19 July 2005

Fortune Cookies Du Jour

Afternoon Thunderstorms and Other Forecasts For Your Future

So I'm sitting here behind glass in an air-conditioned cafe waiting for the rain, chewing on a fortune cookie. Like anyone, I do a fair amount of thinking about the future. I imagine a tanned, grinning version of myself standing easily in expensive clothes, accepting the vague accolades of his peers. There is, perhaps, distant pattered applause. Or I fantasize about more prosaic things, like being able to order a nice glass of pinot noir with dinner.

Shoes are only sometimes the measure of a man.

The thing about fortune cookies is that they're deliberately unhelpful when it comes to the future. They like instead to convey a kind of omnipotent knowledge of the present.

Not all that glitters is jade

There's an art to these kind of vague reassurances. They seem to indicate that this is the way things are. Lucky numbers are lucky numbers always and forever.

35, 67, 68, 79, 2

I, according to the Chinese Horoscope - to change the subject slightly from fortune to destiny - am a Fire Rabbit. Picture that hopping down the lane, trailing smoke, glowing orange and cherry red into the distance. Always on the verge of exploding into white tufts and flecks of time. Singed and teetering on the edge of fatal disaster. They say mine's the lucky sign. And sure, that rabbit's lucky as hell. On fire for all this time and he's still not dead? One lucky fucking rabbit. You do the metaphor this time around - I'm tired and waiting for rain and you can fill in the blanks anyway.

Tonight you will find that flexibility entertains.

So all I'm saying - and it isn't all that much - is that if I had my own fortune cookie factory, we'd do things a little differently. We'd tell the future. Because we all know, don't we, what the future holds?

Tonight the ladies will drink for free.

Meanwhile - and there's always a meanwhile - the heat is asthmatic. Thunderheads hang low and swollen and wool-grey. They choke on the damp. The air is a wet cloth pushed into open mouths. It suffocates. Gasping, birds fall from the sky. Knees wobble and tongues hang. Fans strain and fail. Air conditioners cough. Ice melts on contact. Mold glories. It exults in dark crawlspaces. It spreads over towels and back-closet coats, squeezes between the pages of shelved books. It spreads overnight, arms itself, advances by hidden routes. It spreads like dye dropped in water, like stop-motion tree roots, like wine spilled on a white tablecloth. It a heat like this, suffocating underneath vengeful clouds pregnant with rain, brick becomes mud. Drywall, wetwall. Ice cream, soup. Eyes swim in their sockets. Veins engorge. The moist cauliflower of the brain turns to sponge.

It rains, like it should, briefly at six sharp.

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