A room was dimly lit, with an aura of expectancy and of dreams to be fulfilled that lingered around the place. The curtains were dusty purple, faded from the many seasons, and loosely draped over a small finger-smeared window that overlooked a busy, bustling Warsaw street. The room, by comparison, seemed suspended in time as if it belonged to a long ago era of candelabra, gramophones and crinoline dresses. A faint scent of sandalwood incense permeated the air.
A tall, dark haired, and heavyset man emerged though a door. Upon seeing me, he took an imaginary hat off his head and bowed low to me. Yes, I had been told he was eccentric, but this unexpected gesture stunned me. His piercing black eyes were now looking through me, and I tensed in my chair.
I tried to contain my excitement. My mom had already seen him, and similarly to a crowd of her friends who acclaimed him as a famous Russian psychic, she thought he was also handsome, and accurate in his readings. He attracted a large following among those in Warsaw who practiced alternative healing modalities, mysticism, and New Age beliefs, which were in vogue now, after the fall of communism. So here I was, in a small, obscure room, which fit perfectly what I had imagined a crystal gazer’s locale should look like. The place was unpretentious. A round table shrouded in a black crocheted tablecloth with a gazing ball resting atop stood in the center of the room. I almost envisioned an arched silhouette of a black feline in the shadows of the room, a standard accessory one would think, but none was there to be found.
Still avoiding his gaze, I looked at the crystal ball instead. It was perfectly clear, almost as if to comfort me in some metaphoric way that the future events in my life would be equally free of blemishes. By now, the man must have sensed I was uncomfortable.
“Interesting life you will have,” the man in front of me spoke in a voice heavily laced with a Russian accent. Now, as I glanced at him, he was observing me with an almost mischievous quality, as if he had found a partner in crime. I remained silent, still trying to get used to his rather unorthodox mannerism.
“What’s your name?” he asked me in clear Polish.
“Tasha,” I replied in a soft voice, only to hear an immediate response from the man across the table.
“I am Vanya,” he said.
Vanya gazed at me with an unquestionably alluring smile, but when my eyes meet his, I felt at ease even though I sensed a slight sexual innuendo. He gently picked up my left hand with his and examined my palm. Pointing at my life line, Vanya spoke about things only I could have known. He mentioned my past suicide attempt and my abandoned endeavor to get a degree in English. That’s when he paused as if he knew he had my complete attention.
He lifted the crystal ball from its copper stand, and for a fleeting moment I saw his magnified eye staring at me again through a transparent orb. The eye looked grotesquely large and eerie, as if it belonged to a shaman performing a ritual. Slowly, he resumed his normal countenance and placed the sphere back on the table.
“Tasha, you will have three husbands,” he casually remarked.
If he told me that I would join the French Foreign Legion, or that I were to become a famous neurosurgeon, my disbelief would be of a lesser caliber. I was a happy wife of four years, and nothing marred my domestic bliss.
“You mean, I will have three significant relationships in my life?” I offered an explanation of sorts, thinking to myself that I had two major relationships prior to my marriage.
“No, I mean husbands. Men you will wed,” he thrusted his sword-like truth at me.
“Your life will be interesting,” he repeated again. “The change will come sooner than you think.”
I looked at him. I didn’t want any change. Yet, Vanya’s warm smile made me forget about the absurdity of what he was telling me, and I felt at ease.
“And your next husband will speak a different language than yours,” he continued. “I can’t quite pinpoint the language he speaks, though. You will both move across the ocean. To America.”
This message rang in my ears long after I had left his studio with a crystal ball. I took a seat on a bus that was taking me back home to gather my thoughts and to examine them. Regardless of the celebrity status Vanya enjoyed among the middle-aged Warsaw women, he must have been wrong, I presumed. Besides, America was the last place on earth I would choose as my new home. I had many friends who would, in a blink of an eye, but I wasn’t one of them. I loved Warsaw, the familiarity of the streets I roamed daily, and my trips to the lakes and the sea in summer. America seemed like a very foreign place to me. “Nobody is always accurate, and what he just told me is a nonsense,” I was comforting myself, as I stared blankly at the trees and streets that were fading away in the distance.
When I got home, I opened the door slowly. It was already late evening. The apartment and the hallway were enveloped in the darkness, and I needed a few seconds to feel for the switch with my hand. When the light filled the living room, my eyes spotted an object that I had not seen there before. Next to the hallway wardrobe was a pair of green high heels that did not belong to me. From behind the door, I could hear the muffled voice of Christopher, my husband, and somebody else. I opened the door to our bedroom. A woman curled up next to him in our bed stopped giggling the moment she saw me. His smile froze on his face. Vanya was right; the life I have known came to an end quite suddenly and much earlier than I expected.