The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive
 

“Look, obviously waffle fries are a superior product because—”

And then a safe fell from the sky, crushing Glen in an instant. I jumped back a few seconds after it hit the sidewalk, in the unlikely event another safe was on its way, or the unlikelier event the safe would bounce upon impact, and land on me next. I always considered myself pretty unlucky, and even in the shadow of someone else’s monumentally bad luck, I couldn’t help but think that what I had coming was going to be a thousand times worse.

It wasn’t. Instead, the rest of my afternoon was a blur of police, camera crews, and informing my boss that I would not be returning to work for the rest of the week, and Glen would not be returning to work, full stop.

Everyone I came in contact with that afternoon said roughly the same three things:

  1. “A SAFE? Are you kidding me?”
  2. “No, seriously. SERIOUSLY. A safe?”
  3. “If I were you, I’d be a LOT more freaked out.”

The first two were pretty easy to explain. All I had to do was gesture to the safe, and what used to be Glen. Together, they made a compelling visual argument that a safe had fallen on Glen.

The third was trickier. It generally took a lot to freak me out about anything, which I had always written off as some sort of undiagnosed psychological disorder, or perhaps a benign growth that had laid waste to my emotional receptors. But that wasn’t why I was blasé with shock at that moment.

You see, I knew this was going to happen. Glen and I both knew. We just chose not to believe it.

I’m still not sure why Glen stopped to get his palm read on the way to the burger place. He never struck me as a superstitious type, although, to be sure, most of the non-work related conversations we had were about potato-based snack foods. Maybe it was because the palm reader was only charging a quarter. Maybe it was because Halloween was a few days away, and he was trying to get into the spirit of the season.

Or maybe it was because the palm reader pointed at him with a long, bony finger and shrieked, “YOU! LET ME READ YOUR PALM, THIS IS OF THE UPMOST IMPORTANCE, YES, YOU IN THE GREY SUIT TALKING ABOUT MUNCHOS BRAND SNACK CRISPS TO THAT DISINTERESTED-LOOKING GENTLEMAN.” For whatever reason, Glen spent the next few minutes hunched over the palm reader’s card table as she looked intently at his hand and muttered a bunch of things under her breath that only he heard. At the end, he laughed, gave her a quarter, and we were on our way.

“Some nonsense about a safe falling on my head after lunch,” he chuckled when I asked what she told him. “Now let’s get some fries and burgers.”

~~~

That night, Glen’s words echoed in my head. The fact that he referred to our meal as “fries and burgers” was just super-affected to me (I GET IT, GLEN, YOU LIKED POTATOES, JESUS), and in spite of everything else that transpired, I couldn’t let it go.

Besides that, the stuff about the palm reader knowing exactly how he was going to die was pretty spooky.

In a way.

Maybe.

I thought about this as I popped a few Advil. I’d had a nagging headache for the last few days, and although I wasn’t a doctor, I had seen every episode of House, and I was pretty sure it was some kind of tumor. (The same tumor that was impeding my ability to be freaked out about things? This would require further investigation.) Although it could just as easily be a clot. Or a parasite. After all, I had used a neti pot once. Sure, I used bottled water that I had boiled and cooled multiple times, but with my luck, anything was possible.

It had been ages since I’d been to the doctor, and although this was mostly out of laziness, it had its roots in this simple, immutable fact; I knew SOMETHING was wrong with me. I just didn’t know what.

And I didn’t want to go through weeks, months, hell, probably years of exams and tests. Surgeries and almost-but-not-quite recoveries. Medicines and side effects. My body gradually weakening as doctors looked at clipboards, and then each other, nodding their heads and shrugging their shoulders.

Basically, all I wanted was to walk into a doctor, have the doctor go, “Let me see your tongue,” and then say, “Oh, it’s incurable everything cancer, you’ve got two months, here’s a pamphlet and a prescription for horse tranquilizers, knock yourself out.”

But to the best of my knowledge, that wasn’t really a thing doctors did. But.

But.

~~~

If the palm reader had been surprised to see me standing in her spot, waiting for her patiently while she pulled up in her late-model Kia Sportage, she did not let on. She seemed happy to have someone help her get the card table and folding chairs out of the back and set them up.

