As a late birthday present, my friend credited me for a free psychic reading. If you know me, you know I am a skeptic about these types of things. But, I took it.
An afterimage, according to Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde of the magazine Scientific American, is an image that continues to appear in one’s vision after the exposure to the original image has ceased. An afterimage occurs when neurons habituate and eventually cease responding to an unchanging stimulus. “Once neurons have adapted, it takes a while for them to reset to their previous, responsive state: it is during this period that we see illusory afterimages.”
This is often the explanation for why people see ghosts. This is also the reason why I will never see Audrey again.
I had the best intentions, for my 27th year, and I vowed to make the best of choices. Despite these efforts, painful relationships surfaced, my health deteriorated and work was hard to come by, if at all. My life felt like it was stalling, and I didn’t know why. Out of a painful mixture of exasperation, depression and curiosity, I finally got up to the nerve to cash in on my psychic gift. She only did phone readings, which I thought was both cheating and profoundly honest. She wouldn’t know me, in as much as you know someone through face-to-face contact. She wouldn’t be able to gauge my body cues, and her ability to interpret my vocal intonations would also be limited. What would she say? After weeks of apprehension, I was ready to test her abilities. I called from my bed. It was raining. I apologized immediately for taking up an hour of her time.
“I just feel weird about this.” I said.
“Don’t feel weird.” She said. “It’s free.”
Her name was Audrey. She started by telling me simple things: I had two brothers, yes. One was coming to Hollywood to live with me, yes. I was someone who liked to learn, yes. Though the reading started slow, specifics started surfacing, both surprising and non. Later, I grouped these specifics into five distinct categories.
- Family life
Each of these categories had at least two distinct facets of prediction. Generalized, they were:
Every piece of information hurt more than the last. Was this a violation or an exposure? I admitted to Audrey that the parts that hurt most were about being alone. I thanked her politely and hung up.
That night, I found out that I did not get the contract to do Improv on a cruise ship. Disappointed, I met with the man I loved at a restaurant and I asked him to be my boyfriend. He said no. I left the restaurant trying to summon tears, as if to purge the knowledge that I had been gifted. I couldn’t cry, I just drove back to my apartment in silence.
The wheels were in motion, as they say.
I texted this to Audrey (to my delight, she was very responsive via text!) She told me to stay positive, as I was going to have an amazing time in China and besides, it was better to be single on a vacation, anyway. I thought that was pretty good advice as any, so I did as I was told.
All through my China trip, I looked feverishly for purple cloth, or a woman named Bagda. I opened myself up to being moved and I took lots of pictures. I did not have my period once on the whole trip- was this a sign that the profuse pre-trip bleeding was a miscarriage?
I called her twice while in China- and she told me that maybe things were changing and that timing was never her forte. She said that in the past- the timing was often off on her predictions, but names never were.
After I got back from China, I re-assessed her predictions. Red is did not come true, Blue is did. Purpley-pink is in-between, black is definitively undecided.
Three months later and after I severely injured my foot, I went back to my list and updated the predictions, as indicated by the slash.
Then, more things happened, and I desperately tried to figure out how they fit into my predictions. My cat got injured. I got fired from another job. My mother’s health worsened. Audrey was less reluctant to answer my texts and calls, but I really needed to know how these things fit in. I told her I would pay. She said she was busy. I needed to know. I needed to know.
I work in Glendale, and I had been sending her money to an address there. One day, I decided to stop by. I thought that it would be cool to meet face to face, but also I thought that we could just talk. I needed to talk. I went to her apartment in Glendale, a non-descript townhome on Victory Boulevard.
Audrey answered the door. At that moment, I realized that we had nothing to say to each other, and my shame broke like a fever. This was so fucking wrong. I felt profound humiliation for doing this to her, for bothering her, for obsessing. Months later, I still thought about those predictions. I still wanted my life to fit inside of them so badly. I looked at Audrey and she looked at me. Being the nice person that she is, she invited me in to sit down inside. I said no thank you, and that I was sorry, and then I left.
Audrey looked different than I expected.
Rebecca Leib was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but currently resides in Los Angeles, California. She has her BFA in fine arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MFA in writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is also an alumni of the Second City Conservatory, IO-West and UCB. Rebecca likes to teach, draw and perform and can be seen performing regularly at iO West, The Moth Storytelling Competition and UCB-LA. She has been published for art writing in Beautiful/Decay, Art Ltd., ArtNews, Artillery and writes pop culture pieces for TVgasm, Girls Talkin’ Smack and Gawker. She has a weekly column for the Los Angeles-based humor blog, http://www.saysomethingfunnybitch.com/ that you can check out, if you’d like.
**Top photo found via Internet search — no profit is turned by its usage. All rights are reserved to the original artist. If you own this image and would like proper credit, please email us. Likewise, if you want a piece removed, please email us as well and we will oblige.