- The Oracle of Denny’s
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[End Page 80]
After two pitchers of IPA, my friend Old Rob would say things like “The existence of the ‘self is so highly unlikely that it makes any debate over the existence of the ‘soul’ absolutely fucking preposterous.” This was before Old Rob fell off the climbing wall at our rock gym. As a founding member, [End Page 81] he often let himself in after hours to free climb, which was against every rule in the rule book he’d helped to write.
That was Old Rob.
The day porter found him in the morning.
He was spread-eagled, soaked in his own puddles.
I found out about it on Twitter.
“Do you want to come and visit this soothsayer with me?” New Rob asked. New Rob spouts of stuff like this while standing in line at the coffee shop waiting for his ginkgo tea. He doesn’t even care if he’s being overheard.
“This what?” I asked.
“A soothsayer. Do you want to come and see her with me?”
“I thought that’s what you said.”
“She’s not a Coney Island fortune-teller, if that’s what you’re thinking,” he said. He looked so earnest. He always looked so earnest now, which was strange, because in the past Old Rob had made fun of me for being overly earnest. “And she’s not always right, but when she is, well, she just is.”
“She just is?” I asked.
“I met this guy at a powwow. He told me she predicted the death of his mother—provided the actual time and date.”
“Yep.” New Rob bobbed his head with enthusiasm. “He’d gone to her for something else entirely, but she told him that instead. He didn’t believe her, but he wrote it down in his journal anyway; then his mother passed away—on that day and at that time. Car accident.”
“She’s like a spiritual grab bag, man,” New Rob said. “But when she gets in her groove, you know—it’s pretty freaking accurate, I guess.”
“Why are you going?” I asked.
“I’m going to ask her if I should move to India.”
I wanted to ask him about his work as a neurologist. Had he thought about returning to that? Had he spoken to his estranged wife about all this? She’d anticipated that Old Rob would return with the shock of having to fold his own underwear, but she was the one shocked when she found out that New Rob rode commando.
I wanted to ask Rob if this spiritual grab bag might be ripping him off, but instead I said, “Okay, sure. I’ll go.” [End Page 82]
“Good.” He patted my back gently when he smiled. And when he smiled these days, it really did warm your heart. He meant his smiles— every single one. He was so sincere it was almost appalling.
We sat down at a metal table in front of the coffee shop. New Rob blew at the steam rising off his tea. I drank my black coffee. We both listened to a hungover couple arguing in hushed tones about whose fault it was that the bikes had been lost during last night’s barhopping and speculating about where they might be.
Rob leaned in and said through the steam, “Those two could use a soothsayer.”
He did not. He was quite serious.
A squirrel jumped onto the concrete planter next to us and then sprang off, evading something unseen.
“The trance she puts herself into is dangerous. She almost died a couple times when she was first starting out. She gave me a price break when she found out I was a doctor. It’s a little expensive. I thought if she couldn’t answer my question, maybe she could answer one of yours. It doesn’t cost anything extra. It’s also good to have a friend along—in case she tells me something upsetting.”
“Like what kind of question?”
“I don’t know. Think of a good one...