So I say to the Fortune Teller, "When I'm really bored time hangs heavy. I'm conscious of every single second ticking away. Five hours can seem like five years. And my mind searches desperately for something to do. I look out for novelty excursions and events and toys. All just to fill in the moment. And when I fill in the moment, time flies, I become engrossed and just don't know what I'm doing. And then five years can seem like five hours. And I wonder what happened to my life!"
The old guy acts like he's heard it all before. No doubt fat sweaty gweilos like me often wash up in Temple Street burbling about being unloved and unappreciated, as if he was a bargain basement psychiatrist and not a predictor of the fates.
"Show me the palms of your hands," he says.
"Not yet," I says, "I want to tell you about something that happened five years ago."
"I'm only interested in the future," he says, "The past can look after itself."
This is like a red rag to a bull. He's shooting me a line and I know it, so I get on with it. "In the freezer compartment," I tell him, "I got this..."
Now I don't like to say nothing with all the tourist geeks hanging about but I was there so I was there to square, right? So I reach across the little wooden table and pull the old guy by his shirt front down to a more private level. "I got this branch," I say.
He sees what he takes to be food stains down my shirt and gets smart arse. "Did I mis-hear and you said brunch?"
"No!" I say, coming over all innocent and disarming, letting him think I'm a bit dumb you know, like its best to with these Chinese guys. "A tree type branch!" I tell him, "I brought it down from the New Territories the day Soo Lin discovered icicles. Not a lot of icicles and if you want to get pedantic about it, not really icicles at all but just a bit of frost. Even so, Soo Lin..."
"Soo Lin?" he says, as if this is like some great crime, "This is your Chinese girl friend?"
"Yeh, all that," I says, ignoring this racist slur, "And it was she who plucked the twig I shoved into the eski. Bloody cold day that day. Not what you would have expected. Stupid bringing the eski really. But in the chill there were compensations: the romantic view; my arm round her shoulders; the twig with its icicles."
"And sexual intercourse?" he says, his legs twitching with excitement.
"No," I says. And he says how he suspected as much and then says the twig is Freudian and the frost is her passion which I symbolically put on hold by dunking it in the ice box.
"Uncanny," I says, stunned by the mention of Freud. But then I suppose if he can read palms he can read books too. Anyway, I goes on: "One day I was staring into the fridge. Ostensibly to stare down a burger, contemplate the twig and live in the instantaneous moment of consciousness. I mean, it was a day when nothing of significance was happening. Nothing! Zilch! So I made plans."
"That's right," he says, all knowing like, "You gweilo's have got to make it happen! Instead of just letting it happen."
"If you like," I says, I mean he's probably right so I let him get away with it. "You see I enrolled on this course in personal relationships. There I got into a grapple with this anorexic who turned out to be Soo Lin who also needed to work on her personal relationships. We learned how to talk to the right hand side of the brain and then how to talk to the left hand side.
"That can come in very handy," he says, "Some days I'm talking to someone and I think I must be talking to the wrong ear."
"Yeh," I says, twigging he's jerking me about. So thinking in for a penny in for a pound, I says, "Well, we decided who was a big chunk person and who a little chunker."
"You're a big chunker, I can tell," he says, all but calling me a fat slob. No matter, he had wisdom I wanted, so I take the shit hoping to get to the smooth. I continue: "Yeh. And she was a little chunker, hence her continual obsession with getting home early. But not the night of the freezer! I had plans."
"So you met her at this therapy thing and you had your plans for reviving interest in your life," he says and goes on about me wasting time chasing after problems. "How very Western," he says. As if I could be anything else! "You act before you have the right thoughts," he says. Probably true. Who knows what half baked subconscious dreams run my programme?
"Nothing worse," he says, "Believe me. We call this Incorrect Thinking. And that comes from not knowing the correct order of things. It can only result in turmoil."
"Christ!" I says, and I mean it, "I should have come here instead of going on that course!"
"Just show me the palms of your hands," he says, reaching forward. But I'm not ready so I pull back. I want to tell him things first.
"If I listen," he says, typical Hong Kong, "You have to pay more. So why not let me do the work and pay less?"
