I sat in the waiting area outside the door that read Intuitive Life Coach. I gazed into the velvet of the dated chairs going over everything in my mind. Will he come back? Will I ever get over this? Does he love someone else?
“Boys, boys, boys – that’s all I hear out here.” I looked up to see the woman who was interrupting my thoughts standing in the doorway with a knowing smile. “Come on in.”
She was in her late forties, with short hair and a deep, soothing voice. I’ll call her Karen. Surprised by her sense of humor, I started toward the room. I had never seen a psychic before, so I guess I was expecting someone very serious to whisk me into a dark room with a crystal ball, candles and tarot cards. It wasn’t like that all. It was a normal office room with windows, a desk, and two chairs.
“How did you know I was here about boy troubles?” I was unintentionally quizzing her.
She laughed, “Well you are, aren’t you kid? You love that poor soul that’s always breaking your heart. You’re worried about that brunette with the blue eyes he’s talking to.”
I was hooked. She knew things about my life and those around me that she couldn’t possibly know unless she was psychic, like the dynamic of my family and the way I met my boyfriend. She always described herself as intuitive, never using the word “psychic.” She was careful to warn me that I shouldn’t repeat her predictions in our meetings and that nothing is ever set in stone. I tended to brush over this part, always writing down notes on our sessions in my car after I left and repeating the best parts to my friends. I always referred to her as a psychic. She was my psychic fairy godmother; I felt her mystical therapy saved me by giving me answers I couldn’t find. I didn’t care what some people thought about it. It was the only thing that helped me.
I saw her monthly after that day. The days would slowly roll by, tormenting me in between visits. She would guide me through the dating scene and I would strictly follow her predictions, as they always ended up being right. The one time I didn’t listen to her, I regretted it and ended up back in her waiting room with a broken heart, silently swearing I would stop doing things “my way” and listen to her.
During a visit a few years later, she had a prediction for me that changed everything, and I was all ears.
“You work with someone older, she is trying to set you up with a family member,” she said.
Yes, I thought.
“He doesn’t live around here because of his job, but he will be in town in a few months to visit,” she closed her eyes and paused, listening for more to enter her mind, “He is tall, he has a handsome face, he has tattoos, and you will first see him where you work.”
“Yes, this girl has always teased me about setting me up with her brother,” I confirmed.
“Let her,” she said. “This is your match.”
Once I was given that green light, there was no stopping the pursuit. I began talking to James almost immediately after I told his sister to give him my number. He was finishing up his last year in the military and would then be home permanently. I saw him for the first time outside my workplace while he was home visiting. He was tall with a handsome face and tattoos, just like Karen predicted. When I put my arms around him for the first time, it was exactly like what I had envisioned in Karen’s office the day she described it. I began a whirlwind romance with James, truly believing I was on the path to my most coveted milestone in life: marriage. I dated him long-distance for a year until he moved home. I had an apartment set up for us to move into a few weeks after his arrival. I had no doubts, even though I didn’t really know him. My friends warned against this, but Karen never did.
When he moved back home, problems started to arise almost instantly. In my gut, I knew something was very wrong. I had abnormal suspicions about him, ones you don’t have about your “dream man.” The week before we moved in, my engagement ring from my ex went missing and James suddenly had a lot of cash on him. It was his odd behavior when questioned, the lengthy confusing replies, the deflection, that ultimately made me think he could be responsible.But I wanted to believe him, so I tried to forget it.
Then money went missing from my purse. His funds became unavailable. He was unmotivated to work. He began disappearing, sometimes overnight. He was always equipped with a story and they were so convincing that I often took his word. He took college classes but often failed and started at a new school each semester. I began loaning him a lot of money. I seriously considered breaking it off several times, but I wasn’t used to making such big decisions on my own, so I would always visit Karen to see what she had to say about it.
When I thought he could be lying, she said that he wasn’t. When I thought he could be cheating, she would say that he couldn’t. When I thought he might be stealing she would suggest that I leave him some money so that if he was stealing, he wouldn’t have to. When I asked her about the ring, she was sure that I accidentally threw it away in the move. She kept reinforcing that I was in a good relationship, that maybe I was making too many parallels to my past relationship and creating problems in my mind. Was I? I knew that I had a fear of repeating my past and sometimes I projected unfair assumptions of cheating or lying, but this was different, wasn’t it? I kept trying to give them both the benefit of the doubt, that maybe I was creating problems in my mind, but as problem after problem arose, I only felt more confused. I confronted James.
“I think something is seriously wrong with this relationship. I think that you sold a fake version of yourself to me, and might have some problems that I can’t fix for you,” I said. At first he just looked at me like he didn’t follow what I was saying, but as I went for my keys and bag he called after me.
“I’m sorry, you’re right, but I love you and want to be with you” he said, almost unwillingly.
“I’m right about what?” I questioned. “I need to hear you say it.”
“I think I might have a problem. But I want to fix it. I’ll fix it.”
