Starting at the age of six, I dressed up as a gypsy for Halloween three years in a row. My mom had 1960s peasant tops that fit me like dresses and I’d belt them with a colorful orange and yellow paisley scarf with fringe on it. I wore tons of dangly jewelry because being a gypsy was all about the way the bracelets clacked together on my wrists and how the earrings dangled down low enough to swish against my shoulders or brush the nape of my neck. I loved the way my layered collection of necklaces clattered and sparkled. In fourth grade, my final year as a gypsy, I put on my costume and walked around the blacktop of my elementary school’s annual Halloween carnival.
There were games and raffles and cookie-decorating booths. Most of my friends blew through that shit in about 30 seconds. After that, they ran around on the grass or climbed the jungle gym. It was exhilarating to be on campus without the threat of the bell ringing to tell you that playtime was over and it was time to trudge back to class.
I made my way through the booths with my best friend, having promised my mom I wouldn’t try to win a goldfish. When we got to the last booth, way back in the corner, there was a fortune teller. I wasn’t exactly sure how that related to Halloween back then, but she was there nonetheless. She wasn’t a real fortune teller, of course. She was just a fifth grade teacher sitting at a little round table under a tarp. She was decked out in a costume similar to mine and had spread out some crystals and dried herbs on her table and draped some scarves around to add to the illusion. She was taking each kid’s little hand in hers, tracing their life and heart lines and telling them their future.
My friends who went before me heard cool things like that they were going to get a puppy for Christmas or travel to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower. I wondered where I might go or if I would have a new pet so I waited patiently in line to hear my future.
When it was my turn, I sat on the little stool across from her and she took my hand in hers and pushed the bracelets up from my wrist. Her fingers were lanky and pale. She had long red-painted fingernails and it tickled as she traced them down and across the indentations in my palm.
“You have a very short life line,” she said. “You will die when you are about 50 but you will live a full and exciting life until then.”
I recoiled, yanking my hand from hers. What about my puppy? Or my fabulous vacation?
She smiled like she’d just opened up the universe for me and she was proud of how clever she was.
“Thanks,” I muttered and left the tent.
Maybe that teacher thought I would think 50 sounded old. Maybe she didn’t know that just three weeks before, my father had died at the age of 37 from melanoma. Even though 37 sounded kind of old, I knew that it wasn’t. And I knew enough basic math to know that 50 wasn’t exactly too far off from 37. Most likely, that teacher thought I’d forget about my fortune by the time I grew up.
I obviously haven’t forgotten. There are times when I want to hunt down that teacher and tell her what a shitty thing she did.
The grown-up in me knows she was just someone wearing a silly costume that didn’t make her a fortune teller any more than my costume made me a gypsy. I know she didn’t know anything about anything. I don’t even believe in things like fortunes and psychics! But the kid in me has never forgotten that when I was nine years old, someone told me I would die when I was 50.
So what do I do with this?
Do I need to get all carpe diem about my life? Should I get all nice and cliché about it? Do I need to embrace every single second of every single day? Because that’s so not me. Maybe I want it to be okay for me to take my time when I need to. Maybe I want to blow a couple of hours on some trashy television show or re-read a book I love for the fifth time just because I fucking feel like it.