I pass the yellow ranch house for the second time. It isn’t as I imagined. It looks ordinary. Very ordinary. Hunter green shutters, a curved driveway sloping towards a double garage, conventional shrubbery on either side of the door. Across the street, horses pull at spring green grass with their square teeth.
Because I’m early, I continue down the country road, looking for a place to turn around. It gives me time to wipe my sweaty hands on black jeans that are too tight around my waist. I’ll button them again when I get out of the driver’s seat. The road continues, a straight ribbon of tar between rolling fields and an occasional house. Finally, the road T-s. After looking both ways, I make a wide U-turn.
The next time I approach the yellow ranch, I slow and turn into the driveway. I take a deep breath, open the car door, get myself together, and walk hesitantly to the house.
“Hi!” A perky barefoot blonde woman in her mid to late 30’s opens the door. Her hair is pulled back into a long ponytail. “You must be Susan. I’m Janice.” Her floppy red shorts expose freckled legs. “Come on in.”
The door opens into a family room. A worn plaid sofa dominates the center. Sunlight streams through closed multi-paned windows. I smell a hint of spring meadow air freshener.
“Have a seat.”
This is not how I pictured it. I imagined a dark room, maroon velvet drapes, a crystal ball, a turbaned woman with a specter voice holding claw-like hands over the ball.
“Did you have trouble finding me?”
“That’s good. I have a lot of people coming here from the city and they don’t know how to take all this green space and the unpolluted blue sky.”
She smiles and looks at me carefully before she sits in a high-back, overstuffed armchair and curls her bare legs and feet up onto the seat. I hug my arms at the edge of the tan, plaid sofa feeling like I’m in a movie with a half-written script.
She says, “I’m loving this beautiful weather. It’s great for planting my vegetable garden. I have two growing teenage boys, and I’m trying to get them excited about green beans and spinach, but I know they’d prefer a hamburger tree or a pizza bush!” Her laugh, like the rest of her actions, isn’t forced. She’s at the comfortable far right of the anxiety scale, and I’m at the far left.
I smile in spite of myself. She’s trying to get a feel for me, hoping I’ll reveal information through everyday chitchat. I’m not going to bite. I’m paying dearly for every minute here.
During the silence that follows, I watch Janice grasp a small object in each hand, probably crystals. Her movements are deliberate.
Janice looks at me and asks, “By the way, who is Robert?”
I shrug. “I have a couple of acquaintances named Robert.”
Strike one. I guess Robert’s a common name and she was betting it’d be attached to someone significant to me.
“Do you mind if I tape this?” I ask.
“Not at all. This is your session. I don’t need to remember it, but if you want to, you’re welcome to tape it.” Her voice is matter of fact without an iota of condescension or gooey empathy.
I busy myself setting up my phone to tape the conversation.
“All set?” Janice asks.
“I start with a prayer.” Janice takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. “Okie dokie.” Another deep breath. “I’m calling upon my highest sources, my highest best, my spirit guides and master teachers. I’m calling on Susan’s best and highest guidance and sources asking the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Rafael for help with our physical, mental, spiritual bodies. Remove all fear and negativity, and move us to the light toward contentedness and love, clarity, fortitude, gratitude, vibrant health, acceptance, trust, trust, trust, awareness, and grace, awareness and grace, and abundance. I ask that I receive clear and accurate information that Susan needs to hear at this point in her life’s journey and that any questions she might have be answered as clearly and accurately as I can give her. I pray this with best of intentions. Surround us and protect us as always.”
Janice opens her eyes. “All righty!” Another deep breath. “Wow! This doesn’t often happen, but your past lives are crowding around me. They’re saying a lot about your spiritual path. Are you religious?”
“According to them, you’ve tried many religions for many lifetimes, looking to have a good relationship with God. Wow, you were a tribal medicine woman … a monastic scribe in a monastery … a Buddhist. You’ve tried to find God in many different ways.” A pause. “They’re telling me you need to find your own path—your individual way to God—to help you with recent experiences.”
Although the idea of past lives is intriguing, I’m not here to hear about them. I have enough problems living this life without dealing with my past selves and their inability to have a good relationship with God!
As if Janice could read my mind, she says, “But you probably want to know about this lifetime.”
“Yes.” I feel relief mixed with uneasiness. I came to this yellow ranch psychic to experience the supernatural, but I didn’t realize it included exposing my thoughts to a stranger. That’s creepy. Actually, all of it’s creepy—past lives crowding around to be heard! I wonder if she’s listening to me now?
Janice, if aware of my thoughts, doesn’t acknowledge them. “Is your husband still here?”
“So that’s who has passed! He needs to talk to you.” Janice tips her head to the side as if listening, her long blonde ponytail brushing the top of the armrest.
I hold my breath. Is this really happening?
“He wants you to know he’s doing really well.” A pause. “And he thanks you for your patience. He says it’s time for you to have ‘you time.’ That you tend to be a martyr and carry other people’s pain.”
Janice suddenly laughs. “Did he have a sense of humor?”
“He’s saying, ‘I was perfect all the time except when I wasn’t.’”
I smile. That sounds like Ron–the overconfident jokester that he was during his up times. The way he was when we first met, and he overwhelmed me with his charisma.
Janice continues. “I just told him a joke and he laughed. I said, ‘Why is it that when people talk to God, it’s called prayer. But when God talks to people, it’s called schizophrenia?’”
