BY LYDIA A. CYRUS
When I was little someone told me that only the devil could tell the future. Anyone who claimed to be a fortuneteller, anyone who seemed to know things before they happened, were that of the devil. I wondered if I would go to hell because I always knew things before they actually happened. My mother said that she didn’t know of such a verse and she said I was just lucky: She said I had a lucky "gift" of knowing possibilities and knowing truths before they materialized. It never felt lucky: it felt like rocks in the pit of my stomach dragging me closer to hellfire. I could ask myself is this really going to happen? And I would always know the answer. I felt guilty for having the gift of knowing.
We were sitting in a recliner at his mother’s house one night: two of us packed into the seat of the chair next to each other watching Wes Anderson films. Jacob was drinking a beer or at least that’s how I remember him: drunk or drinking. His parents were gone for a soccer tournament his youngest sister was playing in. He made plans to throw a massive house party and he asked me to come, knowing I didn’t want to but that I would if he asked me to.
His older cousin, Taylor, came trudging up the stairs and into Jacob’s room. She had thick blonde hair and brown eyes and always seemed to be wearing red lipstick. She sat down on the edge of his bed and asked us if we wanted anything to eat from this local Chinese take out place that she and Jacob were obsessed with. It seemed like every other time I came over someone was eating out of white box or a plastic black bowl. The supply of fortune cookies were endless in this house.
"Oh I forgot. You’re vegan aren’t you, Lydia?" she asked me, seemingly puzzled.
"No, I’m not actually. That must be one of the other girls Jacob brings over, because it’s not me," I replied while still sitting with my left hip smashed next to Jacob’s right hip, jokingly.
His face got blood red and he denied that there were other girl: I assured him I was only kidding but was actually sick of eating bad take out food. Taylor assured me too that she was just confused about my dietary habits and that, again, I was the only girl coming over. With that she left, it appeared I struck a nerve between the two of them with my joke.
On a whim, I asked him to show me the palm of his hand and he reluctantly gave it to me, while keeping his beer in the other hand. I had no real concept of what I was doing but I though I knew the basics. Fortune telling isn’t hard: first you tell people what they want to hear. Lots of people are going to come this party. Then you tell them something they need to hear: You probably shouldn’t get too drunk though because girls don’t like to see their love interest vomit on their mother’s nice kitchen tile. Lastly, you tell them something they didn’t expect to hear: You’re going to lose something tonight.
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Once I started giving the same lines in his hand different meanings he picked up on my lack of knowledge of palm reading, but he went with the gag anyway. He was a cancer, born on the second of July and heavily emotional. I didn’t need astrology or palm reading to tell me that...sitting next to him in a reclining chair while he was drinking beer at two in the afternoon was evidence enough.
The night of the party I showed up to find all of the lights on the outside of the house turned out. My own older cousin, Hayley, had offered to be my wingman at the party. We lied to my mother and said we were spending the night watching movies together. As mom dropped me off and let me out of the truck she stopped me to say, "Lydia, you girls be good." Like she already knew what we were going to do that night.
He said he turned the lights that so that the neighbors wouldn’t tell his mom what had happened that night, so they wouldn’t know. Tables were shoved together and red cups littered every surface of a house I was used to being immaculately clean. His mother would have been furious to know her living room furniture had been pushed aside to accommodate a beer pong table or that the back patio turned in a hookah bar almost instantly. Jacob was halfway drunk but still polite and when someone mentioned that a relative, an adult, was coming over everyone scattered and took their bottles and cups with them. His uncle someone said. Coming to drop off a DVD he had borrowed from Jacob’s dad.
Hayley and I sat at the kitchen table the whole time watching people come and go. There were so many faces of strangers stopping to drunkenly wave or introduce themselves to us. One of Jacob’s friends insisted that he give us both a red cup with a drop of water in each so we could all three make a toast together. Several months afterwards I would run into people who couldn’t place how they knew me. I know you somehow their faces always seemed to say. Someone’s house party I always replied with the honest look in my eyes of none-judgment. I might have been the only one sober at the party but in a way I was drunk too, just not in the conventional way.
Taylor, at one point, took off upstairs and came back down wearing bathing suit bottoms and a grey shirt. She was too drunk to party and too drunk to drive, so someone took her home. Inside her purse was a full bottle of tequila, a bottle sorely missed by the partygoers left behind and by the guy who threw the party. Saying I told you so didn’t seem like the right thing to say at that moment, but I had warned him.
What I remember most about that night was the blue Hawaiian patterned shirt Jacob wore. I can remember cutting across a game of beer pong to tell him I had decided to go home and how he dropped everything to squeeze me tightly in a vice grip of a hug. I remember driving almost thirty minutes just to get to a McDonald’s that was still open. Contact high we called it, as we ate breakfast food at three in the morning right before we pealed off our clothes and fell into bed. I vividly remember coming home a few hours later and tucking my clothes into the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper so that my mother wouldn’t smell any weed, so she would believe that I had innocently watched movies all night.
It turns out that sometimes knowing is a gift, but if you don’t listen and accept it that’s when things start to take a bad turn. For a whole summer I naively ignored every indication, every hunch, that something was off between us. Then one night, over the phone, he let slip that he was seeing someone else too. I can’t have both of you he said. I already knew that.
Lydia A. Cyrus is a creative nonfiction writer and poet from Huntington, West Virginia. Her work as been featured in Thoreau's Rooster, Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Albion Review, and Luna Luna. Her essay "We Love You Anyway," was featured in the 2017 anthology Family Don't End with Blood which chronicles the lives of fans and actors from the television show Supernatural.
She lives and works in Huntington where she spends her time being politically active and volunteering. She is a proud Mountain Woman who strives to make positive change in Southern Appalachia. She enjoys the color red and all things Wonder Woman related! You can usually find her walking around the woods and surrounding areas as she strives to find solitude in the natural world. Twitter: @lydiaacyrus