I woke up energized. I thought, “This is good. I’ve had a full night’s rest.” But then I checked my watch and it said 1:30 AM. I looked out the window. A silver silhouette revealed the hills of Nebraska. Orange barn lights littered the floor and hundreds of white crystals hung from the sky. I considered going to sleep but was too awake. The kind of energy that’s both calm and intense.
I stepped out of my seat and walked into the car I hadn’t been in before. Its walls seemed to be made of stainless steel, glimmering violet. None of the passengers were awake, except for one, a young man sitting erect in a booth at the opposite end of the car. When I got there I realized he was sitting cross-legged, his knees beneath a low-lying table. Behind him was the sky, somehow more brilliant than the one I saw moments before. Comets and meteor shot back and forth every second. The milky way was discernible, its creamy infinity flowing through the vast abyss.
I saw constellations I’d never even seen before, and somehow knew the myths about them. For example, there was the broken lobster constellation, named after the king who- with his mighty hands- killed his two wives at the same time when a beautiful woman walked past; then, the woman transformed into a man and cast a spell on the king with his staff, splitting him in two, banishing his separate halves to the sky and to the sea. This knowledge came into me from an unknown source with no effort on my part.
I stared at the young man and saw in his features- the long hair, slender nose, and delicate hands- the figure of a woman. He had on the table a clay pot, two cups, and a deck of cards. He nodded when I motioned to the empty mat across from him. I sat down and said, “Thanks” but he didn’t reply. He poured tea into our cups, first mine and then his. We lifted the cups up to our lips and slurped- the taste was sour and sweet, creamy and warm. I felt drunk, instantly. I panicked, but he reached out his hand and touched my arm to say it was all right. Then he held out his other hand, palm facing up as if to say: observe.
I did. A shadow washed away the clear lines of the room. Although nothing could be told from anything else, I could now feel where the energy in the room came from and where it went, and could respond to it, feeling myself become more vital, unimpeded by my own tendency to resist wherever the world is headed.
Then he picked up the deck of cards and began to shuffle. The cards were made of actual paper: old, yellow and musky. His hands shuffled and spun the cards this way and that, grouping them and dividing them, re-grouping and shuffling again, with both method and absolute indifference.
Then, he picked out a single card and slid it across the table. “Don’t I get to pick my own card?” I asked. For the first time he spoke. It wasn’t english or any tongue I knew.
He repeated what he said, looking intensely at my card. I noticed the separate syllables he made this time- they told me this was my card. I turned it over and a sudden pain entered my throat. I started to choke. Tears went down my face and a gordian knot in my neck grew tighter and tighter. Then, cut by a sword, it snapped and I was able to breathe clearly, deeply, better than I have for a long time. A tightness in my shoulders and chest that I didn’t even know was there went away. My hands started to shake and he held them. Then the room became clear again and all the objects and passengers re-appeared.
I looked down at my card and saw it was blank. I started to flip over the other cards. He didn’t stop me. Each card, one after another, was empty. We started to laugh. He re-organized the cards and began to shuffle again. I re-filled our cups with tea.