If I had known about the opium dens, I would have kept reading. Instead, I got to the end of the prologue and stopped. “At the top of the menu, engraved in elegant, nautical letters, was written the name of the splendid ocean liner that was carrying them home: TITANIC.” Oh, this was going to be one of those books, where the author withholds information purely to create suspense, instead of letting it arise organically. No thank you.
But I went to book club anyway, as I always do, and I found out that the rest of The House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine Howe involved not just the Titanic, but scrying and opium dens. Someone summarized the plot for me. It reminded me of both Spook by Mary Roach (but fiction) and the movie The Awakening (but better).
We talked about what we might do if we had a scrying glass. What would it be like to see the past? Or see the future?
“I can do a reading on each of you,” someone said. “All I need is a personal object.”
We all agreed that would be fun, so our resident psychic (I’m not sure if she would use that word to describe herself or not) relocated to the back of the bookstore for privacy. When it was my turn, I handed her my wallet.
“Are you the only person who has had this?” she asked me.
I said yes. “But it was a gift,” I said. I’d hate for my reading to be sullied by the latent energies of the guy who gave me the wallet years ago.
“Was it new?” she asked. “If not, I can take your glasses.”
Sometimes I let other people wear my glasses. “How blind are you?” we ask, when meeting other people with glasses, trading spectacles. I’m almost always the blindest.
“Yes, it was new.” I said. It was also run over multiple times when it fell off my car the month before. I didn’t say anything, but I worried this would screw with the object’s energies or something.
She took my wallet and sat back in the chair. She closed her eyes and squeezed my wallet between her palms. She opened her eyes.
She told me that I had a solid core. “Well, about two-thirds solid,” but I was putting out a lot of feelers trying to get my life in order.
“Okay,” I said. I tried to remember if I had mentioned my personal essay project at book club. It was likely.
She told me that I could ask questions, and she would feel some sort of image in response to that question. I didn’t have to ask my questions verbally. I could focus on the question in my mind, and ask the question when I was ready.
She presented me with a series of images, some more strange than the last. One, she said, was “the strangest image I’ve ever seen.” But it was up to me to unpack them. In a way, it was like reading a book, or poetry, and trying to unpack the metaphors. I’m not sure what any of it means, but if I knew in the first place, I wouldn’t have been asking the questions.
Here are the images (in no particular order):
- The background is Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I’m on a trampoline, trying to reach the stars
- A butterfly opening
- Feathered plumage
- Me, throwing a spear
- A Chinese take-out box full of happiness. When something falls in, happiness splashes out
That One Time is a weekly series of true stories. Things that I did, stuff that happened to me, or events I observed. They’re like text selfies. #texties I believe these situations to be unique and universal at the same time. Has something similar ever happened to you? Share it in the comments. That One Time updates every Thursday.