11.1 The Empress (alpha repeat)

        The Richmond Inbound train pulls up to (the station before Ethan’s) and the doors scrape open. Suzy Presdale pushes her way onto the train as a small group attempts to disembark. She sits in a backward facing isle seat. The train lurches forward and her head snaps back fast enough to make her head swim in house wine and Mai Tai’s She is worried about finding her phone at the Tunnel Top on California St., where she thinks she left it. If not there, then her last stop, Dave’s on 4th. She remembers sitting it on the bar at the T. Top, and not at all at Dave’s. No one would talk to her, and the bartender refused anything except water.

        I have to have my phone, she thinks to herself. She shakes her head. I can’t believe I have to go back to Frisco to get it. “Shit, I am tired,” she says under her breath and sighs. I was almost home. I can’t live without my phone. Dads suppose to call me about extra cash from Mom. He’s a push over, but has to clear it with mom after I borrowed $1500 to go to Vegas with friends. Mom is not so much, but Dad always convinces her. I just tell him to role out the daughter secret, and she complies. I caught her chatting up one of my male high school friends on facebook. I don’t think she ever hooked up with him, but just a hint at the incident and mom shuts up Dad with his request. Dad knows about it, and I don’t think he cares. She doesn’t know that he knows.

        I need the cash for rent and am already five days late. If not for the manager’s Palm Springs trip, I would already be in deep to her. The last time I was late, I had to do her laundry for a month as interest on the late charge; so wouldn’t evict me. That’s got to be illegal, but I won’t ever be two weeks late again. Cindy is a serious bitch. I had to iron her fucking socks. Instead, I should have starched them, double.

        Suzy Presdale spent Saturday afternoon and evening on a bar safari in San Francisco, hunting for a hook up. She’s winked her way before in to more than rent, and hasn’t been in the City in a couple of weeks. At 5’6″, 135 lbs, Suzy is a young, voluptuous 22-year old with blonde colored hair and blue eyes. She stays out of the sun to keep her skin a native Northern European decent. She is use to getting her way. She is a 2nd receptionist for a dentist in Walnut Creek, Dr. Chin. Late a couple of times a week and absent a few times a month, more than average, Dr. Chin looks they other way as long as he can look all he wants. Suzy wears low-cut shirts and too-short skirts, shorts sans undergarments as the need arises.

        The Richmond pulls into the West Oakland station and a crowd of 25 or more boards. It is mostly young adults heading in town to drink and party, raise hell and make it home before the last train; or on occasion, hookup with a local. The folly of youth is only a matter of confidence and no worries about consequence. San Francisco is a singles town. Like everywhere else, all are judged according to earning potential and peculiarity, accomplishment and accouterments. SF treasures character, originality, and even the perfect execution of sublime similarity. And, never avoids treasure.

        This city is not for the meek or faint of heart. Even high-middle-class uber-professionals find it difficult; most residents are renters. The average cost of a home is 3/4’s of a million dollars. Most residents work multiple jobs as they chase a dream of the heart, the theater, the gallery, or the music studio. No halfway here, you must own it in full. The city shuns posers and wannabes’. San Francisco will grind you up, drink you down, and pee you out into the great Pacific with as much care or concern as missing a bus.

        A group of five men–all of them wear ball caps; three with their bills turned wrong way around–pass a 12-pack of Bud-light between each other. Chug, crush, and drop under a seat are their mantra, as they discuss destinations. The train lurches, and beer slops and flows over a backward-hat Giants fan’s face along with the passenger he is standing above.

        “Sorry Bro,” he laughs, turns his back, as Suzy looks up and frowns at him. “Let╒s start at O╒Reilly╒s in North Beach or the International,” on lower Columbus Avenue. “Maybe we can get some leg on Broadway.”

        Suzy stands and choose a different, forward facing seat next to a woman who is shuffling cards. Whatever, she thinks to herself, I’m not playing. A woman and her child, a 5-year old girl, sit two seats in front of them. The little girl has brown hair, dirty chocolate covered cheeks, and large red lips. She turns around and stares at Suzy. Suzy frowns and squints, stern, but the girl’s expression doesn’t change. She cinches her eyes and continues to stare. Suzy looks away. She can feel her gaze upon, but before she looks up the woman next to her deals the cards onto the flat side of messenger bag. Suzy stares at the cards; they are tarot cards.

        “Honey. It’s not nice to stare.” Her mother grabs her arm. She is mesmerized and will not turn around.

        Suzy studies the cards and doesn’t look up. She remembers the reading she had in Vegas, and although it was close, the future didn’t turn out as she was hoping.

       “Honey.”

        Suzy fidgets and looks up. She frowns at the little girl then raises one of cheeks and the side of mouth in a sneer. Don’t state at me you little bitch, Suzy thinks to herself. Look all you want, bitch, but you will never be as pretty as me. Your going to be fat and ugly like your mother. I will cut you from your slit to your mouth.

        “MOMMY, mommy,” she yells as her open as wide as they can, “STRANGER DANGER, mommy, stranger,” she raises her arm and points at Suzy, “danger.”

        “Honey,” her mom grasps both her arms, lifts her up and turns her around.

        Suzy giggles to herself and looks back at the cards. The woman sitting next to her is shuffling them again.

        “Be careful what you ask for,” the woman says in a low raspy voice.

        “Excuse me,” Suzy replies.

        The woman is her forties with dark black hair, olive skin, and green eyes. She is dressed in a professional pantsuit and smells of parsley or cilantro. “Would like a reading?”

        “I don’t have any cash,” Suzy shrugs her shoulders and grins.

        “No problem. I don’t read professionally and rarely on moving vehicles. I just like to pass the time.”

        “Okay.”

