A Fortune-Teller Told Me
There’s a middle-aged cross-dressing fortune-teller who does the rounds of Snail Street from time to time.
He/she has clownish makeup, chipped red nail polish and wears an enormous silver ring.
(It seems more natural to call him him than her because he dresses in jeans and a t-shirt. There’s no fake boobs or high heels. Just penciled eyebrows, lipstick and the chipped nail polish).
“You wanna get your fortune told?” Darling Man asked me last night as the fortune-teller walked past our table. Without thinking I said no. I don’t believe in that kind of stuff.
But then I thought of the big exciting plans we are making. Plans that make me talk fast and gesticulate wildly when I start to explain them to anyone.
“Oh wait,” I said. “I do want my fortune told tonight.” Our guests, street food tour customers Angie and David from Singapore, said they didn’t mind.
Darling Man called the fortune-teller over and pointed at me.
The fortune-teller settled himself down in a tiny plastic stool, ordered himself a beer, settled his man-bag on his lap and fussily spread out a little red cloth. He handed me a clean pack of playing cards and told me to shuffle the cards nine times.
Once Vu had relayed the fortune teller’s instructions, we began.
I was surprised at how seriously the fortune teller took proceedings. There was elaborate laying-out of cards: some in lines, some fanned out. There was tapping of certain cards as he divined the meanings behind the everyday-looking nine of diamonds and the ace of spades.
He asked to look at my palms and I held out one of my large square hands for him.
He began to speak, a rapid-fire barrage of Vietnamese. He paused every now and then for Darling Man to translate for me, Angie and David. (The assembled crowd of waiters and food vendors didn’t need the translation, obviously.)
According to Darling Man, the fortune-teller said:
I am a good person but I have man inside – a lady outside but a man inside. That’s why I’m hot tempered.
I like helping people and I’m getting help from my dad. (How did he know my dad was dead?)
I should try to be more calm and patient. Because there’s a man in me.
I will get a call from my family in one week with good news.
I will get a big amount of money from overseas this year from a business deal. I have big plans for this year and they will turn out OK. It will be a good year. (Yay!)
I will have two houses but not with the help of my in-laws.
I will have two children, a boy and a girl.
My daughter is like me: a man inside. I need to be more patient with her. She has a man’s character. (The in-laws are always saying she’s like a boy.)
I have a mole in a secret place. The mole means I’m very lucky. (If secret = embarrassing he’s spot on, so to speak.)
My husband is very stubborn and not-sweet. I should be more patient with him.
I love my husband very much. But it’s up to fate whether we stay together.
Then he asked for me to pose some questions for his deck of playing cards.
I asked when the second child would come along. The answer: in three years.
He asked for another question. I was at a loss. He’d already told me my business plan would be a success.
I asked how many books I would write during my life. The answer: your wishes will be fulfilled.
Then, at Darling Man’s suggestion, I asked if my mother’s health would improve.
The answer: she is fine. She is old but she will be fine. She has many people looking after her. (Vietnamese code for ghosts/ancestors helping from the other side.)
Then the strangely made-up man finished the last of his beer, folded his red cloth around his pack of playing cards, buried the parcel in his man-bag and said good bye.
A few moments later the crowd of wandering food vendors and waiters who had been watching the performance dispersed. And I was left to ponder my fortune.
Some of the observations were eerily accurate. It makes his predictions seem more believable. And I really want to believe that money will flow in and it will be a good year.
But even as I yearned to believe, doubts were blossoming. Not doubts about the fortune. It was Darling Man’s translation that I was questioning.
The fortune-teller spoke for quite a while about this husband of mine, not knowing that the translator was actually the spouse in question. Darling Man’s face went pink and he got that cute embarrassed look that he sometimes gets. But his translation was all of two sentences.
When questioned about this part of the fortune by me and our tour guests, Darling Man just went a bit red again and he said he couldn’t remember. He said there was so much to translate he couldn’t do it all word for word.
Angie, David and I didn’t believe him.
So today, at my favourite weekend cafe, I asked a waiter to review the video of the street-side fortune telling session.
And the second translation was slightly different to the first translation. According to the waiter, the fortune-teller did say my husband is stubborn. But what he said next was that it’s my stubborn husband – not me – who needs to try harder to be patient and calm down. HA!
Sometimes it really does pay to get a second opinion.
Some people might recognise the title of this post. It’s also the name of one of my all-time favourite books, A Fortune-Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani. When I first read the book I thought Terzani had my dream life. But then I changed things and now I have my dream life: living in Asia and traveling often to exotic places with my wonderful family. Even that stubborn husband who needs to be more patient makes my life more dreamy.
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