Chapter 15: In search of a Prince
It is Monday on the afternoon of July 3rd. Sandy is in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There are no clouds today; not even the hint of a monsoon to be. Before Sandy turns off the vehicle, she lets it idle and listens to the motor. Sounds good as far as she could tell, but how could she tell? She is more than usually worried about the health of her car’s motor as her automotive repair fund is depleted. There is something about not having money saved for an emergency which speeds an emergency along. Sandy has found the clairvoyants’ office. She checks her bank account to be sure she could afford- no that she has- the $40 for a reading. She does not have a spare $40 clearly and cannot afford this frivolous spending, but she does have $40 in her account should she choose to spend it in this frivolous manner. She is a little concerned that the office is in a strip mall. There is an overpriced grocery store which sells organic vegetables and conscientiously farmed meat, a Chinese restaurant advertising vegetarian options, a private photographer’s studio, and a clairvoyant’s office within this strip mall. Santa Fe! The two offices sit side by side: the photographer’s office and the clairvoyant’s office. Both have small wooden signs announcing themselves inconspicuously. All the cars in the parking lot are parked at the supermarket which is packed on this day before a major holiday. Sandy sits in the only vehicle parked on this side of the parking lot and watches the cars on that side of the parking lot exiting and entering parking spaces. She hears a horn and sees a man walking into the supermarket with his finger raised to a woman getting out of her vehicle. Well, whatever her problems might be, at least Sandy doesn’t need to go grocery shopping today.
Sandy is embarrassed when she thinks about her hypnosis regression session this morning. She had apparently slept quietly after being hypnotized. Linda says she had not said anything until she woke up and there is nothing on the tape. When she awoke and asked for paper and pen, Linda handed her a small notebook and pen from her desk. Sandy wrote down the words to the poem as if by rote and without thinking what they said or meant. Linda asked if she could read what Sandy had written. Linda handed the poem back to Sandy along with a referral to make an appointment with the psychotherapist at the clinic. Linda said that it was clear that this was more of a mental health related issue than a spiritual healing issue at this point. Linda did not think that Sandy could, at this point, trust the hypnosis process enough for it to be helpful. Because of the depressed nature of the poem related to the abyss of loneliness and transitional period between Hell of past love and death, as well as the fact that Sandy seemed to be focused on a fictional man she had made up, plus Sandy’s own statement related to being concerned about her mental health, Linda wanted to encourage Sandy to seek mental health support. Once the psychotherapist thought it was appropriate, she could resume hypnosis regression again, if she wanted. Sandy was stunned at the time. Now, she is simply embarrassed.
On her drive back from Dulce, while driving through Santa Fe, she had decided to throw her better caution to the wind and seek the advice of a psychic or a medium. To have come all this way and spent that much money and not have any real results! At least a psychic will make something up and tell you something you want to hear. She thinks of the astrology site which sends her daily emails. It is not that she really believed in astrology, but she always felt the advice was worth reading. “Today would be a good day to let the anger go.” “Reach out to a love one to tell them you love them.” “Something important will happen today if you are paying attention.” Random advice which never seemed wrong even if it wasn’t always right. Wouldn’t a psychic at least give her some platitude to carry with her so she could feel like the day was worthwhile?
Now, Sandy is not so sure about seeking psychic help. She has found the psychic’s office and is simply sitting in her vehicle; watching the traffic across the parking lot. She pulls out the poem that came through her this morning; the poem about trust. She thinks about her dream. In the hypnotic trance, it seemed like she had some control of the dream. When she saw the words on the screen, she felt that the mystery man in the dreams thoughts were alongside her own and as if his emotions, his heart, were part of her. She had thought-but I want to see him-and she had. He was in the distance. She could see he was tall and wearing a cowboy hat. Her mind had naturally went to wanting him to hold her and suddenly he was-just as he had in the one dream before. She leaned back in his strong arms. He rubbed his newly shaven face on her neck. It was nice to have that much control, but she still couldn’t turn around to see him. The words were still on the screen and she thought to herself she wanted him to read the words to her. She felt suddenly a block-as if her mind was pushing against some type of force. She then heard a deep, soulful voice whisper in her ear. He said only the one word: darlin’ and then the man was gone. Darlin’ and not darling. The first syllable was drawn out and the second cut off short without the precision of the ending g.
