The Price of Freedom

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02/09/2006

8th St. & Broadway, NY

Neighborhood: West Village

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A psychic stopped me on the street today after having accidentally looked into my soul. “I see something in you,” she told me. “Something in your past!”

“Be careful looking back,” I told her, concerned. “. . . Should you turn into a pillar of salt.”

“I want to talk to you.” I felt compelled to stop. “There is something important happening in you… something with California.” She put her hand to her forehead.

I searched my brain for a California significance and came up with nothing.

“Your shirt,” she went on urgently, “You made it, didn’t you.” It was a turquoise T-shirt with red felt iron-on letters spelling out the uneven words, “To know me, is to love me.” (I had wanted it to say, “To know me biblically, is to love me,” but had used up all of my i’s on a previous tee on which I had spelled “incontinent.”) How did she know?

She went on, visibly agitated, vaguely concerned about the content of my future. “I want to talk to you,” she said taking my arm as I watched the hairs spring out from the mole above her lip.

“But I haven’t any money.”

“You want something. You don’t know what." The mole hairs reached toward me like psychic feelers. "There is something happening inside you. Can you stop at a bank? Please, let me tell you what I see!”»

She looked deep into my eyes, then her gaze zigzagged suddenly across my face. A revelation was underway. The mole twitched, the psychic feelers bristled.

“There is love,” she said urgently. “Your heart is a cage.” Her countenance twisted in painful confusion.

“Yes, it’s true,” I told her, moved, “but I haven’t any money today - to liberate my heart or to see about my future. I’m going to have to wait,” I said pensively, “for it to come at its own pace.”

“OK,” she said finally, retreating from our conversation, and resuming her look of stubborn belief down Broadway. She looked. The crystalline faith etched into her eyebrows, with the kind of belief that comes of necessity. She looked past me through the loose waves of more wrinkled foreheads and distracted eyes as they rolled toward her up Broadway. She looked for other caged hearts, perhaps more moneyed than mine.

I continued walking, feeling my heart beat against its bars. I looked up into the sky above the buildings rising before me; there was a thin blue sheet descending over lower Manhattan. I stuffed my hands in my pockets away from the quickening cold, and walked south toward the coming night, wondering what might happen next.

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