The Fortune Teller

There are very few differences between pain and anger. They are but two steps in the process of grief. Sometimes, you become angry, and afterwards, you feel the pain, the sadness. Sometimes, the sadness comes first. At the time, I was feeling the pain. Only a few mornings I woke up later than noon to do anything productive. Pain is, and was, misery.

On one of the very few occasions I went out, I decided to meet up with an old friend over coffee. If anyone could get me through this, it would be him. I hadn't reached out to anyone in a while, and was treating this rendezvous like a test. If I could get through it, if I could only prove to the world that I was ok, I would be fine. It didn't matter what I felt as long as everyone couldn't see my suffering.

My friend, who had never been the best at consoling anyone, told me what he did whenever he was feeling down. He went and got a massage. And that was all he said. No offering to do anything with me, no trying to reassure me that things would be okay. Just a tip and a five dollar coupon to a massage place.

Needless to say, I left feeling quite worse than when I had arrived. If even my oldest friend couldn't help me, then I was probably doomed to die a horrible, wretched old man who never felt happy again. But only a few days after, when I couldn't tolerate the incessant noise of the television any longer, I decided that maybe I would give this thing a shot.

I had never been to this particular building, or even this street, but when I got there, I could tell instantly where I was supposed to go. The massage place seemed to be the only business residing in the strip mall that hadn't gone bankrupt. But it was the old side of town. Small businesses dying out could be expected when there were other, better places only blocks away.

My masseuse was named Kelly, and she had a lot of things to talk about. Hearing about other people I had never seen before in my life was somehow comforting. But it didn't pull me out of my stupor. Kelly asked what was wrong, and instead of telling her, I asked her how she knew that I was upset.

"I'm a fortune teller," she told me without so much as a grin.

And of course, I didn't believe her. Of course, I knew that fortune tellers didn't exist. But then again, what if they did. These were the things I was thinking as I spoke with her. Like anyone else would, I asked her to tell me my fortune. And she told me that she saw me going home and sleeping till noon, waking up just in time to run down to the office and pick up my papers, only to run back to the house and fall back asleep.

That was when I started to believe her. Everything she was telling me was on the nose, and as she began to tell me what was coming for the other people in the store, I listened intently in fascination. Hearing her talk about future events was ten times better at bringing me out of my shell than any massage could ever have been.

By the end of the massage, I had perked up significantly. My only regret was not asking for her number when the whole thing was over, but I had never been good at speaking up. I told myself it would be okay though, and made my way straight back to that massage place the very next day. It was just my luck that Kelly wasn't working that day, but the other masseurs were more than happy to let me know what days she would be there.

So I waited. And went. And waited. And went. The other ladies grew to know me so well, they would call me by name when I walked in. And of course, the one that knew me best was Kelly. We became a bit of a thing, her and I. Always chatting with each other about new customers and what Kelly thought about them. One day, Kelly insisted she had something important to tell me.

"There's a new customer that came in today," she whispered anxiously. "I feel darkness inside of him. He radiates evil."

And of course, believing all of her intuitions now, I insisted on seeing this mysterious man. So on Thursday afternoon, I headed over to the massage parlor to catch a glimpse of the guy she assured me would be there. And he was. He was arguing with Kelly when I opened the door, and I started to walk over to the two, but one upset look from Kelly sent me right back out the door.

I waited until I saw the man leaving, then made my way back in and over to Kelly.

"I can't stand being around him," Kelly groaned. "Every time he's here, I feel like something bad is going to happen."

I was the one comforting her then, telling her that I would never let him even come close to hurting her. She thanked me, and things were better for a couple of days. Next Thursday, I walked into the parlor only to find the man chatting with Kelly again. Instead of running back outside, I opted to go into the back and wait him out. It was several minutes before I heard the sound of the door bell ringing, and a few more before Kelly came rushing into the backroom.

"He's going to do something awful, I just know it!" She cried. "You need to follow him and make sure something terrible doesn't happen."

I was out the door and in my truck as quickly as possible, Kelly watching me go from the store window. I could see the back of his car only 50 or so feet in front of me. There was no way he'd be able to lose me. He didn't seem to notice anyone following him, and it helped that I was two or three cars behind him. I followed him all the way through the town and out to the other side, where he stopped by the hospital and elementary school.

A sinking feeling formed in my chest as I saw him roll down a window and begin to chat with one of the elementary students who had just gotten out of class. The boy smiled at the man, and I could barely make out a matching smile on his face as well. A cold, evil smile.

