The road to the fortune teller’s abode was lined with pebbles, and as I walked out of the taxi, my feet stepped on a puddle of mud which ruined my Ferragamo shoes. I at once regretted coming here. But curiosity took the better part of me. I arrived at the half-open iron gate.
Without much effort, I pushed the gate wide open and walked in.
Two faded pictures of a man and a woman hung high up on the wall greeted every visitor. I shivered a little, it was obvious that the two characters on the wall had already departed from this world. I looked around and found a three-seater sofa to sit on. I hesitated and walked around a little until I heard a man’s voice,
“I don’t believe you!” he said.
And then I heard another voice, this one more muffled.
The two voices were talking to each other, at regular exchange, one more urgent then the other. The calmer voice seemed to be in control of the situation.
I decided that the voices would take some time to conclude their conversation, so that I sat down on the sofa, taking the place on the right. No one else was with me in the abode.
I knew why it was called an abode, the entire house consisted of only the sofa, a tinted glass wall with a broken door, and a large clock without a second hand. I checked that it told the correct time.
And then after five minutes I looked at the clock again and was satisfied that the longer hand had moved.
There seemed nothing to do except to wait for the man inside the door to come out.
“No, I don’t believe you!” Again, he said, the urgent voice.
“I am telling you that she is two-timing you,” now I could hear the other calmer voice.
“If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to go and ask her,” the voice became louder, I heard.
How long are they going to be at this? I was getting impatient. I looked at my watch, and then at the wall clock, their time synchronising.
Just as I was thinking of giving up, a man stormed out of the door. He was a large man in a loose shirt wearing shorts with a pair of sneakers two sizes too large. I only saw this sort of attire at the wet market.
He hardly looked at me, I think he did not notice me. I saw him disappeared into the main road out of the abode, with the man who was inside coming after him saying,
“Hey! You have not paid me!”
I looked at this other man, and I said, “Is it my turn now?”
The man looked at me, surprised that I was there.
“Yes, of course, where are you from?” followed by,
“Come in, sit down here on this chair,” the man ordered. He looked just as uncouth as the earlier man who stormed out.
For reason, I felt obliged to sit down.
Then the man, I called him the fortune teller, sat down in front of me. Behind him I could see a few Buddhist relics, I shivered a little, even though there was no air-conditioning.
The fortune teller clapped his hands and ordered, “Come out now!”, presumably talking to some spirits present in the atmosphere. I felt uneasy and queer, as I knew that he was communicating with some unknown forces. I looked around, there was no one else in sight.
Then he began, “Tell me your name,”
Automatically I gave him my name, he asked me how to write it in Chinese, and I told him.
The next thing he asked was my date of birth. This also I told him.
“What time was it on the twenty-first?” he wanted to be precise.
“I can’t say,” I said.
“You don’t know?” he asked.
“No, yes, I know,” I replied.
“Then you must tell me, otherwise I can’t read your chart accurately,” he explained.
“Alright, it is at 8:46 a.m.,” I was proud that I knew the exact hour.
He wrote the details on a calendar pad in front of him. All these while he consulted with a book, I could see that it was well read as several pages were coming off the binding, some of the corners of the book cover was torn. I waited for an answer. He was supposed to read my fate.
“2006 and 2007 were the worst years of your life,” he pronounced without as much as a pause, as though he was running on a railway track, he continued,
“… and that you are now in the midst of a rising upward trend of a four-year cycle … you could use this time to consolidate your strengths – ”
Before he could finish, I interrupted, “What happens after four years?”
He looked at me, and then buried his head in the pages,
“Don’t worry you still have four years,” and then he added,
“Four years is a long time.”
I became a little worried and I looked worried.
“Well, not to worry, you will meet some eminent person in the month of January … just look out for him,” he offered his advice.
I was stunned for a while, then I confessed,
“Yes, you are right about the 2006 and 2007, they were indeed the darkest days of my life, how did you know?” I had forgotten that he was a fortune teller. Reading my fate was supposed to be his job.
The man became rather proud of himself, and he continued to press me,
“Do you have any children?”
“Yes,” I was now more open.
“You have a daughter,” he said.
“How did you know?” I kept forgetting that he could read my situation.
“And you are now looking for her ….,” the man continued. By now I could study his face, he had very bad complexion. And his eyes were too close to each other.
“Listen, I came here to find out if you could help me find my daughter,” I suddenly realised that since he was so accurate in reading my fate, he would be able to tell me where Sally was.
“No, I am afraid not. I am not the lost-and-found department. I can only tell you about the past, I can’t predict the future for you. All I may do is to give you some pointers,”
“Ok, got it. Thanks!” I tried to sound as cheerful as I could. My purpose here was not accomplished.
And then without warning he suddenly stood up,
“Time’s up,” he said.
“Huh?” I was surprised, I was beginning to enjoy the session. It was fun, having someone tell you things he knew about you without having met you before. And darn accurate too.
“This is my name card, come back another time,”
“Do I have to pay you?” I asked. Everything must have a consideration.
“It’s up to you, pay me according to your conscience” he lamented.
I dished out a hundred dollar note from my wallet, and I placed it on the table, beside his paper weight – a large porcelain butterfly. And then reluctantly I got up from the chair and I walked towards the door. I turned the doorknob and I walked out of the abode, passed the sofa, passed the two dried potted plants standing by the entrance.
I was surprised that the fortune teller did not come after me.
I spent the rest of the day walking aimlessly digesting the information I got from the fortune teller. How could he be so accurate? And who is this eminent guy that will appear in January? Finally, as I could not gain any headway, I went back to my hotel room, determined to confront Michael.
“Is Sally with you?” I asked without wasting time.
“Where are you now?” was his answer.
“Did you send someone to take Sally away?” I wanted my answer.
“Tell me where you are first, then I will tell you the rest of the story,” he said.
“Ok, I am done with you,” I was still determined to stay away from Michael.
I hung up on him again, this time more resolute for a divorce.
By now I was hundred percent sure that Sally was with Michael.