My muse is a shape-shifter. She saunters down the corridors of my unconscious, curating, catalyzing, bottling moments – real and imagined. Sometimes they float up into my consciousness like balloons waiting for the pin-prick to let loose whatever is inside. Other times they are hurled up as though pulled by a lightning bolt. The following was triggered by such a bolt.
“Noooo!” I shouted, my hands flung up through my hair at the sides of my face.
The orderly looked at me and shrugged.
“You’ve done it all wrong. The sweet potato wedges are supposed to be at ten o’clock, the salmon filet at six, and the julienne carrots at twelve. You’ve got it all wrong.” I explained as nicely as I could.
The orderly lifted his palms and shrugged again. His English wasn’t very good, so I guess he wanted to tell me he didn’t know any better…or not to hurt him. I should’ve seen it coming. I could have seen it coming but I was distracted when he started ladling the food onto my plate. I was about to stomp back into my room when a man in a navy coat approached me. That I saw, I saw coming.
I looked up from my plate right as he reached for it. His tourmaline black eyes remained fixed on me as he grinned and turned the red dish so that the sweet potatoes were at ten o’clock, the salmon was at six, and the carrots at twelve.
He took a seat across from me, his gaze settled, eyes blinking sparingly. The grin became a smile, a victor’s smile.
“What are you in for?” I asked after chewing and swallowing a bite of fish.
“Oh, I’m okay, just tired. Really tired.”
“You sure you don’t have any lingering psycho-somatic troubles? Phantom limb syndrome, perhaps?”
The man’s smile retracted and he sat back. I saw that coming too.
“What are you in for?”
“I was ‘under-utilizing’ my gifts for capitalist psychopaths and ‘over-utilizing’ my gifts just to mess with professional poker players and frat boys who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
The man motioned for me to continue; he knew there was more to my gifts than I was sharing.
“I have motion-intention precognition. I know when a person, and sometimes a non-human animal, is about to make a significant movement with his body. I can see what and how he does it. My parents wanted me to become a tennis or chess prodigy, and for a while I thought I did too.”
The smile was about to return to the man’s face.
“I won every match, and then one day I woke up and everything changed. Everything about venues had to be perfect. I insisted on setting up the chess boards myself — with the judges watching. My coach, my dear coach who thought I was just very highly functioning autistic, thought it would help if I helped de-weed lawns.”
The smile grew and the man leaned forward.
“Do you know Grotto Park…the batting cage that used to be by the fountain?”
The man nodded.
“Well, I single-handedly destroyed it — the grass, I mean. I couldn’t wait for the weed to come out before plucking it. The smallest hint that something would emerge sent me into a frenzy…and I dug into the earth until I killed the grass too. So, that’s why I’m here…trying to learn how to live with things in disorder.”
The man chuckled and nodded as though he knew exactly what it’s like to know something before it happens.
“Why are you here?” I asked him as I pushed the plate to the center of the table.
“The director of this fine establishment is a friend of mine and I needed a place to rest uninterrupted. Police commissioner ordered me to take a leave of absence for working too hard on a case that was…”
“The reason you don’t have either of your feet.”
The man stared at me and clenched his fists under the table.
“Don’t tell anyone,” I began. “But, I’ve recently developed the ability to see into the past, into people’s memories of what their bodies have gone through.”
The man shook his head.
“That’s the real reason shrinks and grief counselors don’t always know how to help people. If you forgive but never forget, then the people who are like me will know stuff, and if we aren’t careful, we can say the wrong thing and bring back experiences better left when they occurred. Forgive and forget…so your body doesn’t hold onto the pain.”
The man blinked, looked to his left and sighed.
“What kind of gift do you have?”
“I can see people’s intentions. Whatever they plan on doing, I see it before they act on it. It’s a godsend for an undercover agent, but I got tired of pretending to be someone I wasn’t. So, I became a homicide detective.”
I held this man’s gaze for what felt like an hour. The air buzzed around us, intentions and memories undulating like currents in a river. I had so many questions for this man, which he probably already knew. Were his visions ever wrong?
“Yes,” he said.