“Motherf…” There was some type of altercation in the parking lot across the way; a fender bender of some sort. Sandy rolled up her own vehicle’s window so no one would hear as she read the poem out loud. She stopped and read again the verse that had concerned the hypnotist.
Yet we stare down the road to darkness,
At an abyss of loneliness until the end,
In a perpetual transitional period
Between the Hell of past love and death.
Yes, this is a depressing few lines. Sandy accesses the memory of the mind and heart which had been a part of her in her dream. Of course, he is depressed. Someone he loves is sick. He has just found out this person is very sick and might be dying. Of course, he is thinking of his own mortality and death. Thinking of death makes him think of love. He wants to be in love again to give meaning to the remainder of his life, but he is concerned that he might hurt another woman. This has now been expressed in two poems.
Sandy realizes that the hypnosis this morning had been helpful. She had seen him in the distance. She had felt his arms again. She has heard his voice. It just wasn’t enough. She wants to know more about this man. She looks over at the modest wooden sign hanging in front of the clairvoyant’s office. Is consulting a medium she found through Google search the smartest way to learn more? She glances back at the traffic in the parking lot – looking to distract her thoughts or looking for a sign to make up her mind. A tour bus pulls into and continues to her part of the parking lot. It pulls in a couple of rows ahead of hers; the closest spot to the photographer’s shop. Four men get out. The first two men to exit the bus are young. The third appears older. He looks at the ground to measure the distance between the last stair of the bus and the ground before carefully planting one foot and then another from the stair to the ground. He is carrying a violin’s case. The fourth man is a tall man, rugged looking from the back, and as he exits the bus he puts on a cowboy hat. A tall cowboy in the distance? What are the odds? She then thinks that she is in Santa Fe and so the odds are pretty good. She opens her car door. Time to see what a psychic could tell her.
The clairvoyant is a short, stout, older woman. She has very wavy, shoulder length salt and pepper hair and beautiful hazel eyes. She is dressed in what Sandy thinks of as Santa Fe chic- jeans, a white shirt, understated brown Western boots and a lot of turquoise jewelry. There is a long wooden table in front of a long mirror mounted on the wall. The mirror appears to be hand carved and matches the legs of the table. Santa Fe chic furniture! The smell of patchouli and sage lingers in the air. Sandy and the psychic have a brief conversation about price and Sandy pays in advance. She takes out her debit card and sighs before putting it back and taking out a credit card. Better hang onto cash. Sandy explains she is interested to know about her past lives. The clairvoyant gestures for Sandy to sit with her back to the mirror and she takes a seat looking at Sandy and the mirror. She explains that during their session she might appear to be looking past Sandy into the mirror. The mirror helps her to focus her visions. It is important Sandy does not look into the mirror. Sandy should begin by thinking only about happy and pleasant thoughts. She should let her mind go wherever she wants, but at first should try to concentrate on the things she finds most beautiful. When the clairvoyant begins to speak it will mean a spirit has come to her. Only after she begins to speak should Sandy let her mind wander away from happy thoughts and only then can Sandy ask questions. Sandy thinks of her beautiful daughter riding her bike. Her daughter’s tanned legs are pedaling and her long dark hair is hanging down her back. She is on the path near the river. Sandy thinks about her daughter for what seems like a long time before the clairvoyant looks into the mirror. When the clairvoyant begins to speak, she has a similarly well-modulated voice as Linda used this morning.
The clairvoyant tells Sandy that in her past life Sandy had been a man who died very young. He died as an adult, but very young and in war. She sees him in uniform, World War II, she thinks, and dying on a beach in a battle. He was brave and heroic-fighting on the right side of history. That is all she sees.
