Once I was in love with a boy who broke my heart in ways I did not know a heart could be broken. And while I was mourning and wondering if it was actually over, time to move on, kaput, I did what any self-respecting, nearly 30-year-old woman would do.
I went to see a tarot card reader.
Her name was Sky. She had a shock of platinum blonde hair and arms covered in tattoos. She took one look at the cards and told me three things that would change my life.
First, she said I would soon be saying goodbye to New York, a city I had spent seven years in and considered my forever home. Second, she told me my career would be a winding path, full of unexpected twists and turns, but that I should remain open to all possibilities.
She paused before her third prediction, and then said, “Are you in a relationship?”
“Did you recently get out of one?”
“This is delicate,” she said. “But I have to tell you: He is your destiny. He’s not ready now, but in three years he will come back to you. In the meantime, you should move on and date, but it won’t work out.”
I hate to say it, but I wanted to hear that. I wanted to hear that the butterflies I felt when my ex and I first met meant something. I wanted to have been right when I told my closest friends that I had found The One. I wanted confirmation and now I had it from a woman whose cards were as worn as her face. How could she be wrong?
The first two predictions came true quickly.
Six months after the reading, feeling exhausted by my low-paying life as a theater director, I made a surprisingly swift decision to move back home to Michigan. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do there, but I knew I had to leave New York.
In Detroit, there wasn’t much theater, so, as predicted, my career took a winding turn as I put my side gig training to use and taught Pilates full time.
My tarot reader was two for two and not even a year had passed.
And then, at a house party thrown by high school friends, I met Brandon, the man it would not work out with, at least according to my tarot reader. Or more specifically, I re-met him; we’d had a high-school fling 10 years before.
Among the half-finished beers and red cups of punch at the party, he made me laugh. He was tall with a gentle face and a shy smile he couldn’t contain. I softened in his presence.
A week later we strolled through a nature preserve and got to know each other again. After that he started calling me from work and texting me from camping trips. When we went out to dinner with friends, he put his hand on the small of my back and I had to catch my breath.
“I care deeply about you,” he would say with that soft smile sweeping across his face.
“I care deeply about you,” I would reply.
I soon forgot he was not the one I was destined for.
After almost a year in Detroit, I returned to New York for a job I had committed to before Brandon and I got together. To keep our long-distance relationship alive, we learned to press play at exactly the same moment so we could watch movies together. We visited each other every few weeks and missed each other terribly while we were apart.
I fell very much in love with Brandon. There was no lightning strike of certainty but rather a slow warming that grew into something sweet. I wanted to marry him, and I told him so. I daydreamed about painting walls and walking dogs and all of the ways in which we would build a future together.
Seven months later, my work in New York was done, and I decided one final move was in order. This time I wanted to pursue filmmaking in Los Angeles, another twisting turn in my career. Brandon agreed I should do that. His work in real estate was somewhat transferable and he said he would join me there soon. I believed him.
During those two years I had spent falling in love with Brandon, that ex-boyfriend, my supposed destiny, had been attending graduate school in Los Angeles. As I headed there, I hoped that after he graduated, he would move back to New York, so as not to tempt me into falling for a fate I no longer wanted. But when I got there, I found out from a mutual friend that he was planning to stay.
I was immediately struck by the possibility of a chance encounter with him. I found myself wondering where he lived, how he spent his days. I would think I saw him on the street and my heart would pound, sending waves of anxious energy through my body, but it was always just some stranger with a similar haircut.
As my anxiety about him grew, my relationship with Brandon began to suffer. The time difference was difficult, the flights long and expensive and the pressure for him to meet me in this new life all-consuming. I begged him to hurry up and move but he wasn’t good with big changes, and this big change seemed to have stopped him in his tracks.
Months passed with me trying to keep one relationship alive while fearing another was chasing me down. And then, just weeks before that predicted three-year finish line, my friend who was still in touch with my ex decided to visit us both in Los Angeles. Just like that, a door opened. For the first time since our breakup, my ex and I were linked in time and space and it had me reeling.
Had the cards been right? Had the entirety of my two-and-a-half-year relationship with Brandon just been a mirage? Had it always been meant to dissipate at the moment this three-year waiting period expired? Or had I made my destiny true by believing in it?
And what was I supposed to do now? Wait patiently for the cards to push me into some predetermined new old life? Let one relationship fail so I could open my arms to another that I had grown to resent for haunting the corners of my mind for three whole years?
I finally wrote an email to my ex.
“Hey,” I began casually, as if this greeting had not weighed heavily on me for ages. “It’s been so, so, so, so long. I live in LA now and I know you know that. I guess I’m hoping it’s finally time to have coffee and say hi? Whaddya think?”
After three years of wondering, I had to wait only a few hours for his response.
“Yo yo,” he wrote. “I appreciate the guts it must’ve taken to reach out, but I’m not really interested in grabbing coffee, sorry. I do sincerely hope everything in your world is awesome though!”
And that was that. No destiny. No lightning strike. No certainty written in the cards.
Months later I would run into him in a park, where he was sitting on a bench with some woman. And he wouldn’t even stand up to say hello or introduce me to the person he was with. He would just sit there uncomfortably and ask if I liked Los Angeles, and I would walk away laughing at the absurdity of it all.
But in that moment, sitting with the reality of my ex’s email, the cards still had one more prophesy to fulfill — that I would date someone but it wouldn’t work out. I had loved Brandon, not because some tarot card reader had told me to but because of something true and deep between us. Yet within a few months, we, too, had broken up. We were different people living in different places who had drifted apart.
We didn’t break up because the cards said we would, nor was it a failure of the cards that my ex and I didn’t reunite. I chose to believe in the possibility that there was some perfectly pre-written story that I was only playing a role in, but there was no pre-written story for Brandon and me. There’s no pre-written story for anyone.
And isn’t that part of the bargain we strike with our partners? That we are willing to live together inside of a story being written rather than a story already told? And that trying to see the future before it happens is just an attempt to make the terrible uncertainty about being in love, and staying in love, a little easier to bear.