I had seen her in the restaurant before and we had exchanged friendly greetings, but I have no idea who she is. Thursday night, though, we had a longer conversation. She’s intelligent and friendly, but a little reserved.
We talked a little about the days we had at work. She’s 72 and still works in a sales job. (I would have thought she was 10 or 15 years younger than she is.) We talked a little about family and I told her about the recent death of my father. But after about 10 minutes of friendly conversation, she surprised me.
“You need to get married,” she said with quiet certainty and with no context.
“Oh, I’d like to, but I don’t seem to have found the right woman who’s willing to put up with me,” I said, trying to turn it into a light joke.
“You’re going to be married,” she said. “You already know her.”
I laughed it off, assuming she was joking. But she wasn’t — and she wasn’t ready to let the subject go.
“You think I’m a silly old woman,” she said. “But I see what’s in your mind. Past, present and future are already all there. You’ve been taught you’re a bug moving along a long string called time, so you only see the little part of the string you’re on. But it’s all already there. She’s already there.”
She proceeded to describe a woman. It was a description which would probably fit thousands of women in this country — but in my life, there was only one like her. I knew exactly who she was talking about. And she seemed absolutely certain.
As I tell the story, I’m not certain whether to take it seriously or lightheartedly make fun of those who believe they can see the future.
I started out in life pretty close to being a complete rationalist. I needed an explanation for everything. If it didn’t have a solid explanation, I was inclined to make fun of it and to ridicule those who believed in it. I was pretty dogmatic in dismissing almost anything which I couldn’t rationally explain.
In the years since then, I’ve experienced some odd things — things which I know are true because I experienced them myself — but which I can’t explain. Some of those things are too strange for me to even share. I’ve experienced enough to know that there are things which I can’t explain — and I’ve experienced enough to believe there are some things which some people know with certainty — at least some of the time — which we can’t rationally explain.
I know a local man who makes his living as a psychic. I think most such people are frauds. At the very least, I know this guy believes what he thinks he sees. I hadn’t even seen him in several years, but I tracked him down about a month ago and told him I wanted to come see him. Since my father was in the hospital, I was curious whether he would say anything about him.
When we started talking, he soon got a puzzled look on his face.
“Did your dad die?” he asked me.
“Not as far as I know,” I said.
He was quiet for a few moments.
“Then he’s going to die very soon,” he said.
I asked him why he thought so and when he thought this would occur. He ignored the question about why he thought it was going to happen.
“I don’t know exactly when, but it will be very soon,” he said. “And I believe it will be on a Tuesday.”
That was on a Saturday. It was just 10 days later — on Tuesday, April 17 — when I got an early-morning call from a hospital to tell me that my father had died.
Did he really know that? Or was it a lucky guess? I genuinely have no idea. I just know I’ve learned not to make fun of certain people who think they can see things. Some people lie. Some are deluded. But some people see things that are real, even if their vision is cloudy or dark at times.
Have I become one of those irrational people who believes nonsense? I don’t think so. I’m just open to the evidence — and I wonder what things we don’t yet understand about reality.
The woman I talked with in the restaurant tonight didn’t seem crazy. She didn’t seem eccentric in any way. She was just a bright and intense woman who was certain of what she saw.
Was it coincidence that what she “saw” happened to match something in my mind? Maybe. I honestly don’t know. I just know that I’ve been humbled enough by things I’ve seen to realize that the world isn’t as rational and explainable as I grew up believing.
Maybe the woman will turn out to be right. Maybe she’ll turn out to be wrong. And if she’s right, maybe it will be a coincidence.
But for one electric moment when I was talking with her, I would have sworn she was seeing into the future.
My younger self would have ridiculed me for even listening to her, but I’ve learned that reality is far more complicated than I once imagined. Like a real-life Fox Mulder, I want to believe.