At the carnival, there was a palm reader in a back corner of a big tent. She wore a business suit, carried a briefcase. This was unexpected. There was a big sign, we noticed later.
It’s the Cusp of Exposure, she said, regarding the day.
She pointed to the date on the calendar. It was August 23.
She gave us one of those How Dense Can You Be? looks and explained that this was an in-between day, and everything was in flux.
We held our questions.
Between the maiden and the lion, she said, the salvaged wheat and the overflowing rivers; the keeper of lists and the spotlight-seeker on stage, where the right decision is somewhere between healing a broken system and setting it on fire.
But we just wanted––
Between coastal tsunamis and a mountain threatening to blow, the singing revolution and a warlord on late-night TV, between earth crashing up beneath your feet and a fall from a hot-air balloon. It’s the birthday of the poet and the mathematician, the engineer and the biologist, the sculptor and the publicist––
I think we––
––politician pianist, sailor architect, socialite soldier, chess master cartoonist, bandleader baseball player, photographer priest. . . it’s the feast of the mystic and the day of the flag.
We were just curious, we told her, moving to leave.
Not everyone buys it, she said.
We explained about having no money.
No, she said, I mean the whole idea. The day itself, she said, the cusp day. It’s caught between recognition and mockery.
It was a strange experience because we had not been planning on a palm reader. We had not planned on the carnival, either. The point of our visit had been to park by the fairgrounds, to access the trailhead that led to the wetlands under the freeway bridge. But we got stuck between our intentions and what was available. When you’re looking for quiet at a carnival, sometimes the palm reader is your only option.
Well, she said, is it your birthday? It wasn’t, so we left as we had come, still curious and still looking for a quiet place, but now less sure that we would find one.