My father seeks help from the psychics, their names a litany, a liturgy. Padre, Maria, Esmerelda, Christin. They promise good fortune, alignments of the planets. They promise to vanquish his opponents. To vanquish bad luck. And he has so much, at least in his opinion. There’s the divorce from years ago, something that still simmers. I, his only son, didn’t become a lawyer. I up and left. I became a writer, a marker that to him conjured garrets and begging for food, and not victory, conquest. He tried to amass a coterie of girlfriends from abroad, each one coming in from distant lands, snatching a green card and the possibility of things. They called him prophet, valiant lord, but those were only obsequious platitudes.
He pays the psychics through the nose. Installment plans of forty dollars a month, eighty dollars a month. A hundred, even. The charges spread across his credit card statements like stains.
In spite of it all, there’s something truly sad and pathetic about all this, this need to hold. To control. To make concrete things from sugared illusions. But to be honest, I seek them too, in the world of movies, in characters who exert power by smashing Corvettes, by abiding in the face of cruelty. I seek them in the lies I’ve told him about being a hotshot professor, a man-about-town, a neatly organized man, and not a beaten-down thirty-year-old who tries to find ways to add, not subtract, when it comes to bills, obligations, the world.
But I lie to avoid the nasal lectures, the sonic harshness. Weak, learn to be tough. I could have kicked your ass if your mother let me. I love you. I never turned to a psychic. And not one named Padre, with a suspicious Hong Kong address.
The psychics leave him with studies and debt. He loses more girlfriends, he loses jobs, his temper never under control. Then the psychics come offering the same things again, a recurring chorus. More alignments, more good fortunes. Just around the corner. For his birthday, a special favor. A favor out of this world.
I promise to turn my life around. Lay out deadlines. Promise to pay this bill and that bill. Try to pare it down to the smallest steps, things that won’t overwhelm. But I tell him nothing, watching the psychic drama unfold.
He writes notes. Asks if they can’t give free trials, even though he’s drained his wallet like a great dam. One letter simply asks for spiritual help. Help, that one cold, sad little word. They refer him to other psychics and claim that they cannot make his life work without some contribution.
He breaks up with psychics, he claims they’re phonies. Promises never to turn to them again. Padre is in the pat.
But after another disappointment, after another lost girlfriend, he comes running back. They promise bigger, better, another cycle as predictable as the alignment of the planets.
Meanwhile, I keep up the litany of lies, even as the credit card bills swell, my weight balloons, stress hanging over me like clouds. And it’s a cycle that can break, that must break, even as he prepares to pay another psychic and I look for another prestigious story to try on. Maybe this time I’ll give myself tenure. It’s a lie, but it doesn’t require paying a psychic.