Imagine an exotic, Turkish-inspired coffee shop on the second floor of a cluster of Santa Fe art galleries. Run by sheikhs, all porcelain-white people wearing white turbans and sculpted sour expressions.
The decor is lush. Lots of hand-tufted rugs and handwoven textiles stuffed into pillows. Lavishly tassled and tossed into raised-bed booths and corner hammocks.
Deep red is predominant. The tones of aged wines from quixotic and ancient cultures create a space of timeless welcome. A safety net to sink into and forget the worries of twenty-first century America.
This space is everything I want a coffee shop to be: an afternoon ride on a magic carpet.
And as I nest into a corn crib of pillows, a genie appears.
Squatting across the private table from me – uninvited – unsummoned – a man sits pretzled in a perfect lotus flower. Dressed in handwoven/hand-dyed clothing, he is nearly camouflaged by the cafe itself.
His hair is dark as espresso. Crinkly and curly.
He has chin stubble that wants to give birth to a beard.
His dark eyes sear through the dusky light into my consciousness.
He wears amulets.
He carries a deck of tarot cards that he ceremoniously places on the table.
He is silent, and, keen upon appearing more enigmatic and mysterious than his birthright.
He is . . . a self-created apparition.
And as he pokes a hole in my solitude, I’m offended.
I wind my legs in a knot and tuck them under my turquoise-tiered, gossamer skirt. This posture grounds me as I choose to lift my eyes and meet his in a direct standoff: a soundless dartboard of eyeballs bouncing. A game only strangers can play with the logic of graceful hatred.
As my green eyes bite his chocolate malt-ball eyes, it is war.
The rare ecstasy of invisible sparring begins.
Before I can thunder kick him with words, he turns over a handful of intricately beautiful images. All glossy patterns on sturdy card stock.
My anger diffuses.
“What’s your number?” he asks with soft determination.
“I don’t know. I’ve never understood numerology, but, my favorite number has always been eight.”
“What’s your birth date?”
I give the date. He converts it into numbers. Adds them up. They total “8.”
“You are right to trust your instincts. Eight has been, and always will be, the guide of your life.”
He shuffles several cards and lays them out on the table in a pretty little pint-sized argyle acre of tidy tilling.
I’m fascinated. His nimble fingers work so quickly. His voice speaks through the wine colors of the room. He is a weaver of words and prophecy, and, I am soon nearly tipsy with the trickery of old.
In a trance, I hear mention of money. Is he asking me to pay for oracles I haven’t ordered?
My anger reawakens. I sit stone cold like a clay-slab plate perched at chest height.
He evaporates like the fog he’d ridden in on.
Magic carpet: exit stage left.
I sip my tea. But I’m not able to relax again. My peace has been robbed by a thief with stolen eyes.
Untangling my legs, I slide from the booth, reluctantly leaving its pillow-safety behind.
On cat feet, I creep down the back stair exit. I glance left before entering the sidewalk. In my periphery, I see Gypsy Man in all his robed glory, seducing the soul of another solitary woman who sits silently at a white wrought-iron table on the street level patio. Trying to smile without entangling her dignity in his Turkish taffy eyes.
I cross the street, wondering about the safety of playing with numbers. I think: Roulette wheels. Poker. Stock Market portfolios.
But I still love the number 8 with all its loops of infinity and lazy filigree meandering into the future.
It all started with an 8-Ball sitting in the lap of my childhood. The friend of a lonely little girl.
It answered my dreams and talked with my fears. Over the decades, its status was raised. It earned its place as the lone star flag of my heart.
And neither the Silk Road scammers nor the market analysts can steal – or – correct the investment it holds in my destiny.
For what it’s worth, I’ll continue to toss my own dice. To count my own numbers. Dance with them. Love them. Follow their wisdom of happiness and contentment whenever I can solve their intricate equation of existence.
No interlopers invited.
I’m a solitary integer in this cold, dark universe of arithmetic.