Please give more details, Sandy asks, where is he from, is he in love? The psychic appears to deepen her gaze into the mirror. He is an American, she says, from New Jersey. He remembers when he lands on the beach in battle, how he had spent much of his youth on the beaches in New Jersey. It is what he is thinking about when he dies. She doesn’t know if he was in love or not.
Sandy thinks to herself that he is not her man. He died too young to have the regrets over love as the man who comes to her. Sandy asks if she can see any other lives. The clairvoyant tells her she was an Apache squaw living in the West before that. She cannot tell more except that there was sadness.
“What is it you really want to ask,” the clairvoyant says to Sandy; looking now not into the mirror but directly at Sandy. She is staring at Sandy, but her eyes appear to be focused or rather unfocused in an intense but lost distance only she could see. “What is it you really want to know?” “About a man, a cowboy,” Sandy finds herself whispering. The medium tells her she has never been a cowboy. Sandy sighs.
Clairvoyant: It is not about a past life, but this life you wonder about. Not about who you have been, but someone you will meet. You will meet him soon. He is closer than you think. He will be wearing a cowboy hat when you meet, but he is not a cowboy in the way you think. He is employed with the University of New Mexico. I do not know if you will fall in love. He is handsome. You will be attracted to him.
Sandy: Is he a poet or a songwriter?
Clairvoyant: I cannot see. The images are gone. I am afraid the session is over.
She instructs Sandy to sit for a minute silently out of respect for the spirits. She then hands Sandy a bottled water and opens one up for herself. “It is very important to stay hydrated,” she tells Sandy. “Do not be surprised if you are tired and especially thirsty tonight. These experiences can really screw up your electrolyte balances.”
Sandy thanks her and goes outside. She is confused and is actually both tired and thirsty. As she walks outside she notices a man standing by the photography shop. He is small in both height and bulk. He is wearing jeans, a white shirt and a bolo tie. He watches the bus she has seen earlier drive away. He smiles at her and she stops and opens up her bottle of water.
Sandy asks him, just to make conversation, if he is the photographer and he says yes. She asks him if the men in the bus were in a band. Yes, he tells her, The Lonely Players, has she heard of them? She shakes her head. She doesn’t listen to popular music. He tells her they are a country band playing tonight in Santa Fe and Wednesday night in Albuquerque. He tells her the location in Albuquerque. It is close to the bar. She wonders if it might be a busy night. The photographer tells her he was taking publicity pictures. She could look them up online. There are several videos posted. The main singer plays some kind of odd musical instrument- something he had never heard of before, but he didn’t listen to country music. He was more into the Santa Fe Opera then the Grand Old Opry. He is flirting with Sandy which annoys her a little, but she does not want to be rude.
The photographer asks Sandy how her session was. Sandy shrugs. She is not sure. He asks her if she was talking to her deceased. Sandy tells him no. She was exploring past lives. The short man laughs. “So, what were you? A young man from New Jersey who died in World War II or an Apache woman.” All Sandy can think is “fuck.”
On her way back to Albuquerque, Sandy listens intently to her car’s motor and curses her stupidity. It is a little bit of a relief when her boss calls and asks her to work a shift. As a salary employee it will not give her more money, but it will be nice to do something familiar, productive and structured after a day of such strange. She should have expected to work tonight. Days around a holiday people always call in “sick”. He tells her she can come in late the next day in exchange, perhaps around 8 pm. It is likely to be slow earlier due to the holiday. Sandy is happy she will have some additional time with her daughter tomorrow. There is a carnival out of town, she promised to take Isadora and Carmen to prior to dropping them off at Juanita’s for fireworks. Sandy shakes off the strangeness and the regrets of the day. She has spent the money. It is gone and worrying will not bring it back.
