WHAT TO DO?
Sean Ennis

 

How I Met the Psychic Girlfriend

The psychic from the Third Base suckered drunk-me into getting a reading: twenty buckaroos. She had a table set up and was circling the bar in her hoop earrings and a fake mole that was supposed to be gypsy somehow, looking for customers. Real gypsies have a hair coming out of that mole, but hers was bald. Real gypsies don’t have breast implants either, but she had those too.

I told her, “Say something about me first so that I know this is for real. That’s a lot of money. Look into the shithead future real fast.” That’s how high my expectations were.

“You like to drink,” she said. “You can’t dance. You’re looking for women.”

“That’s not psychic,” I said. “This is a loser bar.”

“Okay. You shave all your private hair.”

She called it, so, fine, I gave her twenty bucks. But I forgot all her predictions, being the king of the drunken blackout. My brain tries its best to sweep up, and most times I do appreciate it. I had some residuals the next morning from her reading, mainly of outrage and disappointment at what she saw for me, but no specifics.

It really wasn’t fair having her walk around the bar like that. Everyone was there to meet their future, and then she walks by, selling it. And then those of us who are ugly. And those of us that can’t dance. We’re gluttons for punishment: we’re desperate for good news. Not all of us, mind you, but some. By “us,” I don’t always mean “me,” of course. Of course not.

Back the next week, and she’s there too—MIA, the sign said now—and I demanded a free reading since I couldn’t remember the one I paid for. It was work she already did, as I saw it, not new venturing into the netherworld. She didn’t catch my logic.

I sat down in her booth anyway. Held my palms out. Rubbed her crystal ball. Might have threatened her, but she knew I wasn’t serious. Might have, I say, too; it’s hazy.

She got up and ordered a water with lemon, and I was demanding she get something stronger when Red finally stepped between us.

 

How I Know About Gay Guys

Red is gay, Red from work. We both go to the Third Base after work, and sometimes I sit with his crowd. He had his own worries too, of course: right now, a wired jaw. I told him about her and her rube, I kept calling it. She just disappeared behind him.

I went back to his table of fruits and hags, but they didn’t know about the future. They think they’re it. Every time they have sex, there’s ten other things involved. And it’s all they ever talk about, like they can’t even get over it themselves. They have toys and creams and prostates and outfits, and straight guys are just supposed to listen up.

I always thought sex was all about hips and mouth. If somebody wants to throw it at me, I’m gonna catch it. You can keep your edible body paint and tickle feathers in the drawer. I’m no Indian. And if you don’t have me by the time the shirt comes off, forget about it.

The fruits also think if you say being gay is weird that that means you’re secretly gay. You can’t win with them. One of them had little stones glued to his fingernails, and the girls at the table were straight, I heard, but desperately fat and manless.

I was womanless at the time, except then the psychic was on my mind, and even sweeping up a bit.

 

How I Fought the Psychic and We Started Dating

The next day I saw her on Delancey Street while I was on my lunch break. She spotted me, and gave me the finger. I walked over, complaining about the future and the price of it, and she just hit me across the face with her purse. I punched her thigh on the way down, but it didn’t budge her. Felt like she works out quite a bit. Again, I got the purse on the head. I tried to sweep her legs out, but she wouldn’t fall. I got one in the groin, and then she stopped. I went cold from pain, and she picked me up. I actually shivered, is what I’m saying.

“You work?” she asked pointing to the tie I wear to work. “I didn’t see that.”

“I knew you were fake!”

“I knew you would attack me.”

“You hit me first!”

“I saw the future,” she said. She brushed off her skirt. “Now we can get started.”

She gave me her phone number, and I called it and we had a date. She predicted the best dinner to order and movie to see.

The next night I called her, and she picked up like: “Hey, Paul.”

“You just have caller ID,” I told her. “That’s not psychic.”

“It’s easier that way,” she said. “Seeing the future is tiring.”

“Fine. What are we doing tonight?”

Then she told me.

 

How Sex with a Psychic Goes

Mia predicted the best ways to nail it, which I did appreciate, but sometimes she’d make me quit because she saw that she would get pregnant. Or wouldn’t let me in at all because she saw that the sex wouldn’t be that great. I was always under the impression that it was always fine, always.

But when it was good, she’d scream before she actually screamed because she saw what was going to happen. It was confusing, but she tried to explain it to me. Women are mainly aroused mentally, I learned, and so she was doubly so, being psychic. Lots of times, I wouldn’t finish because she was done before we even started. And, yes, her breasts were implanted with something: bricks, it felt like.

She knew when I was going to j.o. too, and would block me for some reason. She’d break in at a critical point—with a phone call or a knock on the shower door—and I’d lose it. This seemed kind of vindictive, actually, since for weeks at a time she wouldn’t throw it at me either.

I had a folder full of underwear ads I had collected back since I started getting hard. My favorites were the breast-feeding bras because you got an extra peek. Once a Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog showed up for the guy who used to live in my apartment. I put the whole thing in the folder.

