It's been on my mind over the past few months, that I would like to make contact with my dead parents. Recently, I have felt their presence. Nightly they have filled my dreams and although I'm not generally a believer in this kind of thing, a desire to have some form of contact with them has been a recurring thought. I've been picturing a well respected indigenous soothsayer in a spiritually enlightening environment, with mountains, trees and flowers as the backdrop. A condor circling high above the clouds and the soporific sound of a stream as it winds it's way down from it's source, filling my soul with peace. Quite how I ended up having my soul dissected in the front room of an Egyptian money obsessed, spiritual blackmailers house, in the heart of Toronto's gay district is beyond any rational thought. But this is how it happened.
I've been in Toronto for a couple of days, familiarising myself with the City. This is what I love to do. Arrive in a place that I know absolutely nothing about and wander in every direction. What better way to really see a place? None of this sticking to the guide book malarkey or adhering to a strict time schedule. Just wander, and if a street takes your fancy, explore. I'm not saying guide books are bad, I love them but only as a very general guide, in case you miss something that you really would have liked to have seen.
My wanderings in the city have proved fruitful. Within a few minutes of exiting my hostel, I have almost been knocked down by a police chase, which terminates before my very eyes with 2 guys spread eagled on their car bonnet and the front door of a nearby house being knocked in by a police battering ram. Within 24 hours of my arrival in Toronto, I have further witnessed a drunken punch up which concludes with a bloke getting repeatedly battered about his body by a man wielding a BMX bike. I mean, come on, this stuff passes you by when you're immersed in your Lonely Planet guide book. As Paul Weller said "That's entertainment".
It takes very little time for it to occur to me that my hostel is somewhere on the periphery of the gay area. My suspicions are first aroused (probably a bad choice of word here) by the overwhelming number of middle aged guys wearing leather waist coats and women with biceps. These suspicions are most definitely confirmed when I pass a shop window displaying 2 mannequins, both of which are attired in leather, studded gear. The mannequin closest to the street is on his hands and knees with a gag in his mouth, being led on a leash by the second mannequin, who has an enormous dildo strapped to his groin.
Not far from this window of sin, my ever wandering eyes are drawn in to a small shop doorway which wreaks of backstreet tackiness and seedy delights. Above the door is a sign which reads "Spiritual healer - have a problem? Let me unblock your psychic channels". Followed by a list of all the problems I can get fixed if only I dare to step over the spiritual threshold. Of course, I'm in the shop before you can say Mystic Meg. I mean, how could I resist a woman who claims, not only to be able to help me remove evil spells but also to vastly enlarge my penis?
The interior of the shop turns out to be the mystic's front room. A kid sits on the sofa watching telly and a lady who I assume is the fortune teller, is talking to somebody on the phone in a rather aggressive manner. At this point, let it be noted, I almost turn and leave the place and I surely would have done if a small white pooch had not attached itself to my leg. I spend the next 2 minutes trying to remove it, until the fortune teller eventually finishes her telephone conversation and forcibly removes the dog for me. We have a short conversation about her prices and I agree to come back for an appointment at 4 pm (although I am in fact just buying myself time to think about it, the price being $75 for a full reading).
I miss the appointment by a full 2 hours, but something in the back of my mind is niggling "what if it is good? what if I really do make contact with my parents? what if? what if? what if? - I'm such a sucker for what ifs. Full of pessimistic optimism I head back there.
The psychic's smile is almost as wide as the dent in my wallet as she ushers me into a supposedly private area. This area is in fact the bay window with the curtains closed and a further curtain separating me from the front room, which is now packed with people who are all trying to talk over the top of the television. There's nothing like trying to contact the dead whilst listening to Sponge Bob Square Pants, I think to myself. As if my concentration is not disturbed enough, the little white mutt has once more decided to straddle my leg and continues to do so for most of the reading.
"So, you'd like the full reading then would you?", she says with the sparkle of dollars in her eyes.
"Yes, yes please" I reply.
The awkward seconds of silence that follow alert me to the fact that she wants her money up front.
"Err, do you want paying now?", I enquire. "I've got no change, I've only got $80", I continue.
"Yes love, always up front, it's what the spirits want", or something equally ridiculous comes out of her mouth.
As, I give her the cash, a feat which is not as easy as it sounds with a dog mounting your leg, she touches my hand in an overly sensual manner and then places the money in her bra, ensuring that a catch a glimpse of her nipple as she does so. My mind, already full of the interruptions that Sponge Bob and a randy dog have to offer, goes off on a new trajectory. She's not a whore fronting as a spiritual medium is she? She makes no effort to return me my $5 change, that's for sure.
"I need an object", she says, "anything will do - just something that means something to you.