        “There’s not room for a full card spreads, so I’ll just do a five card. I am Aisha.” She says and looks into Suzy’s blue eyes. “You have beautiful eyes.”

        Heat raises in Suzy’s cheeks, and she giggles. “Thank…you, I think. I’m Suzy.”

        Aisha nods her head and continues to shuffle. “Think about your question, or what you want to know.”

        “I don’t understand?” Suzy is puzzled.

        “You ask the cards a question, not a yes or no, but a complex question about your future or anything happening in your life right now. I’ll deal the cards and then read them for an answer.”

        “Okay. Will I find my phone?” Suzy laughs out loud. “I think I left it at a bar.”

        “No. No. Not a yes or no question, something more complex.” She holds the cards.

        “Hum, okay, am I going to marry a rich man and have a nice house in the future?” Suzy asks; her eyes light up and she burps.

        “Okay. Now, think about your question and what you want.” Aisha shuffles again for few minutes. She sits the deck down on her lap in two separate stacks. “Keep thinking about your question and choose a stack.”

        Suzy reaches over and picks up the stack closest to the window and hands it to Aisha. She rubs her hands together; her eyes are wide open.

        Aisha puts the choice on top and deals the cards onto the flat side of her messenger bag. She explains as she sits the first card down into a 5-card spread, “the center card is the present.” She sits a card on it’s left, “this is the past.” She sits a card below the center, above the center, and to the right of the center card. “This card is what is influencing your question; this card is the full potential of your question; and the final card on the right of center, is the outcome or future.”

        Suzy shakes her head up and down, and then looks into Aisha’s green eyes. “What does it mean?”

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        Aisha points to the center card, “in the present, the Six of Swords means you are traveling by water to overcome any obstacle.”

        “Under you mean,” Suzy interrupts. BART goes under the bay,” she snarks.

        “Yes. Under, over, through water in this case means a fluid movement towards a solution. Think of the Swords in a row as oars on a boat, or the speed of motions is 6, not one. You are moving quickly, steadily to overcome negatives.”

        “Wow.”

        Aisha points at the card on the left, the Five of Coins, “you’ve lost something of material value.”

        Suzy laughs out loud, “duh, my phone.”

        “Yes, and the reverse…”

        “Reverse?” Suzy furls her brow.

        “A card that is upside down is reversed. It usually means the opposite trend of what the card means in its upright position.” Aisha explains.

        Suzy shakes he head, “oh.”

        Aisha points to the past card again, “you’ve lost something, perhaps your phone, or perhaps you’ve had money troubles. You’ve been stagnant in your goals; but you’re turning it around, with steady, quick momentum. You are going to find it.”

        Suzy gets a big smile on her face. “Wait, is that a Devil in my future?” She looks up at Aisha a little shocked.

        “Yes, but not in the sense of Satan or religion. We will get to it. But first, the cards above and below gives us an idea of why and how far the solution will go.”

        The Richmond Inbound train pulls to a stop at the Embarcadero station. The crew of game-caps moves to the exit, and divides the beers of the 12-pack. Suzy looks up for a moment and turns back to the Tarot reading.

       “Hurry, what does it mean? I’ve got to get off at the next stop.” She taps the messenger bag.

        Aisha sighs. She points to the bottom and top cards in sequence, “as I was saying, the bottom card tells us why your are asking this question and the top card tells us how far your solution can go.”

        “Yes, yes.” Suzy taps the Devil card in reverse, “the outcome?”

        “The Five of Cups tells me you╒ve been preoccupied with fantasy pursuits and unrealistic expectations. Since it is upside down, you are tired of day dreaming and want to leave it behind.”

       ”That is so awesome,” Suzy responds.

        “The top card, the Empress tells me you have to power to fulfill realistic expectations, money, family, and career. Your ambition to succeed can make you happy.” Aisha bobs her head in affirmation and says, “The card on the right in the future position, the Devil, up side down, means simply that you will succeed in being freed from the bondage of your desires and find real happiness.”

       Suzy laughs out loud, ”I don’t know about that family stuff, but I know in my heart I’m going to be famous and rich.”

       ”It’s good to know your own mind,” Aisha replies and picks up her cards.

       ”I wish I had more time for another reading,” Suzy says, “you’re really good.”

       ”Thank you.” Aisha answers.

        The train pulls into the Powell Station. Suzy stands up, but is bumped back down as the train lurches to a stop. She stands again and turns to Aisha, “I╒m going to find my phone too.” She throws her hair back and moves toward the exit. “Watch out,” she yells at the passengers in front of her, “an Empress is coming through. Out of the way you peasants.” She laughs, but no one is listening to her. “Pheasants,” she yells again and steps onto the platform.

       The fluorescent tubes on the opposite side of the platform flicker on/off, and it’s the first thing he sees. Suzy points her finger at the lights, waves her arm around the air, ╥stop that. Heal lights.╙ She laughs. “Fucking lights.”

       “Pittsburgh Inbound in 5 minutes. Daily City Outbound in 1 minute.” The automated announcer calls out to riders waiting on the platform. There doesn’t seem to be any rhythm to the flicker and it draws her gaze; it’s off, buzz on; buzz off, off, on, and off.

       ”Well, she’s wrong about my powers,” Suzy chuckles. “I better find my phone, Damn it.” Standing off the bottom of the escalator, Suzy takes a breath and looks around. Pheasants, I am surrounded by scum and freaks, she thinks to herself. The platform is empty except for a group of a dozen men and three women, who are dressed to the nines in 1920’s Great Gatsby regalia. They must be headed deeper into San Francisco, probably the Castro. She cuts in front of an old man to step onto the escalator, “Your too old,” she says out loud, but doesn’t watch for any reaction.

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