Last week my friends and I went out for dinner and they brought along a couple I'd never met, a man and woman. Like most writers I know, I tend to listen rather than speak and that night was no exception. While attuned to a lively conversation about a certain politician, out of nowhere, the man I'd never met pointed across the table to me and said, "You're a witch."
Everyone stopped talking. I think I smiled, faintly.
"It's your eyes," he added. "The way they look at people."
I do see through people pretty good and had considered that a secret known only by my ex-husband and maybe a few old boyfriends. As a woman I've learned to cooperate with my sixth sense. I use it as a tool of detection; a human tuning fork, if you will. I have never thought of myself as a conjurer though, as the man's tone suggested.
But, he'd seen something and called me out.
"Thank you," I said and left it at that. No point in going into lengthy explanations about who I am and how I came to be that way.
Everyone else at the table refused to let it go however and attacked the man for his statement. They said things like:
"You don't know her."
"Look at her, how can you say that?"
"She wouldn't hurt a flea."
By defending me to him they were accepting his implied meaning: that witchery meant bitchery.
"He's right," I said to my friends. "I do have powers."
That seemed to put the matter to bed. My friends let up on the man and changed the subject, and I thought about one particular story about my grandmother, Lela, whose powers of intuition were legendary.
On the night before Lela and her husband Franz were set to sail on the Titanic, she'd dreamt it sank. They had left their 1-year-old daughter, my mother, in the states with a nanny and had traveled to London where Franz was booked to play violin for a symphony.
When Lela told Franz her dream that morning in the hotel room, he dismissed it as her suppressed anxiety over their long voyage ahead simply releasing itself in her unconscious.
Lela insisted it wasn't the dream she was listening to. It was her intuition she was paying attention to and it was telling her loud and clear that her dream was a premonition.
Exasperated, Franz stopped packing and read aloud facts from the Titanic's brochure that detailed precautions the builders had taken so that the ship would never sink. How ridiculous she was being, possibly bitchy, though he would not use that word, per se, but he did use the word unreasonable.
Reason was exactly what Lela plied Franz with by inquiring what they would possibly be forsaking by taking another ship home. Other than being able to tout sailing on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, there was nothing. Franz made another attempt to dissuade her and failed. In the end, Lela made her case: under no circumstances was she boarding the Titanic, and if he cared about her and their daughter, neither would he.
Recounting her story in my mind infused me with the desire to ignore the man for the rest of the dinner. Oh, I could have played up his fears by staring at him as if stirring an invisible caldron, cooking up toil and trouble the likes of which he'd never seen, but that would have been sheer bitchery on my part. And though hard-pressed to call my intuitive powers witchery, I admit, I felt smugly satisfied he'd mistaken them as such.
Let him call them whatever he wants. It won't change what I know to be true. My intuition was passed down as part and parcel of my femininity and is bound by the love and free spirit of my grandmother, Lela, who, after she and Franz returned home, took up playing the horses.
All of us come equipped with powers, it's what you do with them that counts, right?
Still, I wonder how many of us today would have listened to the voice that Lela heard back then. How many of us suppress intuition out of fear of what others might think: that we're being bitchy (uncooperative) or witchy (conjuring)?
Tell me, please. I want to hear.