Chance the Encounter

It’s the fourth of July, yet my mind is far away from a holiday. I was out in the city the other day when a stranger came up to me and said something I’ve heard for the umpteenth time in my life…that I “think too much”.

But a moment later, the same stranger told me that I probably “talk too much” as well. I smiled politely and told him he was right; it turns out that the man was there to tell me my fortune, that is, for just a small donation.

We were in the parking lot of a small store as I waited for mom to get back from her errand. I glanced at the stranger again, and saw a kind face in him more than anything else. Figuring that mom would be just a bit longer, I nodded to the man in affirmation of his wager. He proceeded to ask me a few questions about my life, including questions about my family, whether or not I had a partner, and what my number one wish was at the moment.

It was the last hour of the morning before the afternoon, and as the sun rose above, so did the heat. Still we were both humble in front of one another as the game between us spiraled us away from ourselves, or at least, from too much attention to one another.

The man told me that I’d live a long life, and that while I wouldn’t have much material wealth, I would have much respect in my life. He also told me that I would live a healthy life, and that I just had to let go of a few old habits to assure it.

I laughed and appreciated his words; they were refreshing to hear, and whether or not there was full truth in them didn’t matter, they’d hit just the right notes at an opportune time either way.

After another trick of the hand or so, the fortune teller assured me that he could pray for me in this fortune with the help of just another small donation. I smiled and laughed in kind, but informed him that I’d given him all I had. I was a humble man after all, I reminded him.

The man pressed on with his offer, but without even the slightest about face, still in kind. I smiled again and repeated my thanks. It was all the time I’d had to spare, too. The man finally relented, and we made for our separate ways. But just before completely losing sight of him, I asked the fortune teller for his name. He said his name was Lucky Baba.

Immediately afterwards I thought of how there are people out there who’d pay the fortune teller far more than I ever could for his kind spirit in that moment. All it was was location.

That is, he was just in the parking lot outside the store with humble people like himself rather than in the parking lot of L.A.’s more fortunate patrons. He was really bright, after all, with an ability to tell a story carrying the whole weight of the world in ways that many people out there already pay fortunes for on a daily basis.

It also seemed that the fortune teller was a family man, and that he wasn’t in his trade just for himself, but for his loved ones somewhere out there. All he needed was his own fortune from one of these encounters, to strike his own lucky payday for him and all of his dreams.

But it reminds me of that moment at the train station when a stranger can be seen missing a train somehow. Everyone rushes to their train when they can see that it’s just a few steps away given the right hurry. People gush forward to make it through the doorway, at times even slamming their fingers on the door handles to force the slightest opening. Sometimes other passengers help the would-be passengers in their desperation. Other times, they just stare blankly. But everyone has to miss the train at some point. Everyone has to almost get there…before they don’t.

Is it like missing destiny, or a part of ourselves that we’re supposed to have? Are we entitled to our destinations or do we just believe that we are? After all, maybe the toll of just almost getting there is like missing one version of our destiny for the same fate by another route, the latter of which is closer to home or more down to earth, as if everything we strive for can still happen if only after the slightest recalibrating.

In any case, there’s only so much time to gloss over what’s actually supposed to be. Eventually the next train arrives. And if we still want our destiny after all, we’ve got to move towards that next route every day, every time, even after we misstep.

And if Lucky Baba presses on this way, not so much in a hurry but with a warm patience, then so can I, and I’ve got to do it.

Here’s to a great payday for him one of these days, and to a lucky strike for all of us rushing madly towards our destinations, even after we just miss them.

With warmth from Los Angeles,

J.T.

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