It was off of Clark Street. I am not sure if it is still there. It was not far from a sighting of a Christ image on a tree near a bus stop on Touhy Avenue. I was with someone who I wasn’t sure was my girlfriend or not, on what would have been our third date, if someone was keeping track. She came in often and wanted to stop in while we were passing by. We waited among the shelves stacked with sentries of Santeria orishas disguised as my familiar saints, for Estella, who would tell us our fortunes. Her nietos spoke Spanglish and flipped between afternoon talk shows in the old storefront’s backroom-turned-living room. Estella eventually sauntered in with six Sears shopping bags, three in each hand. To my companion she greeted, Hola, bienvenida de nuevo, to me, Mucho gusto, to us both, I be right back.
Once she settled in, she read for my friend first, then for me. Estella would not let my friend come in to translate—they spoke seriously about it. After putting her hand up and giving her a stare down, Estella simply told her, Esta bien. We prayed together in a combination of broken Spanglish mixed with Latin, before she went about her card-work, with her abuela poker face on. I could sense she could sense that gypsy blood brought over with my ancestors. I was not a mark anymore—she liked whatever magic was in me, in us to share. She did not speak English well, but I could understand what she was trying to say. Estella started to tell me things she shouldn’t know, like the fire I felt coming that I stopped before it burnt my work, and I wondered, perhaps she has the sight? Just then she gave me a freebie, Your friend is not worth your time. The spirits are uneven in her house. She warned me, You have all the papers all about the house, cherish them as if they were your namesake’s psalms. Then she hugged me, the way my Babicka would on Christmas or after long absences or before long goodbyes.
She tried to up-sell me on some candles and incense sticks explaining they would help quicken her predictions, as I started to smell grilled cheese sandwiches while hearing reggaeton music videos from the show Estella’s nietos decided finally to watch.
David Mathews recently earned his MA in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University where he studied under Richard Jones. His work has appeared in Eclectica Magazine, After Hours, and Midwestern Gothic. A life-long Chicagoan, he currently teaches at Wright College.