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She Used to Be a Tarot Queen

She wore tight black dresses that showed off her cleavage and witchy lace up shoes, yards of eyeliner, silver rings on all her fingers. Her hair was natural red and she had pictures of spirals and eyes and fairy keys inked up and down her arms. She told me I was confused, possibly going through my saturn return, and that I secretly hated my best friend. She was selling decks of handmade cards, just big enough to fit in the palm of a hand. Each one showed a different symbol she had drawn: houses flipped upside down, hyenas chasing birds, cats with sneaky expressions. There was no guidebook. It was all supposed to be 100% intuitive. I wrote down everything I saw when I read them but I never got the message. I felt like they really were trying to speak to me but I didn't know how to talk back.

I would see her at punk shows and swap meets and she would ask me about my writing, or people we both knew. She said she wrote poetry sometimes too, to process all the crazy shit she saw. One time she told me I had a spirit attached to me, as though she were telling me I had toilet paper on my shoe. According to her there was something peering out of the corner of my eye, but it jumped back and hid when she noticed it. It doesn't want to be seen she said. She told me that the kind of tarot work we did was high risk. It wasn't like when she read for clients and told them their boyfriends were cheating or that they were suppressing daddy issues. There was dark energy around us-drug problems and dead friends and psychic ex-lover vampirism-we had to be more careful. After that I started using protection, burning white sage in my house, wearing a black tourmaline necklace like the witches did in Europe, even putting a chunk of quartz crystal and an iron nail next my cards when I used them, just in case.

We were both in Oakland when the warehouse burned down. No circle of protection could save our friends but she worked a practical magic. She was the one setting up Excel spreadsheets about who was still around and who wasn't and sending Facebook messages asking for donations. I texted her because she said she needed people to give rides to the morgue and back and I had a car, but she didn't follow up. The next time I saw her we were in the new age store by the lake. She was sitting on the floor with a book on her lap, staring at this picture of a Chinese goddess with ten arms. She told me it was the goddess of compassion, who wanted to understand everyone but had her head broken into eleven pieces when she tried. She grew the extra arms so she could help them all, and she got a thousand eyes to see their suffering. But the tarot queen had only three, and the third one had burst. She said it was like a TV channel that went static all of a sudden. She couldn't see spirits or read the patterns in her cards anymore, and so she'd decided to move to L.A. We stopped talking when she left town. I still follow her on Instagram, but all she posts is clothes and makeup.

Ruth Crossman is a community educator and Pushcart-nominated author. Her work has appeared in publications including sPARKLE&bLINK, Maximum Rock n' Roll, and Litro. Her first chapbook, All the Wrong Places, is forthcoming from Naked Bulb Press. She was born and raised in Berkeley, California and currently lives in Oakland.

— posted July 2019

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