After a moments thought I give her my Kindle.
"Ok, hold on to it with both hands and make 2 wishes", she urges me.
Shit! Shit! I hate this, I hate being put on the spot. All the reasons why I happen to be sat in here in the first place have just evaporated into thin air. My mind is a total blank. It is devoid of any single thought apart from "Is this woman a whore in mediums clothing?". In a state of sheer panic I force 2 wishes out, and here they are.
1, I wish to be with my girlfriend forever. (valid)
2, I wish for my parents to know that I love them dearly. (not great, I can think of hundreds of better wishes now that I am not in a panic situation - surely, I already know that they know that I love them).
Over the next 20 minutes I am treated to what I can only describe as an $80 comedy show. She is so fantastically inaccurate that I am almost willing her to be wrong just so I get a better laugh out of the ridiculousness of her words. My concentration (which has long been my enemy) is finding it hard to take in everything she tells me. What with having a small white dog sexually abusing my leg, Sponge Bob disturbing my ears, images of her nipple whirring around my mind and thoughts of "will I get my $5 change" niggling at my pocket, it always was going to be an uphill struggle. But here are a few of the stand out points that I remember.
"You are a very kind person", she tells me. (No shit, I think to myself, I have just paid you $80 for a $75 reading and it does not look like I am going to get any change).
"You like children" (I do quite like them, as it happens - but I never want my own) "and you have some of your own, I'm seeing 2 girls and 1 boy", she informs me with amazing inaccuracy.
"No, actually I don't have any and don't intend to ever have", I reply.
"Oh, oh, you have a brother" (seeing the look on my face) "sister, right?", she enquires, rather than informs.
"Yes, two", I tell her.
"And they have kids, who love you dearly", she tells me. (By law of averages she is going to be right).
It gets worse. If I have even a modicum of respect left for her dazzling exhibition of extrasensory perception, her next sentence blows it out of the water, like the General Belgrano being hit by a Tigerfish torpedo. Bare in in mind that my initial impetus to go to a spiritualist was to try and contact my dead parents.
"You really must visit your parents, they want to see you, it's been far too long", she informs me with all the conviction in the world.
"I hope not", I reply, "they're dead".
There follows an uncomfortable silence, during which, and despite the subject matter, I struggle to contain my laughter.
"Oh, oh ", she retorts. And then, after some deep contemplation, and as if she has not just said something ridiculous, she responds with,"well, I'm seeing problems with money, maybe inheritance, I think one of your sisters is jealous". (this could not be further from the truth).
Noticing the disbelief upon my countenance she quickly grabs my hands and starts to read the lines upon my palms.
This yields far better results for me. I am going to lead a long, healthy and prosperous life. My inability to work for somebody else (news to me) will mean that I will start my own successful business.
But, hold on, wait a minute. I am not liking the way that she is scrutinising one of the lines upon my hand. She is giving it very serious thought indeed. What can it be, I think to myself? What is this obstacle she has found blocking my path to a rich and happy life.
"This is your love line", she eventually tells me. "It's broken in many places. This means that you are unable to have a stable relationship. This channel is blocked my friend. You must open it up, to enable your love to flourish", and after a short pause, she adds "I can help you". (I have predicted this last sentence before she has even said it).
"Oh really! What can you do?", I enquire with absolutely no intentions of taking the blind bit of notice of any remedy that she can offer me.
"My friend, my friend", she begins. (Seems we've become good chums all of a sudden). "I will burn candles and light incense and for 3 days I will say words that will unblock your pyschic channels. (Fuck me, where does she buy her candles? Harrods?)You will, my friend, be able to experience a long and happy relationship".
"But I'm leaving Toronto in 3 hours", I remind her (of course she needs no reminder).
"That's no problem my friend, I can do this when you are gone. When you are asleep on the plane on the way back home, I will be busy unblocking your psychic channels.", she reassures me.
"And how much is it going to cost to unblock my psychic love channel?", I say, with an air of sarcasm in my voice.
"With candles, and with incense, and with days of my time - my friend, this will be a total of $160", she gleefully announces. Her voice over the past few minutes has taken on a deeper, more gypsy like quality. It's as if she is trying to lure me in to a mysterious place.
"I need to think about it", I tell her, as I make my way to the door.
Sensing that she is losing the battle, she employs a new tactic. That of psycholgical blackmail.
"I am a 4th generation pyschic from Egypt", she cries out, "I am telling you, you will never be happy in love unless you unblock your psychic channel. My friend, you are destined to have a life of broken relationships, unless you let me light my incense and candles. Follow your heart and live a life of happiness".
And that's what I do, I follow my heart right out of the door, and I never did get my $5 change.