Zoltar told me it would be so.  “Believe me,” he told me, “and it will be so.”

I hold the ticket.  The remains of the ticket.  I grip it (the ticket).  I grip them (the remains of the ticket).  I grip and grip and grip until I think the pulp of the paper itself will come apart, will dis-integrate, will allow itself to let go of itself, each piece becoming a new entity apart from the whole.

But my hands no longer sweat.  The soft paper just rubs up against the softness of my palms – first one palm and then, as I shift the weight of the ticket between hands, it rubs up against the other palm.

I am hungry.  I want a sandwich.  I want to smell the shop that I used to stop by.  The smell of coffee over the smell of fresh tapenade over the smell of curried salad over the smell of the out-of-doors that comes in and back out through the door.  (The smell of the out-of-doors becoming its own entity, separated from the actual out-of-doors as it comes in through the door, hanging as a ghost apart from its body along the walls of the shop – that shop that I used to stop by on my way to and from other places.)

It’s cold.  It is no wonder that my hands do not sweat.  It is no wonder that they grip this ticket tightly.  There is warmth in this ticket, apart from the ticket, waiting to get out of the ticket, waiting to pass through the paper-soft flesh of my palms, through the withered bone of my hand (of my hands), waiting to get back to the out-of-doors where all heat came from and where all heat is returning.

Zoltar told me that I would find love.  He told me that.  Last summer when I put a quarter into the mechanism upon which he sat, around which his glass prison was situated.  His eyes lit up (the light at once coming from and then separating itself from his eyes).  “Believe me.  I know,” he said.  And then, “Believe me and it will be so.”

A grinding and a soft ratcheting and the ticket came out of the slot.  And, there, beneath the flashing orange bulbs along the marquee above me, the prognostication: “Give your heart and you will find love.”

It was inevitable.  I said my final good-bye to Joan.  Joan Didion.  Not the Joan Didion, but my Joan Didion.  We had met back in 1995.  She was softly ravishing and said that her name was Joan Didion.  I never questioned it.  She was crazy but in a way that just makes you want her more.  Ah!  All water under the bridge or over the dam – water that has been separated from the great body upstream and will continue to tumble over the rocks and rapids farther downstream.

We said our goodbyes.  Just words that pass through our lips, expatriated breath from our corrupted bodies.

“Tell Anthony that he’ll be fine,” I said.  She shrugged.  Anthony stopped talking to me a few years back – an expatriate of my loins.  He’ll be fine.  He is fine.  Just as we’re all fine.

Give your heart and you will find love, the ticket had told me.  And so I was giving my heart.  Letting it go.  Giving it away.

New York is cold this time of year.  Brutally so.  I wonder what Zoltar would say of the cold.  They probably pulled a padded cover over his glass case.  The orange bulbs of the marquee are probably dark.  Coney Island isn’t open this time of year.  Not open for business.  Business has flowed out of it, returned to its dark corner of January where it carries on quietly in the machinery of the world.  I grip the ticket.  I grip and grip and grip so that the blood maintains its temporary flow through my fingers.  The wind rattles a loose windowpane along the street.  A clerk steps out to tighten a bolt, then hurries in out of the cold.  The wind babbles nonsense as it tosses the flap of my tent like a loose and shameless tongue – frivolous, tattered, wanting of the flesh beneath it (I will return to the tented space tonight).  The wind blows and rattles and babbles.  I grip and grip and grip the ticket that has given me my destiny; I grip it so that the blood maintains its temporary flow through my fingers.  The wind chews on those fingers, waiting for the expatriation of the thing that lives temporarily in that blood.

Zoltar told me it would be so.

from the collection of: m. gantee