CRASH! My truck hit his car in an instant. The car was damaged, that's for sure, but my truck looked none the worse for the wear.

"I'm so sorry!" I shouted, rolling my window down as the man got out of his car. "My brake has been acting up lately."

The man scowled and walked up to my window, but before he had the chance to get a single word out, the knife was already in my hands.

"Say anything and I'll stab you," I spoke calmly, letting my rage fuel me. "You're going to get in my back seat right now, or, you know."

The man was now shaking with fear, and it seemed for a second like he would try to run, but he opened the car door steadily and got in. As soon as I heard the door slam shut, I locked the doors.

"We're going to go for a little drive," I held the knife up and looked at him menacingly in the rearview mirror.

"Please don't kill me," he whispered, interlocking his hands like he was praying.

Coward.

The ride didn't last long. We were on the edge of town. It wasn't very hard to get to the construction site I had in mind. I'm not going to tell you what happened when we got there. I'm not going to tell you I killed him, because you already know that. I will tell you that he deserved everything that came to him. I will tell you that I left the construction site that night satisfied. No longer did I feel the rage that had been hiding under my sadness for so long.

The next morning, the first thing I did was make my way over to the massage parlor, where I found Kelly.

"I got rid of him," I smiled at her.

"What exactly do you mean?" She looked up at me, alarmed.

"All I'm going to say is you're never going to see him again." As she smiled with relief, I knew that I had done the right thing.

The world would be better without this man, it was doubtful that he'd ever be missed. That is what I told myself to cover up the tiniest ebbings of guilt that were popping up, and thankfully, it worked. Me and Kelly talked for a little while, but she was massaging someone else so I decided to leave early.

Two days later, I showed up back at the store, only to find an empty station where Kelly should be. It was a Sunday, one of her work days, and she would never have stayed home without calling and telling me first, so I knew something was up. And who better to tell me what was going on than Marlene, a masseuse that made it her job to know everything about everyone.

"Kelly took all of her things when she left Friday," Marlene told me. "The other girls and I just figured it meant that she was planning on giving someone a massage on her own time, but this makes much more sense. You heard what happened, didn't you?"

"No, what happened?"

"Kelly and her ex have been fighting for custody of their son for a while now," Marlene began. "But just the other day, police found his dead body at that construction site over by the Whole Foods market. It looked like he'd been stabbed to death."

Marlene sighed, obviously not noticing the sweat that was forming on my palms and brow.

"It's a sad thing, really." Marlene continued. "I knew Kelly's ex, and he was actually a pretty nice guy. I don't think there was ever a moment he wasn't working to support and keep his son."

She looked into my eyes, and it was at that moment that I really, truly began to comprehend the words she had just said.

"You might have seen him, he comes here every Thursday to pick up some of their son's things." Marlene was still talking but I was no longer listening.

"So- so Kelly is gone." I managed to get out.

"Probably." Marlene looked genuinely sad. "I'm betting she hightailed it out of here as soon as she picked up her boy."

I needed no more information. I was out of there before Marlene even finished speaking. I stumbled deliriously to my truck, and just barely managed to get the door open before bursting into tears. Kelly had never cared about me, and if she had, then apparently it wasn't enough not to sacrifice me to get the thing she wanted. She had even gone so far as to convince me that her ex was trying to hurt some little boy. Not even just some little boy, her little boy!

I drove straight over to her apartment, where it became obvious that she had indeed left in a hurry. Among the piles of dirty clothes and piles of other miscellaneous objects, I found a pamphlet, lying in the center of a semi-clean desk, advertising some hotel only a couple hours away from the city.

I will tell you that I began to drive to that hotel, and that as I was driving, I was thinking about that vicious cycle that is hurt. Pain, then anger, then pain, then anger, and over and over again until you yourself are ruined. Only an echo of your former self. How easy it was to turn that pain right into rage, those tears into the knife I had used to stab an innocent man. I will tell you that it was dark when I got to the hotel, and I will tell you that it took only a few seconds to build up the fury I needed to get out of that truck.

I won't tell you that I didn't go straight into that hotel and ask the man at the desk where "Kelly" was staying. I won't tell you that I didn't barge straight into her room and make her jump up from her bed, screaming in fear. I won't tell you that I didn't take my knife and plunge it straight into her heart. I won't tell you any of these things, because you already know that I'm lying.