Janice laughs at her own joke while I wonder how she had told Ron the joke. Mental telepathy? Obviously, some communication channel unknown to most people.
“He says he could be very needy.” Janice’s words penetrate my thoughts.
That’s for sure! I picture his drawn face during the down times, his need for my constant presence. I feel a flashback of resentment mixed with frustration because I couldn’t fix him.
“He says he’s sorry. I’m not sure what that means. He wanted you to be happy again.”
I feel a knot forming in my stomach. “Is he happy?” I ask in a whisper.
“Let me ask him.” Janice tips her head again. “He’s very happy. He’s connected with his father, but he says to tell you that he’s only happy if you are happy.”
I close my eyes. That was one of Ron’s favorite sayings. That and “I love you more.”
“This is interesting,” Janice says. “He says his destiny was not meant to be with you for the rest of your life. He was too much work. You’ll get someone who’ll give you the love you deserve.”
Janice tilts her head to the other side. “He says you need to release the guilt that you couldn’t fix him.”
I feel the tears coming. I squeeze my eyes shut hoping to keep them in. Tears flow despite my attempts to dam them. Through the blur, I fumble in my bag for a tissue, only to see a full box on the side table next to me.
“Go ahead and release that sadness. Leave it behind, because I see that you are not done with love. You will be meeting someone.”
As if visualizing a person in front of her, Janice squints her eyes and says, “He’s taller than you, has a great smile—glasses–he’s really kind and gentle, has a good sense of humor. You’ll have an instant connection—and I see a horse farm.”
Can this be true? Hope pushes past fear briefly only to be pulled back down and smothered.
Not that I don’t want another relationship. I yearn for intimate human touch. I miss daily hugs—all-will-be-fine-because-we’re-together hugs, I-love-you-anyway hugs, sorry-you’re-having-a-bad-day hugs, you’re-the-best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-me hugs, and most of all—I-love-you-best hugs.
Now the memory of those hugs feels like lies. Not intentional lies. Not at the moment our warm bodies touched. But in hindsight, the press of our bodies feels ice cold.
“… use your intuition,” Janice’s voice penetrates my thoughts. “By the way, did you move recently?”
“That’s good. I see something about a move and wasn’t sure if you’d already moved or were planning to. Anyway, the move is a good thing …”
I’d had to move. I remember the day I finally had the strength to go to the barn—his barn. The one he built from trees downed on our property from a hurricane. The day I was able to go inside the barn, I felt a calm resolve, not the panic I felt the terrible day I found his note on the counter when I returned from lunch. “You were the love of my life,” it said. Past tense.
Then I had run, heart beating wildly, my mind refusing to believe what I suspected, until certainty hit when I reached the barn door and saw the sign in his haphazard scrawl.
Don’t come in if you are alone.
I considered ignoring the sign for half a second. Reason ruled. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and dialed 911.
Sirens. They still haunt my dreams. Uniforms took over my space. Made me stay inside the house. Asked the same questions over and over. I escaped within a frozen bubble of numbness.
But the day I finally was able to lift the barn door latch, the door creaked open. Musty air, trapped for months, escaped, tinged with the smell of sawdust and stale cigar smoke. I stepped inside.
Broken antique furniture, waiting to be repaired, stood patiently gathering dust. His mother’s wobbly Queen Ann side chair with a cross-stitch seat in faded colors leaned towards a mongrel chest of drawers with not much to redeem it. He collected anything and everything. No person or object was too lowly for him to care about.
I closed my eyes momentarily, overcome. Thinking about his kindness. Turning, my eyes blurred with tears, I almost tripped over a box of miscellaneous tools. Picked up at a yard sale, most likely, and covertly taken to the barn so I wouldn’t see it.
“We have too much stuff,” was my mantra and my despair as he became less able to deal with it all.
Standing absolutely still, I waited to hear something, anything. Except for a slight ringing in my ears, all was quiet.
“Ron,” I said, “Are you here?”
“Where are you?”
Janice’s voice brings me back to the yellow ranch, to the psychic I’ve paid to help me bridge the nothingness. “A lot will change for you, and you will make progress. I see your new house is a great place for being creative. And it’s warm, very warm in the winter.”
I blink. The former owners of my new house had told me that it had a very efficient heating system. What were the exact words? “I’d like to see your face when you get your first heating bill. You won’t believe how little you have to pay!”
“Your house will be a gathering place for family and friends. You have children?”
I pause. “Yes.”
“Yes.” How did she know? Because the average family has approximately two children?
“Our time is almost up,” Janice says, “but I want to say again that what I’m hearing is you are in a good place to start over. You’ve had great sorrow, but Ron is looking out for you. He said he will communicate to you through,” she wrinkles her brow, “birds, music, and words.”
Birds! Ron was obsessive about feeding his birds! Music was more my thing than his, although he did play the trumpet in high school. Words? Not sure what that means.
Janice continues. “And be sure to seek God. You need to find what He means specifically to you.”
“Thank you.” I don’t know what else to say. What do you say to a person who can possibly read your thoughts and has claimed to communicate with someone dead, someone you loved?
Numbly I turn off the recording app on my phone. I’ll listen later to see what I missed, sift through the dialogue when my mind is clear, and look for a nugget of truth.
I back my car out of the curved driveway of the ordinary yellow ranch, straighten onto the country road, and accelerate past the feeding horses. The sun is still warm. The grass is still super green. My black pants still pinch at my waist.
Perhaps I don’t need truth. I need hope. And dreams.
Dreams heal broken hearts.