The Clairvoyant of St Mary’s Bay Road

In 1980, when I was back in Auckland again, after some years away, a friend arranged for me to see a clairvoyant. She lived in the same suburb as us, at the end of our street, in a cream painted wooden villa with a green corrugated iron roof, set back a bit from the road. It had a front lawn in which a single lemon tree grew and a concrete path to the front door, a few steps up within a shadowy veranda. I often used to look at this house when passing by, going up St Mary’s Bay Road to the shops at Three Lamps, because it resembled so closely the one my parents owned in the 1950s; albeit ours was white with a red roof. I wondered who lived there. My friend made the appointment by phone and, at the designated hour, I went around and knocked on the door. The clairvoyant, whose name was Cushla, took me down a dim hallway, with a threadbare runner along its wooden floor, into the kitchen at the back of the house. She was a few years older than me, wearing a skirt, a cardigan and flat-heeled shoes, and with her hair pulled back from her face and secured behind. She could have been an older sister. She made a pot of tea and we sat down opposite each other, on plain wooden chairs at a plain wooden table, which had nothing else upon it but the tea things, in a room which was conspicuously tidy and painted, like the exterior of the house, in cream and green. There was linoleum on the floor and a coal range set in the north wall. The windows above the sink looked out into an enclosed garden where a white camellia was flowering. As we talked, about everything and nothing, I began to feel that she understood, in a way that I did not, the shape of my life. She saw my past as a narrative that unfolded in a certain way, was continuing to unfold, even as we spoke, and would keep on doing so as long as the present opened into the future. She made sense of the flow of time that carries us forward or which, being both stream and flow, we carry forward with us. She made no predictions; she neither prophesized nor warned. We talked for maybe an hour, about many different things, and then I left. As I walked away I felt a peace descend upon me; at the same time as a power arose; as if I had been given back something that was already mine but which I had somehow mislaid. She had returned me to the fullness of time; seeing my past, knowing who I was in the present and scrying the future, she made it possible for me to live towards any one of those futures, whatever they might be. To continue making a shape in time.

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