‘I can’t remember all the dream,’ Lisa told Susan over a mid-week lunch break, ‘Or nightmare, because I think it was that. So strange. I think it was a nightmare but I also think most of the bad parts I’ve blocked out.’
‘Apart from the hanged girl,’ Susan commented dryly, lifting her café latte to her lips and blowing softly as though she thought it would be too hot and scald her tongue.
‘Yes, though even that, I get the sense there was something worse about that than just what my fevered mind could imagine it was like, but I can’t quite get to it . Just like when a word is on the tip of your tongue. It’s exasperating.’
‘But most of the dream, or nightmare, was weird stuff about our neighbour,’ Susan countered, smiling slightly, ‘And I get the sense that wasn’t entirely unwelcome?’
Lisa blushed slightly, feeling like a teenage girl. And for a second that awkwardness reminded her of her concerns in that regard about Mandy.
‘He is…charming,’ she conceded, and looked away from her friend’s keen gaze for a moment, remembering exactly how charming. At the end of their dinner he’d ushered Lisa and Mandy to the door and as she turned to go he’d taken her hand for a brief moment and lightly squeezed it, saying he hoped to see her again soon. It had been a very intimate, personal moment, and not lost on her daughter who Lisa was sure brooded more than usual in the following days in the wake of what seemed like his choice. His active choice. Though of course that was absurd. She was a teenager, a and Lisa shouldn’t even need to think like that at all.
‘But I’m a bit concerned he’s too charming,’ she continued, deciding to voice this corrosive internal reverie. She looked out the window to the throng of people on their lunch break passing by. ‘I think Mandy may have a crush.’
‘Ah!’ said Susan, ‘Hence perhaps the anxiety that brought about the nightmare! Teenage crushes are so intense. I remember all that, if dimly!’
The pair of women laughed for a moment at the thought that their teenage years were but a distant memory.
‘I think there was part of the dream where we were all together and that sense of Mandy being drawn in was part of it,’ Lisa agreed, ‘Though something did happen in the middle of that too which I can’t really remember. Just fragments. Something about a tree, which led to the Hanged Girl. Then..I don’t know. I just get the feeling I saw horrible things and in between there were the scenes I remember..Damien and the tarot cards.’
‘Well, the Hanged Girl motif would trigger that association I would think. And you said that card came up and also Death?’
‘I think it was Death, and that related to other things I can’t remember either that followed it. I guess that makes sense. Death is not a happy thing.’
‘In the tarot it’s about change and choice I think,’ Susan commented, ‘I’m sure a friend of mine who dabbled in all that told me something like that once when she did a reading for me and the card came up. I was quite alarmed to see it at first.’
‘Yes, I had a reading once. All I remember is that the woman who did it was wrong about anything that mattered.’ Lisa’s voice had the gentle bitterness of the dying embers of autumn, just before the descent into bleak winter. The reader had given hope just when it was most needed, but it was false hope, so all the more devastating when it failed.
‘Psychics usually are!’ Susan laughed, ‘They and weather forecasters – the other people who keep getting paid for getting it wrong all the time. I guess maybe that’s true of anything requiring prediction. I find that comforting though. I’d prefer we couldn’t predict things really. If we can I wonder if we really have choice in anything, or if that is just an illusion.’
‘Well, all the little things that go up to make things happen, the little choices that narrow the later bigger choices, you see what I mean? If anything is able to be predicted, if it’s pre-destined, then it follows pretty much everything else is. Otherwise it might not happen. So if that’s the case there’s no choice, and if there’s no choice there’s no good or evil and what does that do to morality?’
‘I can see your point. Well, it would be comforting if that were the case given the dark feeling around the cards in the dream.’
‘It’s interesting, though, what you said he said it the dream. That death follows a sacrifice, because it makes me wonder what card follows what in the pack. From what my friend told me the Major Arcana – which are the cards like Death and so forth, follow the story of the soul’s journey to enlightenment. Hang on, let’s check!’
And with that, carried away on an emergent theory, Susan pulled her phone out of her bag and starting tapping the keys, searching Google. Susan loved theories, she loved to ferret into the world and see its hidden connections and meanings. She loved a mystery, but loved even more how it was unravelled and resolved. It was probably why she’d chosen her vocation and a few moments later her journalistic instincts bore fruit and she shook her head and laughed.
‘Well, that’s interesting!’ she said, ‘Death as a card follows the Hanged Man in the pack! Are you sure you only ever had one reading? That’s remarkably accurate of your dreaming mind!”
Lisa shook her head. ‘Only one reading, though I might have read something about this at some stage I suppose, and forgotten about I, just to have it emerge in dreams. I’ve always read a lot, and I did go through a stage of reading new age type self-help books. After the first days of the divorce…’
Her voice trailed off and Susan instinctively reached out and clasped her hand, re-assuring. For a brief second it revived a sense memory of Damien a few nights earlier, as she was leaving, and the feeling was a bit overwhelming. Lisa found equilibrium by letting her friend help in this way, but not looking at her, determinedly looking back out the window as though the streets held the key to some greater mystery.
But there were only other people out there, living their other lives, in their other worlds. No answers to great mysteries were in sight.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved