Tarot for Storytellers: Under The Leo New Moon
In honor of always-expressive Leo, I felt compelled to put my tarot storyteller advice into action. I’ve been feeling creative, energetic, and inspired lately, and excited to tap into some rapid writing practice. It takes some Leonine courage (or maybe arrogance haha) to put an unedited story up for the world to consume.
As the Leo new moon rises, what courageous acts are whispering in YOUR heart?
Listen carefully. And be brave!
Ashley, The Novel Mystic
Everything was Fine
by Ashley Christiano
Do you ever wake up and realize your life is perfectly fine? You worked hard and with a lot luck somehow your ducks are all in a row. Your job is decent and you don’t loathe your boss for the first time in years. Your salary is good, affording you money to travel and buy all the yogas pants you want. Your boyfriend is attractive and treats you well. Your house is good. Nice, even.
You can relax. The to-do of life list is in good shape.
But still, something doesn’t quite feel right. It’s like you know the light is shining down upon you, but as if through a fog. Things should be clear. You should be happy. But there’s a lurking feeling that you’re missing something.
That’s basically where I’m at. I know. Woe is me. My life is perfectly fine! How atrocious.
“Jessica…” my sister, Lisa, says.
“Yes?” I say, voice clipped, annoyed at the interruption. I’d just gotten into the groove!
“You know you’ve been monologuing for like ten minutes, right? I’ve, liked, microwaved my ramen and fully consumed it, and still you’re waxing on.”
The sound of water in the background, probably Lisa rinsing off her spoon.
“Brian’s gone again. Traveling for work.” I sink down into my favorite reading chair. The one that looks out onto the little pond in my backyard. The neighbors are quiet tonight. No kids running around, no dogs barking. Not even the ducks are floating across the manmade pond.
“I’m jealous. I feel like Mark is always here. He’s like a hermit,” Lisa says.
“I heard that,” Mark yelled in the background, voice muffled.
“I rest my case,” Lisa said. I could hear the smile in her voice.
“Want to come over? We could binge Bridalplasty again? Or finally start Dynasty?”
Lisa lives about a ten minute drive away, just one exit I-94 the highway from me. We used to hang out more. Sometimes three or four times a week. Now I’m lucky if I see her a few times a month.
The line goes silent.
“You can bring Mark?” I offer, trying to keep the resentment out of my voice. “You know, the aforementioned hermit?”
A muffled conversation in the background.
“We’re in! I’ll bring the wine. I’ve got this new red I think you’ll love. See ya in ten!”
“You order a thruple?” Mark jokes as he follows Lisa into my foyer.
“Har, har,” I laugh, rolling my eyes. Mostly to avoid the fact that when he'd said thrupple I immediately took a look at his package area.
It was an instinct, I swear!
Lisa’s already in the kitchen, rustling through the silverware drawer on the quest to find a wine opener she can figure out how to use. She refused to try my electric one, saying it was created for the weak and lazy.
“Aha!” She exclaims and Mark and I join her in the kitchen. She easily uncorks the bottle and pours us each a healthy glass.
I sniff it and swirl it, pretending I know what I’m doing.
“Mmm, Merlot?” I ask.
“No. Syrah,” Lisa laughs.
I sniff it again and take a sip. “Tastes like…peppery grapes.”
“Yes. With a hint of…” Lisa takes a sip and scrunches her nose. “Quality soil.”
We both laugh as Mark looks between us, clearly confused.
I take a few more sips as Lisa explains the inside joke to her husband. Even though it’s kind of a “you had to be there” thing. A kind of “us” thing that was no longer ours. I take a bigger gulp and then hold my glass out for a refill.
Lisa dumps the rest of the bottle in to top me off.
We migrate to the living room, Mark and Lisa taking the loveseat and leaving me the giant ass couch all to myself.
I feel so small as I settle in, glass clutched between both hands. They’re laughing about their own inside joke now, which of course Lisa does not explain to me.
Pulling my phone out, I send Brian a text.
Miss you more, he shoots right back.
And I know he means it. My heart settles a little, but tears spring to my eyes. Is it normal to feel sad and lost when your person is traveling? My life is one big normal, but sometimes I feel so small within it. Like a mote of dust on an otherwise clean couch. I’m just…there. Aware of myself and all around me and overwhelmed by it.
I glance up. We’re thirty minutes into a show already. I don’t even remember starting it. My wine is gone
Well, no. It has switched colors.
Wait, it’s beer.
This is not what I wanted. I wanted a quiet night with my sister. Alone.
Not this weird sensation of being a third wheel in my own home.
I grab the remote and mash my finger down onto the pause button. The screen freezes on an image of a bride with a bandage on her bruised and swollen nose looking thrilled about her recent surgery.
“Umm, everything okay?” Lisa asks.
I inhale through my nose, a short burst of air and anger. “No.”
“Would you care to explain?” My sister asks, eyebrows raised. She leans back further into the loveseat. Her fighting stance. Faux nonchalance designed to put the enemy at ease.
“I think I’ll…go to the bathroom.” Mark excuses himself.
“Why did you bring him?” I hiss before the bathroom door has even closed. Screw Mark and his perfectly nice niceness.
“You invited him.”
“Only because you wouldn’t come by yourself. Why wouldn’t you come by yourself?”
“So. I’m not arguing with you while you’re drunk.”
The toilet flushes and we both snap our heads toward Mark as he re-enters the living room.
He freezes, and then backs slowly away.
“If you have something to say to me, say it,” I order Lisa.
She sighs and just stands up and collects the two empty glasses from the oak coffee table. Her lips are moving, twitching like they do when she’s trying to figure out what to say. How to get the words right.
My stomach sinks. I was just pushing her buttons. Drunk and raring for a fight to give my life some extra spark.
I didn’t think she actually had anything bad to say about me. I was fine. Everything was fine.
“To be honest, Jessica,” she begins and my heart literally stopped beating.
Was I dead? Was I dying right here, with this unexplained wine glass of beer in my hand?
“This is why I didn’t want to come by myself. I knew we would fight. Well. I knew you would pick a fight with me and I was hoping that Mark would act as a buffer for us.”
“I didn’t pick a fight!”
She didn’t even bother to respond to that, just kept going. “You just seem so bored. And petty, to be honest. As if nothing is good enough for you. And yet you have no complaints? It’s really confusing. And I just don’t want to deal with it anymore.”
“So you’re opting out of being my sister?” I blink back tears, but also feel relieved. Like this was what I expected. What I wanted.
To be proven right that I don’t deserve all the goodness I’ve got going on in my life.
“No,” she said, her voice infuriatingly soft. “I’m opting out of being your therapist. Frankly, I’m not the least bit qualified. You know, since I’m in sales. But also, because I can’t be that for you anymore. It’s not healthy.”
“You mean I’m not healthy.”
“I mean you’re not happy.”
I set my wine glass on the coffee table and lay down on the couch. I pretend to ignore my sister when she calls my name. Pretend to not hear when she and Mark murmur in the hallway and then quietly leave.
I pretend not to hear when Brian sends me his goodnight text.
I pretend not to hear when the alarm goes off in the morning.
Or when my mom calls.
Or when work pings me, wondering where I am.
I just lie there, on the couch, staring at the chilling. Wondering what it’s all for.
And that’s when I realize: I don’t know what it’s all for.
And I’ve never tried to find out.
I heave myself off the couch and stumble into the bathroom for a quick shower. The hot water runs over my scalp, down my shoulders and chest, soap suds not quite washing off my legs before I shut off the water and step out of the shower. The towel feels soft against my skin and I moan into it as I pat my face dry.
Is this what life’s about? The feel of a clean face in the afternoon?
I step into my favorite pair of shorts, hook on my best bra, and button up the pale pink blouse I bought a few months ago that I was always saving for a special occasion.
Is that what life was about? Dressing like you mean it, just because?
Tucking my phone into a back pocket and tucking my keys into a front one, I let myself out the back door and pad, barefoot, across the dry grass to the manmade pond.
A lonely duck greets me with a morose quack.
Is this what life was about? Seeing yourself in the eyes of a duck?
I pull my phone out of my back pocket and shoot off a text to Brian.
Miss you, too, he shoots right back.
And then I place my phone, ever so gently so as not to disturb my duck friend, into the water. I push it deeper in with my bare foot, screen scratching against the pebbly ground. With each push, something in me lightens.
Is this what life was about? Saying goodbye?
I was never going to be okay with perfectly fine, I realize as I turn back to the house. I was always meant for something more.
I walk around the side of the house I've lived in with Brian for almost eight years. We just redid the siding, settling for a nice, clean pale blue. Brian wanted something simple, like white or beige. I’d wanted something pretty, like lilac or sage. We’d settled on something we were both fine with.
And I was over settling.
Because that was not what I wanted my life to be about.
I run my hands over the sun-warmed hood of my car, the one thing I owned that was as flashy as my diva heart wanted: a cherry red Mercedes convertible that was not remotely practical for Midwest winters. Or even Midwest summers, to be honest. But it was what I wanted. It was what made my heart sing.
Is that what life was meant to be about? Listening to the lyrics of my heart?
I think I’d gotten lost, listening instead the ambivalent hum of half agreement.
Life was not, I was sure, meant to be a prison of my own making.
It was time to unlock my cell. To take off the jumpsuit. To race past the wardens and into freedom.
I hop into the car and turn the ignition, smile blooming on my face like the sunset seeping pale pink over Lake Michigan. I pat the dashboard and look behind me as I peel out of the driveway.
“Let’s see what life’s about, Bonnie. Let’s see what we can do.”