Elissa Nelson

Tonight I talk to Mr. Everett Gustafson in Iowa. Everett has been married five times, now he’s in love again, and he’s calling me because he wants to know if this one is the real thing.

“How did you meet?” I ask.

“Online,” he says. “I knew right away she was the one. We’ve been talking, online and on the phone, 14 hours a day.” It’s already pretty clear that he’s calling because he just wants someone to talk to about this, not because he’s looking for advice. He’s a talker, too, which is good for me; this will be a long call.

“Where is she?” I ask.

“California. She’s moving here, though.”

“Great,” I say, unconvinced. “How long have you known each other?”

“Three weeks. She’s moving up next month. We’re getting married in the spring. But I want to know—is this the one? Because I’ve been through this before, the divorces, I don’t need to do this again. My last divorce, my ex—let’s just say I ended up in the hospital, concussion and three broken ribs, coma for two days. I don’t want to do that again.”

Dear lord, I think. What am I supposed to tell this guy? I lay out some cards. “Well,” I say. “Well. I can see here she has some concerns about moving up …”

“Yeah?” he says.

I say, “Maybe about leaving her life, her job there?”

“No,” he says. “Not really. I’ll tell you what she’s worried about. Her husband. He beats her. Right here by the phone, I got numbers for the sheriff, the police, in her area. Just in case she calls me. I’ll call them.”

I say, “And it looks like he’s begun to figure out something’s wrong.” You don’t have to be a psychic to guess that one, not if they’ve been talking 14 hours a day.

“He was in the next room, yesterday, and he heard her on the phone with me, he heard her ask for me.”

“Right,” I say.

Everett just keeps talking—how he’s so in love with her, she’s the one for him, they’re meant for each other, they’re both Sagittarians. He tells me he’s running out of ways to say “I love you” online. She asked him to marry her, and he said, YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES— “All in capital letters running across the screen.”

“That’s great,” I say dubiously.

“It is,” he says. “My divorce is almost final, and she’s going to file soon.”

“Uh-huh,” I say. “Well. I can see here, the cards are warning about something—let’s see—I see a warning against heedlessness, rashness.” The cards really do say this, and I run with it. You could say I’m interpreting according to my intuition, my instincts. “I see that when she does move near you, you’re going to have to be careful not to rush into things, that there’s a chance you could lose the underlying friendship.”

“No, no, no,” he says, annoyed. “We’re meant for each other. We understand each other. I knew she was the one, right away. I have a friend, she’s a psychic too, she told me I was going to meet someone—gave me a physical description and all that, told me what her job would be—and guess what! It’s exactly Edna’s description! Even her job! And the day after my friend told me about her, we met online.”

“Great,” I say. Now I know he’s not calling for psychic guidance—he already has a psychic!—he’s calling because he wants to talk about how in love he is. If my advice does not affirm his relationship, he doesn’t want to hear it. Maybe there isn’t anyone else in his life who will listen to him and validate what he’s doing. So, if he’s paying me to be enthusiastic and supportive, all right. I’ll do it. That’s the biggest part of this job: Tell them what they want to hear, figure out what they’re looking for and give it to them. I told him what the cards say and what my intuition is telling me. I have no faith in a marriage based on three weeks of online romance, especially when both parties have a long string of failed marriages behind them. The cards don’t appear to have much faith in it either, and sometimes I think there really is something to this Tarot business. But, like many callers, Everett clearly only wants to hear my opinion if it confirms his own.

So, I tell him what he wants to hear. I keep pulling up new cards until I get the ones for Everett, the ones he wanted me to read to him. I have to go through half the deck first. “I see a good relationship here,” I tell him finally. “This might really be it, this might be the real thing. I can tell she makes you very happy. I wish you all the best.”

“Thank you,” he says. “Thank you.”

I hope he feels like he got his money’s worth.