It was early in the evening in the streets of Georgetown, hot and steamy as ever, with the sun slowly bleeding into the sky and he was finally heading home after having spent a whole day doing things that weren’t putting money in his pocket. Somewhere in the vicinity of Little India he spotted his mark. Normally, he wouldn’t look for targets on empty streets like this but with a terribly slow week on top of an alarmingly scant season, he was keen to jump at slightest opening.
And there it was, opportunity knocking, wearing a tattered beer’s logo on his chest and well-worn traveling pants. Hiding a pair of fancy running shoes under a layer of caked mud, dressed in a halfhearted attempt to imply frugality but too neatly groomed for his own good. A man wandering about aimlessly in a place he did not belong. Even in the fading light of day, it was easy to spot him just by the way he moved. But there was something eerily familiar about this one. He realized that the stranger could have passed for a local had he worn simpler clothes and had more of the local spices permeating his pores. Those foreigners, he thought to himself, they even smell different. He often wondered why they never made an effort to blend in. His friends would always tell him it was lucky for him they didn’t.
Ironically, for one with his particular hustle, he didn’t place much value in luck. He firmly believed that there was a point in everyone’s life after which you made your own. Every event was a turn to be played out in someone’s favor. Some people were completely oblivious to this fact, mostly foreigners and the children of rich folks, those who could not be bothered with small details like worrying about their next meal, or having to sleep in the rain. There were always winners and losers and he had been dealt a rough hand in this game of life, right from the start. He came from the streets and he never had the privilege of leaving things to chance. Every act was a choice and he owned every one of them. As a result, he had mastered the art of making others believe in these fortunes he dispensed while he determined his own fate.
The scent of incense mingled with the thick air as he waited in the middle of the empty intersection. He offered a patient smile to the lonely soul drifting in his direction. Their eyes met and the fortune teller made his move.
“You are a lucky man!”
“Really?!” The stranger exclaimed, slightly taken aback as if the diviner had simply materialized out of thin air.
“You are a lucky man,” he repeated. “Do you know why?”
The fortune teller could already feel the page turning on his monetary misfortunes.
Calmly grinning, the stranger replied, “yes, I know.”
A tinge of alarm crept up his spine to the back of his head following the unexpected response and he was struck by a memory.
He had had a dream, not long ago, where he met a man at a crossroads, and this man led him on a strange path. In the dream, he had been moving about aimlessly from town to town, places he had always known but to which he had never been. Every alley, every edifice, every character in every town, every nook and cranny was as familiar to him as the lines covering the flat of his hand. Then along came this unfamiliar face who led him to unfamiliar places, from that very intersection, wearing that same gentle smile and serene eyes, moving in that unerringly foreign way.
There he stood, confounded by the turn of events. As the stranger walked away, he was reliving an encounter already branded in his memories. He knew the eversion of the man’s next step and the expression on his face. In an instant, he was overwhelmed by a fury of recollections, dreams that foretold a myriad other fates, ungainly riches, conniving deceptions, lifetimes of accomplishments, happiness, hunger, despair, conception and death. He relived them all, sights that could not be unseen, of memories yet to come.
The hustler became aware that his hoax had become real. But fate was not devoid of irony. While the futures of others lay prostrated before him, he was conspicuously missing from this vision. The uncertainty of his own destiny paralyzed him with fear. For the first time in his life he felt lost and darkness shrouded the road ahead.