The Fool and the Magician
A Memoir of Love Told in Tarot Readings
by Angela Lam
Genre: Midlife Memoir
On the cusp of forty, Angela Lam consults with a tarot reader for career advice and receives the following prediction: she will find a new job and, while there, she will meet a man who will heal her heart. Already married with children, Angela tells her husband who is unconcerned about what the cards reveal. But when the prediction threatens to manifest, will Angela’s family fall apart?
This true story will inspire you to reexamine the definitions of midlife crisis and spiritual awakening as well as challenge the roles of fate and free will in your life.
Advance Praise for The Fool and the Magician:
Lam’s memoir uniquely blends an exploration of love, relationships, mental health, with the more mystical and magical original elements. Her vulnerability and nuanced emotional states allow readers to truly connect to her profound and intimate story.
—Publishers Weekly The BookLife Prize
Fifty dollars. That’s all the money I have left. I scrounge around the bottom of my purse, searching for loose change and double check the inside zippered pocket in the event I stashed a couple of extra dollars when I was too much in a hurry to place the bills in my wallet. Nothing.
I can’t sit here much longer. Without air conditioning, the inside of my twelve-year-old four-door sedan is an inferno. The heat plasters my bangs to my forehead and sweat streams in rivulets down my sides.
Fifty dollars will either fill my tank for a month or buy groceries for a few days or pay for a half hour tarot reading.
I start the engine and back out of the parking space in the glass and steel business park where I work part-time for a private money lender whose business has dried up with the Great Recession. Although I do not want to leave the mom-and-pop enterprise, I am following the advice of the family law attorney I recently consulted—marriage counseling and a full-time job with health benefits.
The counseling has been arranged through my current therapist who referred me to her friend in the same adobe office building on the corner of College and Beaver streets.
The job search has led me on a wild goose chase from San Francisco to Ukiah without any offers.
From what you told me last night, we have only one month’s income saved before we end up in the 90 day foreclosure process, possibly losing our home. After devoting ten years of saving for the down payment, I do not want our investment to be another casualty in the financial crisis. Even if one of us must surrender fifty percent to the other in a divorce, at least the children will have some place to call home.
After a short drive, I pull into the parking lot of Crystal Channels to meet with Melanie, a tarot card reader. During my teens and twenties, whenever I faced an apparently insurmountable situation, Laura, my best friend at the time, would remove a set of tarot cards encased in a black velvet pouch and tell me to shuffle, silently asking my question and placing my energy into the deck. Through tarot readings, I decided to leave my first serious boyfriend to date you. Since then, whenever therapy, prayer, and logic fail to relieve stuck feelings, I turn to the tarot to unleash hidden wisdom. According to a 2009 study by Pew Research Center, roughly six-in-ten Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions, including Christianity and the occult. By 2018, six-in-ten Americans regardless of their religious beliefs will hold at least one New Age belief such as reincarnation or astrology. By 2019, The New York Times will have an article about how alternative practices, such as tarot, factor into traditional psychotherapy. In 2021, The National Catholic Reporter will have an article centered on findings from Springtide Research Institute showing fifty-one percent of people between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five combining their traditional religious beliefs with the practice of tarot reading because of the widespread influence of the internet and social media.
But this is the summer of 2010, and I am a thirty-nine-year-old Catholic woman seeking answers from God. I cannot find any reliable statistics about how many people believe in the divinatory powers of tarot. All I know is I want a glimpse into the future to discover if I find a job in time to save our house from foreclosure. Knowing what will happen is comforting. I can prepare for better or for worse. I do not have to go by faith alone into the unknown. I can walk confidently, armed for whatever the future will bring.
I met Melanie a few years ago while searching for crystals to heal the shattered despondency I felt after losing James. I don’t remember what cards were drawn or what was spoken between us. I only remember the cloud of despair lifting from my spirit. Since then, I’ve respected Melanie’s talents. I am confident my appointment with her today will enlighten my fruitless job search.
The tiny bell on the glass door announces my arrival. A chill from the air conditioning shimmies up my back. Seconds later, Melanie steps out of a curtained alcove smelling of sandalwood and amber incense. She reminds me of an older version of Laura’s mother, a former hippie artist-turned-elementary school teacher. Long white hair frames her cherubic face. A colorful caftan conceals her shapeless body. Leather sandals cover her broad feet. She smiles sweetly when she shakes my sweaty hand.
After taking a seat at the small round table, I clutch my purse in my lap and breathe in deeply.
Melanie releases the curtain, shielding us from the foot traffic in the two room store, and sets out her garden tarot deck on the table. “What’s bothering you today?”
I exhale loudly, my shoulders slumping forward. “I’ve been searching for a new job the last few weeks, but I haven’t found anything.”
Nodding, she shuffles the cards and deals them into a circle. Turning the first card over, she touches the petals of a sunflower. “You’re looking for a job that will use your skills, something you’ll excel in, a job in which you will go far, much farther than you’ve been able to before.” She meets my gaze and smiles. “Aren’t we all looking for a job like that?”
I nod in agreement. So far, so good.
She turns over the next card. “You’ve taken jobs to get by, and you’re not opposed to doing that again.”
Fiddling with the straps of my purse, I recall all of the jobs I’ve applied for over the past 30 days, including jobs in which I am qualified for but do not want. I sigh. Even the last interview at a sandwich shop didn’t pan out when the owner took one look at my business suit and said, “You’re too good to scrub toilets.” I protested, claiming, “I clean my bathrooms at home.” But he shook his head and escorted me to my car, unconvinced.
Flipping over the next card, she strokes the petals of a pink daisy and frowns. “Two jobs are competing for your attention—one is close to home; the other is far away. You’ll do well in either position.”
I lean closer, clutching the purse straps tighter. I have applied for a loan servicing position at an attorney-operated private money enterprise in San Rafael, a forty-five minute drive away, and a loan documentation administrator position at a community bank, five minutes from my house.
She reveals the next card. “You’ll take the job close to home.”
I smile, and relief washes over me.
After turning over the final card, she hitches her breath. “When you’re there, you’ll meet a man who will heal your heart.”
Frowning, I lean forward. “What do you mean? I’m looking for a job, not a boyfriend.”
She sits back and chuckles. “My dear, this man is not a boyfriend.”
I glower at the card of a metal armet and pink eglantine flowers winding around golden chalices. “I’m not looking for a one-night stand or a part-time lover.” After Anthony, I vowed to never befriend any man as a potential romantic interest.
She touches my hand. “My dear, this man is not a one-night stand or a part-time lover.” She leans closer and squeezes my cold fingers. “This man is your next husband.”
Angela Lam is an author of several books focusing on the lives of modern women struggling to find their place in this ever-changing world.
She has spent the past three decades writing professionally for newspapers, small press, and literary magazines. She’s also worked in real estate, finance, art, and nature therapy.
An award-winning author, she is the recipient of residencies at Hedgebrook and Vermont Studio Center.
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