When it comes to the supernatural, I am what you might call a disappointed skeptic. The various wedges of my brain war with one another over concepts like ghosts, witchcraft, psychic powers, and communion with the dead: The sensible, businesslike parts forcefully doubt the existence of such things, having had no convincing experiences, while the artsy, imaginative parts just think they are way cool, and wish desperately that such an experience would visit me the way it has others. (Those latter brain bits are also responsible, or so I tell myself, for my long hair phase in college.)
It’s easy for a person like me, who lives on rationality as a staple food, to dismiss those who claim to have witnessed the ethereal first-hand as kooks and crazies. But in truth, part of me is just a bit jealous of them, and of their unconditional devotion to the belief in something beyond the measurable world. And when I meet such a person, I can’t help feeling a conflicted yet robust wish to share some fleeting connection with them, and perhaps to harvest a kernel or two of their spirituality by osmosis.
The other day, I was filling up the car at a convenience store downtown. As I dutifully headed toward the front door to pre-pay, my eyes were drawn to a parked hybrid car by the myriad colorful bumper stickers that wallpapered its sloped rear hatch. Pentacles and other occult symbols littered the lot of them, though on the whole the stickers leaned less toward the lurid and wicked and more toward the jaunty and kitschy. Most bore jocular slogans proudly declaring a fondness for witches, witchcraft, and sass. There was even one particularly large sticker declaring “I Believe In Faeries”, suggesting that which specific school of myth the driver adhered to was beside the point.
Immediately, my mind split into its usual two factions: the one side finding the car (and therefore its occupant) rather silly, and the other side reflecting upon it with something nearly but not quite like admiration. The compromise I reached was to make a game of searching for and trying to identify the owner, who had to be inside the store. However, the game ended before it began, because just as I set foot upon the sidewalk along the front of the store, she emerged into the afternoon sun.
The woman was everything I would have imagined. She was short, middle-aged, swarthy and leonine, and she swept through the doorway with graceful purpose. Her dusky eyes were thickly lined in black, and her long, inky hair fluttered in the draft kicked up by the suction of the opened doorway. Her Romani-style dress was finely pattered in black and purple, with long gauzy silks that draped low from both arms.
As we approached one another on the sidewalk, all at once I decided to try to catch her eye with an eloquent gaze, to see if I could win myself one of those long-sought connections with the spiritual world and its community. Perhaps she would see something in my countenance that only eyes attuned to the mystical could recognize, and identify in me some untapped necromantic potential.
Her eyes met mine, and I favored her with the most subtly arch grin I could summon. Her glance dusted me briefly from head to foot before returning to linger a moment on my bold, no doubt impressive visage.
As she drew close, she began to lean in my direction, her gaze never leaving mine. My mind flushed as I realized that she meant to speak to me. I had done it: I had attracted the attention of one who communes with the World Beyond, who possessed a kind of knowledge which had for so long eluded me.
She leaned close and placed her lacquered crimson lips near to my ear. What timeless wisdom was she about to impart? What secret truths had she deigned to confer upon me and me alone, here among all these less worthy, less impressive individuals?
She whispered, “You’re flying low.”
It took me slightly longer to process than it should have done. Flying? Was that some metaphorical allusion to the path I was taking through life?
No. Wait. Oh.
After turning to face the unjudging brick of the storefront and hurriedly reaching down and zipping up my pants, I stood rooted to that spot for a stunned moment while my head swam with humiliation. Then I recovered myself enough to turn around and give the witchy woman my abashed thanks, but she was already too far past me — about to climb back into her hybrid — to make calling out to her anything but awkward, even more than the situation already was.
And so the supernatural world continues to shun me. Perhaps I will always be a skeptical man grounded in logic and reason, and really, there is nothing so bad about that. Besides, I am fairly certain that before I will ever be allowed to attain awareness of the Realm Beyond The Vale, I will first be required to attain awareness of the Realm Below The Waist. After all, if I were a ghost, ancient and melancholy, the last thing I’d want to see is some overweight guy’s underwear. Talk about haunting.