s heavy scent of cigar, incense, mold, cheap perfume and sweat. I get dizzy from the intense olfactory cavalcade and stumble into the confined space. Bundles of sunbeams are diagonally dividing the room into two halves, revealing billions of dust particles that play through the beam belt.

Above the patina on the dark wooden desk, a stuffed alligator hangs on the wall, and to the right of the reptile sits an equally stuffed black raven perched on the crooked arm of a thick branch. Between the two ill-fated animals is a doorway with a drapery of glass beads in all the colors of the rainbow; glass beads that now dispel and clink by Madame Lafayette’s considerable large body as she enters the room.

She has an azure scarf wrapped around her silvery hair, and around her thick neck hangs countless necklaces with strange pendants, pieces of bone, teeth, beads, strips of fabric, and other unidentifiable things. She is dressed in a dark blue velvet dress that smears her body tightly. She rocks over to the desk and sits down heavily on a chair which creaks precariously under her weight.

“Welcome, and please sit down,” she says.
“Thanks ma’am.”
“So, you want to know what your future looks like?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yes ma’am, I’m sure.”

She sighs, and bends down behind the desk with great difficulty, pulling out a drawer. She mumbles something inaudible as she pulls something out of the box and closes it again. When she returns from her bent-down position, she breathes heavily, like a bulldog with a respiratory problem, hissing and squeaking from her.

In her right hand she holds a black matte silk cloth bag, from which she takes out the crystal ball and places it on the desk between us. It looks heavy and rests on a base of dark wood. The spherical glass distorts all perspectives, and Madame Lafayette’s fingers behind it suddenly look slim and supple, like those of a twenty-year-old woman.

“Place your hands around the crystal ball and I’ll show you.” 

I do as she says and cup my hands around the vitreous crystal. It is warm and pulsates, as if somehow alive. At first, nothing happens but then the glass gets hotter and hotter. Madame Lafayette tells me to close my eyes.

Facing the altar and a priest stands before a bride and groom. The priest’s voice is serious, but loving as he proclaims god’s word about marriage. In the pews behind are my family, relatives, and my closest friends, all dressed up for a party. I see myself kissing the bride.

It smells of freshly cut grass. A boy and a girl are playing in front of a lime-white half-timbered house. They try to get a red and blue striped kite to lift in the faint breeze, laughing fondly every time it eases off the ground. 

I see myself walking along a sandy beach next to a woman. The sea rises and descends as if breathing. Nearby, laughing children can be heard. 

I watch as a tired truck driver falls asleep at the wheel and when the huge truck heavily slides over to the left lane, just before the crest of a hill. I see myself spotting the truck, way too late.

Antiseptic odors — appliances with hoses and cords — monitors with flashing numbers and pulsating curves — stainless steel instruments reflecting the sterile halogen light — and blue-green paper shrouds over my bruised body. 

This time, at the altar, stand only three lily-white wooden coffins, one large and two smaller. I see myself walking up to the coffins and placing a red rose on each lid.

I slowly open my eyes again and meet Madame Lafayette’s tired gaze. 

“Ten bucks please.” 

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