A Reading – Bracklinn Williams

Past card the King of Wands

I do sometimes feel guilty about playing into the blind fortune-teller trope. I’ve decided to be honest with you in this reading, but when I’m feeling deceitful I’ll wear a blindfold just to play it up. In truth, the way I experience blindness doesn’t mean my eyes are useless. I can’t see anything in the center of my vision, but around the edges I can see light, shadow, vague shapes of color. I don’t navigate the world by sight like you do, though. A blindfold doesn’t bother me.

I was born like this. Well, not quite. I was born premature, and in the NICU I developed retinopathy of prematurity, a particular eye condition that sometimes affects babies given oxygen. My point is that my vision has been like this my whole life, all twenty-six years of it. I learned my alphabet through Braille. My Tarot cards, too.

That’s how I read them, if you hadn’t guessed. I put little Braille stickers at the bottom, where the name is. The first sticker is a W, for wands, and the second is a K for king. I read them all like that. It means I can use the prettier decks, too, since I couldn’t use the image on the card as a visual aid if I wanted to. In this deck, the King of Wands is a gray lynx sleeping in the branches of a gnarled cedar. Or so I’ve been told. Funny how in this reading, both of us can only see through descriptions. Good thing I’ve memorized them.

There’s a lot of memorization involved when you’re a psychic; at least, when you’re a blind one. When I told my momma I wanted to be a psychic like her, she taught me palm reading but didn’t think I’d get any farther. So I learned my first cards by listening in on my mother’s readings. Ah, the King of Wands, she would say. Confidence, ambition, leadership; an interesting card to draw for your past. You were setting an example for others; what changed? After a few weeks of that, I came to her and started rattling off the Major Arcana. She was helping me label my cards by the end of the week.

I doubt my wanting to be a psychic would have been anything more than a passing phase if it weren’t for my momma’s resistance to teaching me. I love her, and she loves me, and she’s been as understanding as a sighted person could ever be. But she’s still sighted. Sighted people often see me as someone in need of protection, whether from the dangers of the world or just my own frustration with what I can’t do. Yet people can’t fly, and we don’t try to protect people because we’re worried they’ll be frustrated by their flightlessness. What I really need protection from is people treating me like that. 

Present card the Two of Swords

I won’t lie (I told you I was being honest this reading): I hate this card. It normally shows a blindfolded woman holding a sword in each hand. It’s supposed to mean the woman is making a decision, but because she can’t see she doesn’t know what to choose. I hate the implication that blind people go through their lives paralyzed by indecision. I manage just fine.

So I made sure to pick a deck that didn’t have the whole blind person thing. My Two of Wands is a pair of fighting herons posed mid leap above a pale green marsh. I can’t see the herons, but I do like the shade of green.

But the real reason I dislike it, even after I’ve switched decks, is because it’s the card I always draw for myself. In a reading with multiple cards, it will be the most important; so, for instance, it’s always the present card in a three-draw reading like this one. I used to think I drew it because of the whole blindness thing, but even with this new deck it’s persisted. Perhaps it’s the universe scolding me for trying to read my own fate, giving me the card I’ve always hated most.

It didn’t take me long to find out. As soon as I’d finished labeling my first deck, I gave myself a reading. Two of swords. I tried again the next day. Two of swords. The next day, I kept drawing and shuffling and drawing. Two of swords. Two of swords. Two of swords. I had my mother read me, then her friends, and still the card wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally, I got this new deck, free of the blindness imagery. The Two of Swords was the first card I drew from it. After that, I avoided Tarot readings for a very long time.

Until today.

I know, you think us psychics changeless. Year after year, it seems, we sit in our little rooms perched over Chinese restaurants, our signs blinking in the window. We never age, we never move, we never change. You would never know that the one in front of you is in the midst of a crisis. 

I read tarot, palms, tea leaves. I tell horoscopes from dates, dreams, numbers, stars. I cast runes and bones. I even have my own way of reading fortunes through smelling incense. As far as I know, there’s nothing left that I could learn. I’m happy with how I give readings, so I don’t see how I can improve there. I just feel so, well, stagnant.

I could try to pick up a second job. A lot of psychics do that. I have several hobbies — crocheting, making incense from the herbs I grow, blending tea — and I could try selling what I make. But I feel like I would hit the same problem. After a few years, I’d learn everything there was to learn. And then where would I go from there?

There’s only one other option I can think of: going to university. It terrifies me. I don’t know what I would study. How I would afford it. What I would even do with a degree. The only reason to go would be to answer this gnawing fear of complacency that lingers at the base of my spine. Would it be better to listen to it, to risk my present for the chance of a future? Or should I try to silence it? And if so, how?

It’s questions like those I’ve answered a hundred thousand times for clients. I just can’t answer it for myself.

So that’s why I’ve turned to you.

Future card the Sun

This card is gorgeous. If only one of us could see it.

You, at least, can see it if I describe it for you. A bottlenose dolphin swims through a sapphire sea, her young calf following close at her side. Above the water’s surface, the dawn is breaking, the white sun and its pale golden halo a bright blotch against a sky the same blue as the ocean. The sun’s rays of light are visible in the water like sunbeams in dusty air, and the dolphin’s bubbly wake glows almost white.

When I hold the card to the corner of my eye, I can see the blue and the gold. I think they’re both rather pretty shades. If I hold it close enough, and the light is good enough, I can just make out the dark smudge that I trust must be the dolphin.

People who realize I can see out of the edges of my vision like this often say funny things. They say it’s a relief I’m not “totally in the dark,” or that at least I know what colors mean. They ask if I’m hopeful about medical advances so I can “get the rest of my vision back,” or whether or not I go through life by turning my head to look at things through the edge of my eyes, or even if they can help me by holding stuff up to my face for me. It’s another reason for the blindfold, I guess. For most people, there’s only one kind of blindness. When your audience already believes the lie, it’s easier to give them that than the truth.

But I’m not wearing my blindfold now; I might as well answer them for you. I really only study things through the edge of my vision if I have a good reason to try to understand what an experience is like for the sighted world. So, for instance, the colors on this tarot card. I am glad I can see colors—I think they’re pretty — but unlike many of my clients, I can indeed imagine living without them.

And as for treatment? Never. I’m proud of how I’ve learned to navigate a world built for sighted people. Besides, if I did somehow gain sight, I’d have to relearn everything I know.

It’s a bit like if I tried to do something other than being a psychic, I guess. When you put it that way, it seems like I should stay a psychic just like I’d like to stay blind. But when I think that way, some part of me gets nervous. And yet maybe that’s what awaits me no matter what I choose. Maybe I need to just accept it instead of trying to find a way out.

It’s the sort of thing I wish I could get a reading for. I wish I could get the reassurance I’m about to offer you. The Sun is the card of optimism, after all.

You had a dream; a bold ambition. You dedicated much of your life to achieving it. And you had what it took — through your own will and drive, you reached your goal. But achievement is both a blessing and a curse. Your dream shaped your life for so long, only to vanish like the haze it always was. Who are you without it? Where do you go from here? You may feel now that there are too many choices, and you do not know what path to turn to. But the same strength that led you here will carry you forward. It will be all right.

That’s your reading. In return for it, I ask you to read me.