As far as I can tell, it started with Kelly. She performed in Nashville. After her, Miles flew to Nashville to see a friend play. On the plane, heading back from Santa Cruz and I opened the in-flight magazine to a Nashville spread. The Nashville International Film Festival sent me a mass email, inviting me to submit a film. There was an article in the paper, a t-shirt on the street, and two men talking about Nashville on the subway.
I’m a sucker for sign posts.
I bought my tickets.
I’m going to Nashville.
I’ve been squeezed through a portal of my past so dramatic that I’m dizzy from trying to read the sign posts whizzing by. I’m in the passenger seat of a speeding car without a map, hoping that the road will lead me somewhere nice. Like, to a picnic by the river with people I like. Or something like that.
At the cafe with Alexis, I’ve got my coffee, she’s eating breakfast wrap. I’m attempting to decipher a puzzling relationship with a new acquaintance, a man who appears to be a human doorway to my past.
“His ex-girlfriend wanted to be a clown.”
There are too many jalapenos in her wrap; the heat is a major concern.
“She auditioned for clown college.”
Alexis drains her water-glass.
“I auditioned for clown college,” I explain.
She chokes. Maybe it’s the jalapeno. Maybe it’s me.
“Twice. In my early twenties. Once, the head clown pulled me out of the laugh line and placed me in front of the camera and told them he wanted me. The second time, the head clown caught up me after and told me he liked my audition and hoped I’d get in. But I didn’t.”
“Do you juggle?”
“I guess they teach you that.”
“Later, I studied with some guy who studied with Jacques LeCoq. I learned to fly on the trapeze before it was trendy. My friend John Hatch built me stilts.”
“Trapeze is trendy?”
“At some point, I decided wanted to learn escape art and met a guy who was going to teach me. We only met twice. He had an act hammering nails up his nose, told me it was about pain management more thank anything else. And then he got me an audition for the clown care unit. It was the second worst audition of my life. I should’ve borrowed my friend’s flea circus instead of trying to be funny.”
She pushes the other half of her breakfast sandwich across the table towards me, probably to shut me up.
“The past has been rushing back like a river with a broken dam. I feel a little nauseous.” I take a worried bite. “I think you got all the jalapeno.” There’s not a green speck in the egg. “See what I mean by wanting something and not getting it?”
Synchronicity is a great topic of conversation when nothing of substance is happening in one’s life.
“You have the most beautiful smile,” I tell her. She does.
She beckons me over and offers me a reading. I decline. I’ve been to my fair share of fortune-tellers, and they always tell me the same thing. I suspect the type of individual who would trust a stranger who intends to make money off their vulnerabilities by telling them things they don’t want to hear fills a certain archetype: divorced, single, chronically perplexed women who smile at fortune tellers on the street.
“There’s something I need to tell you, something you need to know,” she says.
I decline again, but she persists. So, I sit in her chair, a fiver crumpled in my hand.
“You’re not happy,” she launches and goes on from there. She repeats, almost verbatim, the reading I was dragged into earlier this spring.
“The doorway to your past is open, but the doorway to your future is closed. Wrong doorway. You got to switch it up.”
I am confused.
My friend is sleeping in my living room, so I send my dog to wake him up. Once he stirs, I pad in and we spilt a sliver of sunshine on the floor.
“I smiled at a street fair psychic and ended up in her chair.” I confess. “She told me that the doorway to my past is open, but the doorway to my future is closed. Here’s the problem. I’m a fucking writer. And I write about myself. Of course the doorway to my past is wide open. And the future – even if the doorway were open, I can’t step through. The future unfolds. It comes to us.”
“Here’s what I think,” says my guest, “looking into the past is like reading a book. And the future is a fantasy that doesn’t exist except in daydreams. And psychics don’t know any more than anyone else about anything.”
“They must teach the doorway line at psychic school.”
“All there is is now. It’s really that simple.”
Last night, I kayaked on the Hudson. The water was choppy and the wind had picked up. It was high tide and the sun shared the sky with the moon. I chose a stream-lined kayak, the narrowest I’ve been in, and found myself being blown side to side, trying to move forward against the will of the river.
It was a hard night, but wrapped in the color of the water at dusk is magical, and the hue of the blue-grey sky when the moon swells above the skyline was worth the frustration. I was not thinking about doorways or my failed clown career or why I look like someone who might give a psychic five hundred dollars to re-colorize my aura and heal my life. I was thinking about not being swept across the river to New Jersey, standing still in a storm of memories while the wind tangled my hair.
“There’s something you needed to learn from that woman, else you wouldn’t have sat in her chair,” my house guest surmises.
Yeah. He’s probably right. Right?