“Your Belief Undoes Your Disbelief”

As we talked about several months ago, my shrink suddenly explained that he actually wasn’t taking my insurance at the moment and I found myself sort of cast adrift, therapeutically, until I realized that my barber, David, could see ghosts and told me a very complicated story about a little girl who haunted this house he once lived in with someone I think was an ex, but maybe not. I do know that the little ghost girl made a glass spin in mid-air before crashing it to the ground and that sounds like a fight a couple would have, but that’s just me using my romantic intuition.

Coincidentally I had explained to my doctor that I was Very Sad All the Time and what could we do about it that wasn’t losing weight and she said, “Who suggested losing weight to treat depression?” and I said, “I like you.” She put me on an anti-depressant (Zoloft) and guys, listen: it’s been SO MUCH BETTER. It’s not that I don’t feel sad any more; of course I feel sad sometimes. But I don’t dwell on the sadness, prolonging it as an additional way of punishing myself for being a frail human being in the hands of an angry God.

51PL02vbAbL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_But I still see my barber, who has become an integral part of my mental health maintenance. Like, last Wednesday he says, “What are you reading?” because the book I have is one of those fat paperbacks that were more popular in the 1980s than I think they are now, but this book would DEFINITELY be sold in any of your better grocery stores in the books/magazine section if it were published today. It’s called Ultimate Evil (“Mr Bevel,” Jeff said, and just looked generally disappointed in my current methods of Self Care) and it’s about how the Son of Sam case is probably connected to a splinter Satanic cult from The Process Church on account of some VERY clever code-breaking the author, Maury Terry, now dead, figured out. (We’ll just say the “evidence” proffered means Will Shortz is probably part of the SoS conspiracy.) None of it is super convincing, but it passes the time and I explained all of this to David, my barber, who has amazing teeth and doesn’t make me feel self-conscious about sweating, and he said, “I believe evil forces like that are organized in the world; someone put a curse on me once,” and I said, “You need to start at the beginning with this.”

So this is the story he told me, and it went like this: When he was working in a bank in Atlanta, he said, he had really good luck, all the time. “Or, maybe, not great luck, but I didn’t have a lot of bad luck,” he explained. But then, one day, at lunch, he tells a co-worker, Maria, who was from the Philippines, that things hadn’t been going great for him of late. “Everything just sort of started going wrong, everywhere,” he explained to me, and also said to Maria. Maria said, “Listen, after work I’ll read your cards. We’ll figure this out.” And David explained that there are a lot of good psychics that come out of the Philippines, “because they’re Catholics, but open-minded,” he said, and I made a note of that because I love learning about other cultures from white people. So, after work, they go to Maria’s car (“Wait, she did a tarot reading for you in her car?” and David said, “We couldn’t use the break room because Maria got written up once for that.”) and she lays out a tarot spread and she gasps as she overturns each card. “Do you remember what cards came up?” and I thought to myself, while David answered, “If he says that the Death card came up then that seems pretty too on-the-nose and something anyone would say who claimed to have had a tarot reading about a curse,” but David said he didn’t remember the cards well at all that came up, just that Maria gasped a lot, and at the end she said, “David, someone has put a hex on you.”

“Did you know what a hex was?” I asked him. He did. This was after the little ghost girl who spun glasses, and he had read up on a lot of things (“Next time, ask me to tell you about The Rothschilds,” he said, and I made a note of it, because of course I will), so he knew about hexes and curses and charm bags and this lady made him buy some candles and do some other things that he wasn’t comfortable talking about in the salon (“I’m out of here soon, but I want it to be on my terms and not, you know, because of charm talk”) but he did all of the steps, and oh, it also involved a piece of paper that I think he said he still has (Note to Self: Before asking about the Rothschilds, ask about that slip of paper and see if he’ll show it to you) and anyway, it all worked. The charm bag and the piece of paper and the stuff he won’t talk about in a salon, it all did what it was claimed to do, which is to reverse the curse/hex that had been placed on him.

Do you know who placed the hex?, I asked, and he said, “Yes, I do.” How did you know it was her, I asked him. “She’d sit in the bomb shelter of the bank in the dark and smoke cigarettes,” he said.

Where I’m going with all this is: I’m in a tough place often, with stories of this kind: I believe the people, because the greatest gift we can give someone is our belief; I don’t always believe their stories, however? Does that make sense? Like, I’m sure my barber believed SOMETHING happened to him, and I’m sure he also believed that he was able to end what was happening via a counter-spell; but I’m also not entirely sure that a chain-smoking weirdo in a bomb shelter is capable of hexing anyone?

Special person,
if I were you I’d pay no attention
to admonitions from me,
made somewhat out of your words
and somewhat out of mine.
A collaboration.
I do not believe a word I have said,
except some, except I think of you like a young tree
with pasted-on leaves and know you’ll root
and the real green thing will come.

— “Admonitions to a Special Person,” Anne Sexton

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