Her husband had been a high-ranking officer in the Thai military. As a result, she possessed a title like “Lady.” Given her family connections, I heard she read for a handful of politicians, and even once for an African queen on a trip to the Kingdom.
But despite all this, the kindly old Lady before me did not have the air of a minor celebrity, or even that of a general’s wife. With her puff of white hair and gentle demeanor, she could’ve been someone’s grandmother - which is exactly what I was told to call her. And when she offered to read for me, free of charge, I couldn’t easily pass up the chance.
We sat on opposites sides of a small fold-out table in the garden of her suburban Bangkok home. It was a little plot, surrounded on two sides by her house and on the third by construction. Her son, a soldier like his father, was having an extension built, she explained. As I made myself comfortable, the family’s pet, a rather large dog with shaggy caramel fur, slipped under the table and into the house, apparently taking no interest in me.
There was nothing particularly striking about my surroundings or about my host. Hers seemed like an unpretentious home, and she an ordinary woman. Grandma was no mystic. When her daughter and my mother were friends in college, Grandma had been a schoolteacher. She took up fortunetelling in retirement as a pastime, learning it from a woman who had read for her in earlier times. These arts have been handed down this way for generations.
Now Grandma performed the arcane numerical calculations for my date and time of birth, and drew the appropriate charts and figures. Into a little notepad she gave me, I jotted down bits and pieces of what the fortuneteller said.
Looking at them now, my notes are pretty skewed. It looks like I only scribbled down a word here, a blurb there, and focused little on chronology. But from what I can tell, Grandmother’s forecast for the next five years is a positive once: “Your stars do not fall,” she said. At twenty-one I can expect the “support of elders” and, at twenty-two, a “plot of land” becomes available. Groovy.
But what she predicted for 23 is really interesting. Of this point Grandma was quite sure: “Your fortunes lie abroad,” she said. “Your partner will be of a different race and language. She will have money and rank and wear a uniform. And though it’s rather late, your first opportunity for marriage will come when you are between 23 and 24.”
(Note: To “wear a uniform” is an old Thai way of saying someone is a professional.)
In normal conversation, Thai people rarely say “husband” or “wife.” Instead, we use a nonspecific word like “spouse.” Also, our third person pronoun doesn’t distinguish between genders. Of course, I don’t suppose Grandma would think I’m looking for anything but a wife. Even divination is hetero-centric. Perhaps a more PC-prophecy would read, “a significant domestic partnership with the person of your choice.”
“That isn’t late, Grandma,” my mom suggested. “For kids these days, getting married by 24 is early.” I had to agree. I think that, at 24, I’ll probably be the first of my friends to tie the knot.
“Well,” was Grandma’s reply, “if he should miss his first shot, his second chance won’t come until he’s 29.” Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me.
When our session was over, I asked the Lady how I cold repay her. “Don’t worry about it, dear,” she said, “but come visit again soon. Your mother tells me you’re a bit of a fortuneteller yourself. If you’d ever like to learn, I’d love to have student.”
I hope someday I can sit down with her, this kindly old Lady, and learn a bit of her old world wisdom. Maybe I’ll even bring my husband.