Mia found the folder, of course, and trashed it.

“You can’t keep secrets from me,” she said. “I see this kind of stuff. Get it through your head!”

“Yeah, but that would have been worth something,” I argued. “It’s vintage stuff!”

She predicted not, though I did wonder if she was just rooting around my apartment. Realistically: why would that folder show up in the future? Never know now.

 

How Red and the Other Gay Guys Felt About the Psychic

All the gay guys said I follow my dick around horse and buggy. Like they didn’t. They said they’d seen her pulling the same shit with other guys. Like they didn’t.

“Is your way better?” I finally asked Red when I got him away from the other fruits and hags.

“Of course. You know what the other person wants because mainly you two are the same.”

“But mine knows what’s gonna happen before it does,” I argued.

“But you still don’t know what she wants.”

“But she tells me.”

“They always tell you. Look at my jaw. She told me. I was perfectly clear afterward.”

“But is the sex better now? With guys, I mean.”

“Sex is sex. But now there’s less surprise and disappointment.”

“Maybe some of us like that stuff.”

“Then get insurance and pucker up, stud,” he told me.

Mind you, Red could have had any woman he wanted back when he was looking. Some of us didn’t have that luxury. And I do think some of us are in it for the adventure in confusion that is a relationship with a woman.

“Are you in much pain?” I asked.

“It’s only old pain that’s dulling out. None new.”

“Do you have a boyfriend now?”

“Of course. All my best friends.”

He lied, though. Stephen was his boyfriend. They loved each other. And I loved my psychic, or at least was told I would. What’s the difference? And Stephen was cool too; I liked him.

But the hags sat around their table like a cauldron and spilled beer on it.

One said, “You have such a gay name—Paul. Stop pretending.”

“I’m named after Saint Paul” was all I could come up with, though I doubt if it was true.

“Right. And we all know how many chicks he banged. We know more about you than you do.”

But would women worth a shit ever try to convince a man he was gay? And wasn’t every man somewhat heartbroken by the lesbian? Even the gay guys didn’t like lesbians.

 

How Life Away from My Psychic Goes

Without her at my elbow, I started forgetting what came next. At stoplights. In the shower. Does it go yellow then green? Lather then rinse? I was grinding the ignition to my car while I was driving. I definitely didn’t sign anything and I definitely didn’t buy anything until I talked to her.

Love was just something you used against other people, wasn’t it?

 

How Red Broke his Jaw, and a Conversation About It

My friend, Red, had his jaw wired shut from an old performance of cunnilingus gone bad. His last girl just ground him to dust in her enjoyment, and then afterward balked about taking him to the hospital out of embarrassment. Doctor said that had they gone that night to the emergency room, the wires wouldn’t have been necessary, but by now things had gotten way out of whack. The ache kept him up at night. That was his last straight encounter, eighteen months ago. Could even a psychic see this: a gay guy breaking his jaw between a girl’s legs?

“Proof enough for me!” he said, working a straw through cosmopolitans, everything through gritted teeth. He meant about being gay.

“Red, you look like a big gay truck with the metal grille out front,” one of the hags yelled. Red is a big guy, big muscles up the side of his neck, not at all the ballet-dancer-fashion-designer type. In fact, I personally looked way fruitier than Red.

“Honk, honk,” he said. “It just means I’m strictly on the receiving end these days.” The gay guys and hags laughed, hardy-flitty-har.

“Did she get off when that happened?” I asked him, pointing to the cage in his mouth. It seemed relevant.

“After half an hour of it, something happened, between all her catholic guilt and jack-hammering crotch.”

“Do you still talk to her?”

“Yeah. About once a week. We’re tenuous friends. Why? Want a date?”

“I have a girl: Mia. You know that.”

“Oh, her. Dump her.”

 

How I Saw My Psychic Fight Yet Another Man

There’s a blind mole of a guy who works at the Hardee’s, literally blind. He’s got the buttons on the register memorized. He has a machine he slides your cash into that announces how much the bills are worth so he can make change. About the only thing he can’t do is pour coffee for people because he’ll burn himself.

Of course, Mia ordered a cup and got pissed when he had to call someone else up to the counter to get it.

“We’re in a hurry! Just start pouring and I’ll tell you when to stop!” She was screaming at the poor guy, but we had nowhere to be. Didn’t she see this would happen? He was slow too, with the brain of a mole as well, besides being blind. These places give people like that jobs: it’s good for them. But he got badly nervous.

“I’ll get someone, miss,” and he, a pretty short guy, started calling a name out into Mia’s chest like they were two microphones at a press conference, “Rolanda! Rolanda, could you come here a minute!” I just thought it was funny, and she was my girl. What could a blind guy care about her chest, even with his nose practically buried in the sweet spot in the middle? He didn’t even know what he was looking at.

