Tonight I agreed to meet a psychic with Maude, my best friend from college. She described it as a secret society for people obsessed with knowing secrets. Five people would be selected at random to go into Mr. Hobart’s Library, where he would tell you anything you wanted to know. The whole thing was a sham, I knew that. But Maude, whose eyes glistened with romance, had to know when she was going to get married, the name of her prince charming, and how many blonde-headed babies she would inevitably produce and ship off to some boarding school in Connecticut. I simply had no other plans for a Friday night and agreed to attend for the plot.
The house was somewhere in Boston in a townhouse that belonged to Mr. Hobart. Upon arrival, everyone sat in a dark room with nothing but a few candelabras that dangled from the ceiling. Maude was already somewhere in the sea of people praying to be the ones to be summoned.
“You’re late,” Mr. Hobart said. He wore a royal purple suit and had a mustache that danced over his lip line. I stopped as everyone in the crowd shifted towards me, all of their faces hidden under a blanket of shadows.
“But, there is a reason you strike me so. You will be first,” he said.
“I, uh-” I had begun, only to be interrupted.
“Come on dear, I won’t bite, and this won’t last very long if we make it quick,” he said. He stood up and hopped off the living room table, extending a hand hidden in a glove. I felt the eyes of many on me as I walked down the corridor. When I was only a few inches away from him, he nodded as if to tell me I did a good job. He then motioned me to follow him like a blind mouse through a door that belonged in a different century of time itself. The library was lined with books, none of the titles I could recognize. He sat at his desk and poured the two of us some tea.
“My name is-” I had begun.
“Colette, yes. You came to meet up with the little blonde in the back,” he said.
“How did you know that?” I asked.
“She kept shoo-ing the rest of my patrons away from your seat, I overheard her bickering. I don’t live in a mansion, my dear,” he had smiled.
“Now, what is it that you would like to know?” he asked. I was disappointed to find there were no tarot cards or even a magic crystal ball. There was just an elderly man with kind eyes in a ridiculous outfit serving me tea.
“You really can see into the future?” I inquired.
“And the past, but everyone knows their past pretty well,” he said.
“May I quiz you?” I asked.
“By all means,” He nodded.
“What is a secret no one knows about me?” I asked.
Mr. Hobart tapped his fingers on his desk. He looked around the room before revealing what “the spirits” told him.
“You cut your sophomore year of college roommate’s hair while she was sleeping because she fucked your crush from philosophy class. And you blamed it on the foreign exchange student who lived with you two,” he said. He didn’t even have a sense of pride when he said it, it was as if he was reciting a chapter of some mundane book.
“What else do you know about me?” I asked.
“Right now, I am sitting in a room with a girl with an empty heart. You sleep with boys you meet in bars to fill the void in your life, but we both know that doesn’t really do much for you. You crave a partner, but you don’t let many in because trust is a word that does not exist in your dictionary.”
“Okay, you passed the test,” I said.
Only then did he give a little smile.
“So what would you like to know?” he asked.
When someone asks you this question, you’d think you would have a million things to say, and yet my mind felt blank at that moment.
“Who wrote the books in your library?” I asked. He failed to hide a look of surprise when I didn’t ask about myself.
“They are written by authors that will be famous one day, the future Hemingways. I snag the original copies to sell on Etsy in a few years. Each is signed too,” he said. I could tell he was smug about that, if anything.
I could have asked him how long I would live, when I would become successful. I could have stolen Maude’s list of questions that she had curated over the past few weeks, but I didn’t. I simply said,
“I have been in a rut. Will my life always be like this?”
Mr. Hobart leaned back in his chair and sighed before speaking.
“You will have a job that you adore soon enough that will bring back your love for life. You will marry a friend of a friend that you will meet at a dinner party. He will defrost your frozen heart and bring color into your life. You will have days where the sadness consumes you, and you will drink into oblivion, like any other American, but you won’t spend the rest of your life rewatching Greta Gerwig’s Little Women just so you could feel something,” he said. I stand up to signal that I am done. Mr. Hobart reaches forward to shake my hand and I lace my fingers with his leather gloves.
“Little tip for us readers, Edna Scott is going to be our generation’s Virginia Woolf,” he smiled.
“Thank you,” I said simply in response.
“You can leave through the door behind me,” he said. Before I had time to process the information fed to me, I got a call. It was from my best friend Joe.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Hey Cole, we’re doing this dinner thing in an hour with a couple of buddies from Bowdoin, you wanna join? We could use someone to assist in calling the fire department when we burn the kitchen down.”
Mr. Hobart’s words snaked along my back. The timing was too odd to be true.
“Yes, I’ll be over in an hour,” I said. When I hung up the phone, I looked up into the sky and wondered if Mr. Hobart was God, or the Devil in disguise.