When all of this was done, we sat down, hunched over, and she took my hand into hers. She stared at it, traced the various lines and creases my palm had to offer, and squinted, muttering to herself.

I had not taken into account how EXCITING all of this was going to be for me. Finally, I was going to get an answer. Finally, I was going to find out what was wrong with me, or what horrible tragedy was going to strike me down.

And who knew? Maybe it was going to be a combination of the two. Like, I was riddled with internal growths, AND I was going to get struck by lightning. Or I had a rare case of asymptomatic smallpox, AND I was going to lose my footing while jogging across the Golden Gate Bridge.

I just wanted to know.

“You will pass away in your sleep in your late 90s.”

“Excuse me?”

She sighed, and glanced at her watch.

“You will have a long life. You are, and will remain, in excellent health. You will die peacefully, of natural causes. No grievous bodily harm will ever come to you, accidental or otherwise. You’re fine. That will be a quarter.”

I held out my other hand. “What about this one, what does this one say?”

“That hand is of no concern to me. Twenty-five cents, please.”

I gave her a quarter, and stormed away without saying anything else.

~~~

I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night, as I cruised through WebMD, Doctors.com, and, at my lowest point, DrOz.com. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Every disease looked more enticing, more tragic than the last. Surely I had one of them.

When I got tired of looking at diseases, I jumped over to accident statistics. The odds of dying in a car accident. Getting hit by a bus. A plane crash. Sharks.

The world was such an awful, horrifying, random place, that the odds of something terrible happening to me were insurmountable. After all, a goddamn SAFE FELL ON GLEN’S HEAD. I had to be next in line. It’s the only conclusion that made sense.

~~~

The palm reader seemed less happy to see me that next morning than she did the day before. This was in spite of the fact that I brought her a doughnut and coffee, and set up her card table and folding chairs for her while she enjoyed her free breakfast.

I sat down, applied sanitizer to my palm to insure the cleanest read imaginable, and with my non-concern hand, gave her a $20.

She looked around to make sure she wasn’t the victim of some sort of practical joke, and then took my hand. I implored her to look at it. REALLY look at it. “As hard as you looked at Glen’s palm, if not harder.”

She sighed, and stared at my palm. Minutes went by. Again, she traced the lines and creases. Again, she muttered to herself. And again, this time after a good ten minutes of this, she looked up at me and said, “You will pass away in your sleep in your late 90s.”

“God damn it! Are you sure?”

“Look. Your palm is your palm. Your fate is your fate. You are going to live a long, healthy life. How old are you?”

I told her I was 50, which is what I told everyone. In reality I was 45, but ever since I turned 45 a few months ago, I had decided that there was no difference between being 45 and being 50.

“Well first of all, you’re lying, which is a stupid thing to do to someone who knows and sees all. Second, do you have any idea how many people would be freaking delighted to receive this news?”

I wasn’t listening; I was too busy searching my phone for other palm readers in the area.

“What are you — PUT THAT THING DOWN, YOU BUFFOON. Do you know how many people I tell that lump isn’t benign, or that they’re going to get pasted by a garbage truck, or that they’re going to have a stroke on the crapper in two weeks? You are the first person in YEARS that has walked away from my table this clean! You have EVERYTHING. Do you hear me? EVERYTHING!”

Just then, a beat cop walked by, and asked if everything was okay, and if I was bothering her. Her and I were both pretty worked up at this point, and he put up his hand as if to say, “Let’s chill out here, everyone.”

She stared at his hand. Her eyes widened, and her jaw went slack. In a voice barely above a whisper, she said, “Accidental weapon discharge.”

“WHAT?” I screamed. “WHAT DID YOU SAY? WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO HIM? AND WHY ISN’T IT GOING TO HAPPEN TO ME?”

At that point, the cop grabbed me to calm me down. We struggled for a minute, and his gun ended up going off, killing him instantly.

Fifty-three years later, I passed away peacefully in my cell at at the local maximum security prison.

I went straight to Hell, where the Devil himself told me I was, by far, one of the biggest jerkoffs he’d ever encountered. I couldn’t disagree.

By no coincidence whatsoever, I ended up rooming with Glen. The first words out of his mouth when he saw me? “Looks like the two of us are a couple of baked potatoes! Roasted even!”

Then he picked up right where he left off about waffle fries as demons tormented us with hot pokers for all of eternity.