Around Jackson square the artists and street performers always set up. On this particular morning I stood for a while watching one of the human statutes, covered in silver paint. I felt kinda sorry for him, because that stuff couldn't be good for one's skin, and it must be hot, besides.
Next to him was a girl setting up. She looked about my age but also like she partied pretty hard when she was younger. She had lots of paintings and sketches involving the cute and disturbing: skeletal bunnies and kitties, zombies with foofy pink dresses, deformed humans with cartoon animal heads... I decided to strike up a conversation.
“You probably get this a lot, but where do you get your inspiration?”
“They live inside me,” she answered seriously.
“Whoa,” I thought. Someone DEFINITELY partied too hard. I was freaked out, but I felt like I should continue the conversation to be polite.
“How long have you lived here?” I asked.
“Whole life,” she drawled proudly. “Lost my pets last year. That's why I paint these.” She gestured to the skeletal animals. Maybe she was less crazy than I thought. Maybe “live inside me” was her way of saying she kept their memory alive. I was curious about something else:
“So do the artists here like, help each other out, or it it more of a rivalry?”
“Everybody here, pretty close. Like cousins. ...'cept him.” And she pointed to a man caddy-cornered across the square. He wore dark clothes and even from a distance he looked ill. He was hunched and his skin was a vaguely yellowish-green. If he was the guy I was looking for, I wondered how tourists weren't put off by that appearance.
I figured I should let the girl get back to her business and I should continue my research... “How much for the small pretty zombie?” It was a small picture in a gold colored frame, like you might see the Virgin Mary up in a Catholic household.
More than I wanted to pay, but I've never been good at haggling. I pulled out the wallet. Maryanne would get a kick out of it anyway.
“There ya go. Thanks.”
And I shuffled as nonchalantly as possible over to ill guy to check out his warez. I suspected he might be the one I was looking for. He didn't seem to have any reaction at all to my approach, which could be good or bad. I scanned over his paintings but nothing looked familiar. Mostly black and white sketches of trees and cemeteries. I guess I'd struck out on this one. Before I left the square, though, there was something I'd always wanted to do, and I decided now was as good a time as any: I'd go get my palm read.
I scanned around the square and settled on a woman under a black umbrella, with a big hand sign up behind her, and a minimum of stars and lamé around the table.
I smiled. “How much for a reading?”
“One hand, ten. Both hands, twenty.” I might have a job, but I was still a student.
“One hand, then please.”
She studied for several minutes.
“You will travel a lot. Perhaps to, and perhaps from.” And she set my hand down as if she were finished. That was disappointing.
“Your destination awaits.” And she gestured grandly across the square.