July 4th might normally be quiet in a bar, but the third never is if the holiday is during the week. Too many people thinking it’s like an extra Friday. Sandy stays busy and, as she hoped, distracted from the events of the day. However, the poem on trust keeps rolling around in her head. She likes these poems and songs which she now thinks of as gifts. Gifts from the blue screen! Gifts from the tall strong man in a cowboy hat! Can you trust me without knowing me? She feels like he is a man she could trust.
Sandy sees a man with a cowboy hat come into the bar. He is in his early thirties. He is one tall, handsome man, not too handsome, but handsome enough. He seems to take care of himself. He orders a Jack and Coke. When she asks for an Id, he realizes he doesn’t have it in his wallet. Doesn’t she think he is old enough, he asks with a smile. Nice teeth! Sure, she does, but his credit card doesn’t have a signature. It says see ID. He asks if he can show her a work ID. It has a picture of him and is from the University of New Mexico. That will work!
Closing time is going smoothly. The only customer left is the University Professor who has been flirting with her all night. The bartender calls out to Sandy that the wait staff who called in sick tonight is on the phone. She sounds hoarse and Sandy feels bad for thinking she was faking. The wait staff says she knew she shouldn’t come in tonight, but is really concerned about money. She hasn’t made her rent yet. She heard a story on the news tonight, there is a big concert event near the bar on Wednesday night. The bar will be hopping, but she is scheduled off- please let her work. Sandy has scheduled herself to be one of two wait staff that night. If this wait staff comes in, Sandy can have the night off. She can clear it with her boss tomorrow. She tells the wait staff yes, please come in on Wednesday. Sandy hangs up the phone and does a happy dance, tells the bartender that she has just arranged to have Wednesday night off. The professor hears her, calls her over, and asks if she doesn’t want to go to a concert with him on Wednesday night.
Sammy, the professor, is really just an associate professor, he told her earlier in the evening. It is unlikely he will make tenure. He is a folk historian specializing in Western folk heroes, the myths of the Wild West. Class sizes are down and the only reason he was invited back next semester is because he has picked up a popular class from another instructor who is leaving; a class on the paranormal. Sandy asks him if he believes in psychics and mediums and all that. He says not in the way people think. Paranormal studies has an interest in him only as it reflects on the culture. Why do people in northeastern New Mexico believe more in ghosts, he asks, than other areas in the state? What does that mean in terms of the cultural ancestry of the place? There obviously are not ghosts, but there is a reason why the people in this region believes in ghosts.
Sandy told him earlier she didn’t like Cowboys and Sammy explained he wore the hat ironically. He doesn’t idolize cowboys; although he studies them. His academic thesis was on the danger those Western myths pose to modern day society. It is damaging to the modern male psyche when modern men try to measure up to the heroes of the old West.
As Sammy invites Sandy to the concert, he explains to Sandy why he wants to see this band on Wednesday night. He tells her the band has been getting a lot of media attention; exploiting the myths of the Cowboys and playing on people’s patriotism. Really shameless manipulation of these images! Wearing an image of an Eagle on a too tight shirt! Playing on a Western movie set. It’s hilarious, he says, but working and he wants to go to see what kind of people are buying into it. This front singer, getting all the attention, even plays this old instrument nobody has ever heard of called the dulcimer. Sandy says, dulcimer? I know, Sammy says, what the hell is a dulcimer. Sandy smiles. Sammy had been interviewed on the phone for background information by a journalist. He has learned that the media likes positive quotes about the cowboy mythology so he has learned to modify his opinion a little when he talks to them. The university likes when he receives credit by the media as an expert and so he wants them calling back. Whatever he told the journalist who called, he really wants to go and see how this cowboy professor is playing the audience to earn his dime. At first Sandy says no, but Sammy persists. Sandy thinks of the prediction from the clairvoyant and how nice it felt to have the tall, strong man with the cowboy hat hold her in his arms this morning during her hypnosis. Not a man from a past life, possibly, a man from this life, the psychic had said. Sammy is smiling at her now with those white teeth. She relents. Yes, she will go with him to see the Lonely Players.