[posted 03.23.2002]


Following is the second of two episodes. In the first installment, the author visits a psychic while in New Orleans and learns the circumstances under which he will meet his (next) soulmate.

WE GET THE TAROT deck, Jewel buys some chocolate candies at the register and we start wandering around the Water Tower area for a place to eat.


The Cheesecake Factory is a story below the busy downtown streets, its stairs off Michigan Avenue curving on either side inward toward the small outside waiting area like the Hollywood Bowl. The John Hancock Tower and various statues cast dramatic shadows above it, transforming the restaurant area into the gateway to some magnificent palace.

We make reservations and sit at one of the deck tables, under the shade of an umbrella. We both sigh and remain quiet for a few moments.

“Is this your first time to Chicago?” I ask.

“Yeah. I really like it a lot.”

“So, this guy you were seeing, does he live in Chicago?”

“Yeah. He’s part of the managerial staff of one of the major sports teams. We met while he was in my town on business last year. We’ve gotten along so well when we’ve been able to see each other, but he invited me down here for the first time and told me that it wasn’t going to work out.”

“Did he give you a reason at least?

“Well, he was supposed to be leaving his wife and he doesn’t really love her….”

This does not sound good. I realize that I don’t know anything about her or where she’s from or where she’s going. But I empathize, so I decide to play it cool and treat this lunch more like an occult session than anything else. I listen to her talk about how she’s feeling and I find myself talking about my own long-distance relationship that didn’t work out.

She pulls out the Tarot deck and starts fidgeting with the cards, almost spilling them on the ground. I realize that she has fairly large hands, which complement her tall frame. I find them incredibly sexy. “These cards are smaller than playing cards, huh?” she says, laughing. “Yeah,” I say, smiling.

Our number is called. We take an outside table not too far from where we originally sat. Drinks are ordered and I start explaining how the Tarot works. We begin a few minutes later.

Tarot sessions are usually filled with generalities and many possible meanings, but hers becomes one of the most direct readings I’ve ever done. The themes are clearly dishonesty and betrayal.

She remains pretty stoic, but is persistent in turning my interpretation into what she wants to hear.

“So, is it saying that I should try to stay with him?”

“Well, it is saying that you have been given some knowledge that you didn’t have before and that you should use it to avoid problems in the near future.”

“So, couldn’t it be that this is just a test…you know, like a difficult patch?”

“Well, the cards are showing that the situation isn’t very honest right now, so unless things change people are likely to get hurt.”

“So, can’t it be that I love him and he loves me, but he just doesn’t realize it now?”

My mouth opens to say something insightful, but nothing comes out. I try again, but to no avail. For the first time I’m nervous.

“His wife isn’t a nice person and she’s probably putting things in his head….”

Our food comes. She ordered some type of Caesar salad on a plate the size of a large cake pan. I got some fish stuffed with something. She digs into her salad, while I eat my fish, though I’m playing with it more than anything.

She suddenly stops eating like she’s about to make a big announcement. “I’m going to run to the bathroom. I’ll be right…back.” I give a tight smile and watch her as she heads indoors. I continue eating, but then reality starts to hit me. I’m in downtown Chicago with some strange woman seeing a married guy, eating a $15 lunch — $30 counting her meal — with $5 in my pocket, and she runs off to the bathroom. Okay, options…. I can explain to the waitress the whole situation, from New Orleans to now…or I could just run. Now the seafood is waltzing in my stomach, threatening to dance all over the table.

The tall woman emerges from the revolving door. I say a little prayer thanking God and regain my composure. She sits and takes a sip of water.

“If you don’t mind me saying, you are really attractive. Have you done any modeling?”

“No, but I’ve been told I should.”

We finally start to talk about our lives beyond the current drama. I tell her that I’m in graduate school, studying magazine publishing. She says she’d like to go back to school, but for now she’s a waitress.

We wrap up the meal and head up the curvy stairs, out toward Water Tower. She tells me she’s going to do some shopping and then catch up with some people she knows in Chicago.

“Well, it was great meeting you,” I say.

“Yes, you too. Thanks for the reading.”

We reach around each other and, with both arms underneath the other’s shoulders, share a warm hug. I give her my homemade business card, with just my name, profession and email address.

“Email me if you’re in town again.”

“I don’t have email, but I will when I get it….”

The light changes and she turns to face Water Tower. “...And I’m not sure if I’ll be back.”

I smile and turn away from her, toward Michigan Avenue. “Oh, you’ll be back.” I cross the busy street and walk a few blocks to the train, totally numb from my three-hour experience. While on the train I wonder why I was so confident I’d see her again. There was no reason to believe she’d be back.


I head up to the office to finish up (or to start) the day’s work and I run into one of my friends. I start talking quickly, defaulting to my speedy New Jersey accent, explaining to him exactly what happened, from New Orleans to today. He’s trying to follow me.

By the time I finish the story I actually feel myself getting frustrated. “...And so I go through all this and she’s in this situation and now I’ll probably never see her again and maybe this or maybe that” and yadda yadda yadda and I’m amazed at my luck and why did she have to be so beautiful and why right now? And then, tired, I finally take my first breath.

“Wow,” my friend says. “Stuff like that never happens to me.”

I blink, nod, and then stop talking. I realize that accepting my encounter with a beautiful stranger for what it is is about as easy as eating a piece of pie…and not half as dangerous as wanting more.

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damon brown is a chicago-based freelance writer. interested in anything unusual that he can sink his teeth into, damon pens exploratory features, slice-of-life vignettes and humor pieces for, the source and