But poor mole got the purse on the head, and hard.

As we’re running to the car, I asked what that was all about.

“The future is a tense place,” she said. “I am always on edge. But I can see things will be fine now.”

At that point, I was really wondering about her.

 

How the Gay Guy and the Psychic Got Along

“You phony, witch, vamp. Fake, gypsy, man-destroyer.”

“You stale, nutless fruitcake. You bent-over altar boy.”

But they were fighting about me: it felt good. Mia didn’t like me hanging out with the gay guys. Red thought the psychic told me what to do. I kept trying to listen to everybody’s advice, but it became impossible.

 

How the Psychic Started Really Making Money

Mia set up a psychic hotline with some ridiculous rate per minute. People still called. I’d go over there and she’d be on the phone the whole time. I’d drink her beer, listen to her half of the conversation, and watch a little digital cable.

“Next time you’re holding 18—hit!” she’d say.

Then: “You’re right. He is thinking of other women.”

And: “Well, what do you think you should do?”

And of course: “Pervert!”

I could have answered those phones just the same, I thought. Her advice was vague and sometimes even sounded familiar. I’d start to talk and she would just hold her finger out to me to shut up so she could hear some stranger complain. Then I’d hide as much of her beer as I could under my coat and go home.

But her phone rang and rang. She even filmed a bad commercial. No more begging slobs in bars to do readings: they were coming to find her—and in the afternoons!

 

How I Met the One Who Broke Red’s Jaw

After work, I was at the Third Base when Red grabbed me. This was two weeks after Mia threw out my folder, a couple days after she beat up the blind guy for no reason. Her gig had moved down the street to the Hard Rock Cafe in the Marriott. She said she’d seen all our loser—futures anyway—though by “loser” she didn’t mean me, of course.

“Someone I want you to meet,” Red said. A new one sitting at the fruits’ and hags’ table, pretty and definitely straight. Red pointed to his jaw, then her. “Macrina. She did this.”

“Wow. Hi,” I said. It was like meeting Michelangelo: that jaw had become important art to me.

“I wish he wouldn’t do that,” she said, embarrassed and purple in the ears now, sipping on a pinkish glass of wine. “Hello. I’ve apologized a billion times. Hello.”

Red wasn’t even listening. He was leaning over into Stephen and laughing. The hags were ignoring her because she was better-looking.

“I think he’s forgiven you,” I told her. I wanted to say: do it to me. “I know a little of the story. What do you think about the way things are now?” I nodded toward Red and Stephen, who were cuddling.

“Never saw it coming. But good for him. Good for them both.”

I liked her. She was about as voluptuous as a sheet of plywood, but pretty like a blank white wall can be. I got her number. I did. Sometimes I can be very flirty and charming.

 

How Things Between Me and the Psychic Finally Went Bad

To this day, I have no idea if Mia could see the future, but she was deep-down mean either way. I do know that Mia knew she was on her way out, and I got the purse on the head a whole lot during that time. Nothing sexy had been thrown anywhere near me for a while. Then out of the blue, she said she saw the future and she was preggers.

“But we haven’t had sex in weeks,” I argued. This was true.

“You’re calling me a liar?”

“I’m calling you a bad scientist.”

“Fine, then. Let’s go.” She took down her pants, and it struck me as a depressing sight all of the sudden: just a black triangle pointing down between her fat legs. Why had I been obsessing over this?

“This is boring,” I told her, and left. She had nothing on me, I was father to zero. And who really wants to know what’s going to happen all the time anyhow?

Back at my apartment, I called Macrina, but forgot that it was one in the morning.

“You should know,” she told me, “I’m celibate these days, if that’s why you’re calling me this late.” But not one dirty thought had even occurred to me.

“No. I just wanted to let you know I’m open for whatever’s gonna happen.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Okay!” I said. “Good night, good night.” I celebrated. Maybe the future is not dark, but just blank.

 

How Everyone Started Feeling Better

Red had the wires taken out of his jaw and was all smiles. He and Stephen abandoned the loveless hags and started sitting with me and Macrina at the Third Base like a double date. She and I had kissed a few times, no big deal. At home, I bought a new folder and started filling it up because I am entitled to my fantasies, and they have nothing to do with real life.

Then Macrina came out of her celibacy when she saw that Red had healed, and she was gentle and tender and giving in bed with me in a way I never could have imagined. Could this even be the same girl who broke Red’s jaw? Can people change just like that? Should I get out now, before I get hurt? I said all this out loud to Stephen one night while Red and Macrina were talking.

And so Stephen said, “Well, you’re the one with her. You know her. What do you think you should do?”

I’ve heard that one before. But what did I think I should do? I think I’ll do that.

 

Sean Ennis is a Philadelphia native. He teaches English at the University of Mississippi. His work has appeared in The Greensboro Review, The Mississippi Review, River City, Pindeldyboz, storySouth, and The Best New American Voices 2006 anthology.

 

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