I believed him. It was one of the few times he looked me in the eye and promised something. My optimism didn’t last long. Days later I checked my credit card statement online and saw a list of charges that I hadn’t made. I checked my wallet; my card wasn’t there. I called him.
“Do you have my credit card, James?” I asked.
“Do I have your credit card? No, I don’t think so,” he responded.
“Are you sure? Because it’s missing, and I’m looking at a list of charges and I’m about to file a report.”
“Oh yeah! I meant to tell you, I think I accidentally switched up our cards while I was cleaning, being that they are similar in color and all that jazz and I think I’ve been using yours, but don’t worry, I can hit an ATM on the way home and we’ll be square.” He answered excitedly, with verbosity, and an inappropriate sense of normalcy, as he always did when I caught him. I finally came to recognize this as his language of lying.
I sat down to think. I thought of a necklace I hadn’t been able to find recently. I checked my jewelry box and discovered not only the necklace, but all my gold and diamond jewelry was gone.
Each finding led to another thought, like puzzle pieces, as my mind went to a receipt for a MoneyGram I had found while doing laundry that morning. I looked up the name of the person who wired him the money on Facebook and found that this guy was someone he was in the military with. He had a public post announcing that James lied to him in order to borrow money and never paid him back. He warned others of James’ scamming ways. He even included an image of the message James sent him, full of lies about why he needed money. People commented under the post saying James had done it to them too. Thief.
I thought about the evasive answers he gave about the days and times he had class, and how I never saw him doing homework. He was logged into his school email on our computer. I looked at it and saw multiple emails from his professors, asking why he hadn’t been to class for weeks. His responses were elaborate stories; he pretended to have broken his leg or that his sister had gone into early labor. Liar.
Embodying a great detective, I nervously searched his name in Google, but there was nothing. Then I searched his social media handle. I found everything. He was linked to more than twenty dating and hookup sites. Instead of going to class he’d been meeting people. There he was, profile picture of his penis, searching for “daytime fun” while I was at work. Cheat.
I sat back, dizzy from my findings. My heart was racing. I need to get out of here, now. It felt much like the scene in “The Shining” when Wendy discovers the stack of papers Jack had been typing. “All work and no play makes James a dull boy.” James’ alter ego was everything I thought he could be, but somehow worse.
I left him immediately, smart enough to know this wasn’t worthy of a grand finale argument like in previous relationships. The only confrontation we had was over the phone.
“I know everything you did, and there is no way I am coming back. I’m breaking the lease.” I said this as a closing statement, not wanting to hear his lies anymore.
“Well, it’s your call. I’m not going to be the one to leave you,” he said. “You have to end it.”
“End it!? Did you just hear me? I filed a police report about my jewelry, and if you had anything to do with it, I’m pressing charges.”
“I’m innocent,” was his only response, in addition to some rambling about the Amendments and his rights.
It was the fight of my life to get away from him. Prosecuting him for larceny prompted him to offer me money from his father to drop the case. When I said no, he began stalking me. I changed my number, e-mails, and filed for a restraining order. I also moved to a new apartment, the first of three moves that summer because he kept finding ways to dupe the court into giving him copies of statements with what was supposed to be my concealed address. I don’t know why he punished me this way. I’ve given him a pseudonym in this piece to avoid reigniting his rage.
When my missing jewelry was investigated, it came back that he had pawned it down the street from our apartment and I was able to see him go to jail for the first time. He was in and out of jail for months, mostly for violating the restraining order, but he never ceased to harass me. He often picked back up on stalking me the hour he was released, only to cause another warrant for his arrest. Things were bad enough that I had to consider moving out of state. It was then I thought of Karen. I decided to see her one last time.
When I arrived she called me in from the room instead of greeting me at the door. She was hammering a nail into the wall to hang one of her healing paintings she had for sale. Her informality bothered me.
“Hey kid, how’s my friend doing? Have you been going easier on him?”
I looked at her in disbelief, the glass finally shattering. Don’t you know? Didn’t you pick up that I’m barely standing here? This guy that you were so sure was perfect for me is sitting in jail right now. Can you read that through the door? For the first time in seven years of seeing her, I had to tell her why I was there.
“He’s in jail, Karen. You were wrong about everything about him.”
We spent an awkward hour going over what I already knew. He was a liar, he was sick, he was dangerous. She told me I needed to move and in the meantime I needed to be careful. That will be $120. Good luck, kid.
She hugged me at the door, but I realized then that I didn’t know her. I looked up to this woman. For years she gave me strength when I had none and guidance when I was lost. I sent her cards and gifts in celebrations of wellness and in times of grief. I let her predict my future. I was angry with her. I blamed her. I thought that if she had told me the right thing I wouldn’t be here right now. I thought she had lost her gift and her heart, but I knew that this was my mess. I gave the responsibility of making important decisions to someone else so I wouldn’t have to. At the end of the day it wasn’t personal, it was just business. She was doing what I paid her to do.
Erika Lauren is a freelance writer from Boston, Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in publications such as The Haute Mess, XOJane, and her blog.