I tell him I'll pay whatever. So he shrugs his shoulders and lets me get on with it. Of course I don't know if he's listening or what, but he keeps his mouth open and eyes shut making some kind of show of concentrating. I tell him how Soo said her mind was all wrong. Her life going nowhere. And when she saw the ad and it said, is your mind wrong, your life going nowhere, she thought wow! Like it was aimed directly at her. And she knew there was ESP involved. Which impressed me, because I mean, there is like this big world out there and a bigger universe around it and then what? Like it must be even bigger out there and ESP comes right in and turns it all round inside out. So time stops and is all time. And distance shrinks and expands and you are in all places. Everything is one and ESP like tunes in, right? But if everything is one, what is it? I mean, and so I said to her, guess where I'm going to take you and what I'm going to do and I pick you up tomorrow and we expand our dimensions, uh huh?
Suddenly he opens his eyes. I can see him looking at his rollex and going red in the face. "OK!" he says, "If you do not let me see your hands, I cannot tell your fate! So either we do it, or we don't!"
"Calm down granddad," I says, "You'll get to the punchline soon enough." So I tries to tell him how after announcing my spiritual search and how, after all, she told me she lived on Llamma Island where her brothers played water organs... I mean, I was the flesh in search of the spirit and she was the spirit in search of the flesh! And he goes apeshit! Blurts out that this creative logical dualism business can drive a man nuts! He starts shaking and wagging his finger saying, "Right side, left side, don't matter. Topside, downside only counts. Transferring the fancies down into the loins, that's where the action is!"
"Now we're talking," I says. "You're my man!"
"She was thin?" he asks.
"Very," I says, feeling the guy is on a roll.
"Thought sex was food?"
"She said she thought food was fattening."
"Oooh," he says sucking his teeth, "Food fattening. Sex fattening. Fear of pregnancy, of femininity, vulnerability, giving herself to another. Oooh, tch tch... Nasty. What did you do then?"
So I tells him how I once yelled at her: "Attack me! Break down my resistance! Release me from my mental prison! Tear down the wall that separates me from others!" And how she just told me not to be selfish. And I told her sex is the meaning of all relationships. It is what gives them significance. It is a commitment to life. It is the loss of one's self in the singularity. It is diving deep into the wholeness of everything. It is the answer to the unformable question. The entry into nirvana. The BIG YES!
I mean, I was really living. I felt that was the moment. The moment of total unification. I just had to express myself symbolically. That was all there was too it. I pulled open the freezer and dragged out the twig and waved it before Soo Lin's nose. "Look," I said, "Remember when you picked this for me?" And as she studied it, the frost thawed. Big omen I thought. Big Omen! "It's the frost we picked," I said to her, "I've kept it all this time! Now look at it. It's time for it to melt."
"And did it melt?" says my man.
"Well," I says, preparing him for a downer, "Then she tells me she's married and it's her husband does the water organ recitals and that I was only a fantasy fling that can go no further. She only went on the course to help with her marriage. Which it did. Due to me. The thrill of the hidden secret releasing the monsters of the Id and all that."
"The thrill of the hidden secret," says the old guy with such relish, buzzing with wisdom. And I knew he had the power. The bald guys in vests and tattoos stopped playing cards on the pavement to eavesdrop. Only once in a hundred years did this kind of cosmic awe explode with witnesses.
"Go for it," I says, and he gives me in a single breath all this stuff about the symbolism of the twig being that it represents, amongst other things, secret knowledge, and of course the secret was me. I had locked myself in a freezer, perfectly frozen in time, in the big now, neither future nor past, and she, knowing that I had the knowledge that she sought, knowing that everything was solved, answered, and represented by me and my deep freeze, she could get on with her life, excited by the presence of someone who knows. In short she was now thrilled by her husband now that she no longer relied upon him for anything other than the thrill!
"Yeh?" I says, sensing that he's holding out on me.
"By taking her up that hill," he says, lowering his voice to a whisper, "You set yourself up as God. She saw you as pure spirit. With you love was transcendental. The purist. The most perfect a woman could ask for. Now pay me five hundred dollars."
"What about my palms," I says, showing him the blood stains. "What's my fate then? What's my fate?"