|Miss Leny in action. Photo was posted on Facebook by Jenny Ortuoste|
Her name was Leny and she emerged out of the restaurant's kitchen long after dinner had been put away.
Yes, I was curious. I had never spoken with a diviner - a fortune teller, seer, psychic, or whatever it was they preferred to be called -- until that evening. My friend, whom I had dinner with, said that the Malate restaurant was famous not only for its food but for this in-house attraction.
And so, finally, I said: Why not?
Miss Leny was a tall, big-boned woman with long hair. Her face was fully made up. She had been observing us from behind the counter, she said, and she thought my friend and I had been too engrossed with our conversation that she hesitated to approach us.
My skepticism kicked in at once. We had to call for her three times. It was possible she was observing us to enhance her assessment of us. Did we look like sisters, or officemates? Professionals, performers, intellectuals? Wives, or the single mothers that we are?
My friend is an award-winning writer who is currently writing her PhD dissertation while holding a government job. Leny sensed she was important and accomplished -- that much was clear. She told my friend that a business venture would prosper soon and that my friend would be able to buy a parcel of land nearby, something she had always dreamed of doing.
In truth, my friend has no business inclination whatsoever, and her long-term plans include relocating to the US with her mother, sisters and daughters -- and the love of her life.
Miss Leny was correct, however, in saying that people were intimidated by my friend, who is the first to admit her emotional quotient is not so impressive.
I was not too impressed, myself, with how the session had been going so far, but I was certainly more curious than ever what she was going to say to me. I laid out my palm.
Whereas my friend was donned in corporate attire, I was in a striped shirt and jeans, and ballet flats. My hair was up in a ponytail. This was what perhaps prompted Miss Leny to say I was childish, indecisive and did not quite know what to do with my life. Ouch -- I wanted to disagree, and vehemently, although I kept quiet.
She remarked that my palm was complicated, as if God were still deciding what he would do with me. But I should take comfort, because soon I would strike it rich in business -- especially if it had anything to do with shoes and kitchenware.
Was I helping out family members? Sure I was, I thought, because I was singlehandedly raising two daughters and two sons and occasionally chipped in to help a needy sibling. Miss Leny implied, however, that an old couple -- perhaps parents? -- were relying on me greatly. Now, my mother has been dead for 21 years and my dad certainly does not need my help. (If anything, it was the other way around.)
Again, a reassurance. Somebody from abroad would turn my life around -- was I thinking of being an OFW? I shook my head politely. I have long decided to contribute my bit to my country from here, Manila's ills notwithstanding. She also said somebody I had known a very long time was still thinking of me greatly, and that a fellow I see regularly but interact with only occasionally would eventually come around and make things happen.
Right, I thought. She must believe I am in my 20s. I fished out the P500 out of my purse, anyway.
What happened afterwards was more enlightening than the "fortune-telling." My friend and I peppered Miss Leny with questions about her life outside of palm reading. She said she lived in Libis, Quezon City, and she came to the restaurant by cab. She had two grown children and was recently widowed.
I was moved by how she described her loneliness at losing her husband. It was as if she wanted to die and be buried alongside him.
She also talked about the first time she knew for sure she had an extraordinary gift. She was a teenager in the province, and a young soldier was pursuing her. She hid behind the giant statues inside a church. Lo and behold, one of the statues winked at her. Since then, she could more or less tell what was going to happen.
Clients include famous businessmen, politicians and showbiz personalities. Some of them wanted to pay her just to stay with them the whole day, she said, but she always turned them down. She wanted to share her gift to more people -- hence the tacit arrangement with the restaurant.
I nearly asked Miss Leny whether this was the only thing she did for, ugh, a living. But she expressed concern that it was almost midnight and we girls were still out. Would we not have difficulty going home, and would it not be risky? We assured her we would be fine -- we were, after all, big girls who could take care of ourselves well. Too well.
My friend and I got ready to leave and Miss Leny was called by a group of friends at the next table. As we passed, I tried looking at her to mouth a goodbye. Even if I could not for the life of me say she was right in saying where I am right now, much less where I would be, it was an interesting conversation. Diviners are human. Way too human. She earns money so long as there are people like us who give in to curiosity, or worse, believe that our lives have already been mapped out for us. Who was I to accept or reject her story, or judge her when she neither imposes her services or advertises her skills?
But Miss Leny was not looking at us anymore. She was intently gazing at the palm of the girl at the table. From a distance I could hear her saying that the girl would be successful in a business venture, and would soon be purchasing a parcel of land -- something she had always dreamed of.