State Street psychic communes with departed loved ones
I miss Mike.
Not every day – it’s been a long time since I thought about Mike every day – but I miss him often enough that it still seems like he’s alive somewhere. When I hear a great band or go to a particularly fun party, when I get together with the guys from Long Island and we get to the root of the matter like old friends do, when I experience a moment fertile with comic possibilities and can’t quite nail the perfect joke I’ll think to myself, “Man, I wish Mike were here.”
But of course he’s not. Mike died more than 10 years ago on the Loop Parkway on Long Island when, one Indian summer evening, his car became airborne and he was thrown through the windshield. He flew through the air for a second or two and then maybe slid along the pavement for a few yards. He died when the car landed on top of him.
At least that’s my understanding of it. But none of us really know what happened to Mike that night. And he was inside a closed casket when we came back to the Island from the four corners to bury him.
Sometimes I wonder how I ever got through it.
And, like I said, I still miss him.
So when Tavane Taylor, proprietress of Eclectic by Nature and the Witch of State Street, told me that a psychic was doing some channeling once a month or so in the classroom at the State Street Center for Renewal, I booked it.
I thought it was a great story: A John Edward-style psychic channeler able to discern the energy of those who were close to us in life but had passed to the next plane. Or so she claims. I would go as a journalist, not to attempt to pull the curtain back or take part in the proceedings but to document the event objectively and dispassionately.
And before I went over I tucked a photograph of Mike into the camera bag. Just in case.
The day is done on State Street and the light dims outside the windows of the upstairs classroom as Kathe Martin, the psychic, sets up chairs in two neat rows.
“It’s going to be a small group tonight,” she says. “August is slow for everything.”
She says she’s been doing “all things psychic” for 18 years, starting out with the Tarot deck and delving in further as the years went on.
“The channeling, the ‘talking to dead people’ part,” she says, using air quotes, “came about in 1993.”
She was working for a cell phone company in northern California and one of her coworkers, a young woman, had lost her boyfriend to a violent crime. Kathe agreed to do a Tarot reading for her.
During the reading, she says, “I started to feel this thing, like above my head. I began to realize it was some kind of energy. Then it hit me: It was the boyfriend.”
He wanted to enter her body, she says, like Swayze in Ghost, but she was unwilling to turn control over to the spirit. Instead she relayed messages from the deceased boyfriend to the young woman.
“I learned to communicate at that reading,” she says.
“I don’t think it’s a gift,” she says. “I think the ‘gift’ stuff is crap. It’s a sense; it’s a feeling. Anyone can do it. Some people are better than others, but I think everyone can do it to a certain degree. In Western society we’ve learned to block it out.”
She doesn’t look crazy, this matronly woman in the wire glasses, with the sensible gray bob and the knit pink tank top, the loose linen pants. She looks like someone’s mom. She is someone’s mom. Her only concession to crunchiness is a well-worn pair of Birkenstock sandals.
“My approach has always been the non-mystical aspect,” she says. “There are no floating trumpets here. It happens spontaneously in readings – sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. You want a fortune teller, you want somebody else.”
I don’t tell her about Mike.
There are about 10 of us in the room, all of them save for me the kind of women you’d see in the Harris Teeter on any given afternoon. Among them are a pair of ladies who came in together, one younger than the other, both appreciably attractive, sitting across the room from me.
Kathe’s had the A/C dropped down to somewhere in the 60s and she addresses the group.
“There are two ways I get information,” she says. “I directly communicate with the spirit or sometimes I can read the residual energy of people around you. Most times it’s directly with the spirit.”
And: “If I ask you for any information, don’t give me any more than I ask for. Usually they’re yes and no questions.”
Then she kicks off her Birks and preemptively addresses the spirits who may or may not come out tonight: “You need to go home with the people you came with,” she says, “not with me. It’s happened before.”
She pulls a chair in front of her and begins.
This evening’s event, she says, actually started in her shower this afternoon when she had a vision like something out of the 1998 Robin Williams film What Dreams May Come, a scene from the afterlife where Williams frolics and creates in a world that’s like a painted canvas.
“Anyone have a special connection to that movie? He’s walking around in paint. Does that mean anything to anybody?”
It becomes very quiet and Kathe scrunches her brow, holds her hands folded in front of her. She moves to one side of the room, the side where the two attractive women are sitting.
The spirit is a young man, she says, perhaps 30 or 35, though she says she guesses their ages based on their appearances, which should be consistent with the day they died.
He’s average build, average height. He has dark hair. And, she says, his eyes pop out a bit. Like Susan Sarandon.
Mike’s eyes do that too. Or did. I don’t know.
“He’s standing here quietly,” she says. “I really feel like he wants me to say 9-11. Does anyone know anyone’….”
Then she says that the 9-11 imagery just may be a way of getting her to visualize New York.
“My heart’s beating faster,” she says. “That usually means I’m onto something.”
The spirit then shows her a tunnel, a long tunnel. And some kind of accident. A bad one.
“It wasn’t his fault,” she says. “It was just an accident, not because of illness or anything. It wasn’t anybody’s fault.”
And then: “It’s as if his lips are sealed, kind of like a stoic stance. The not talking is significant.”
I don’t say that Mike was like that, that he was the sad clown who made us all weep with laughter but could scarcely point a finger at the things he really wanted to talk about unless he was pretty messed up and it was very late at night. I don’t say that Mike, who died almost exactly 11 years before 9-11, was what the Manhattanites call a “bridge and tunnel person.” I don’t say that he was 25 years old but his sad eyes made him look much older. I don’t tell her that none of us know for sure the circumstances surrounding his death. I don’t say anything at all.
Kathe’s still focused on the women at the other side of the room. I tell myself the spirit is probably meant for them.
“There’s a small woman’… a small, mean woman.”
“Yes,” says the woman beside me.
“With tight curls?”
“That’s how I see her.”
“She says she’s paying for it now.”
“Good,” says the woman beside me, without emotion.
“Was this your mother?”
“Not everybody I channel is in this glorious place above,” she says. “They’re also not in hell. Occasionally I get information from people who are in’… it’s kind of a dark place’… it’s a lonely place. [Your mother] knew she could have done differently but she didn’t, and because of that you and others suffered. Any of this make sense to you?
“To a T.”
“She asks me to relay that if you would, perhaps you could pray for her. She doesn’t think that she deserves it but if you can find it in your heart to pray for her.”
During the break I go outside alone and smoke a cigarette. I look to the sky and say, Mike, you freakin’ kidding me? Was that you? If it was, dude, let me know.
And then I understand something: If Mike was in that room, he’d definitely be standing over by the ladies. That was his way.
When I get back she’s talking about the first visit of the night, the guy from New York.
“You have a picture,” she says to the young woman in the white dress. It’s not exactly a question.
She doesn’t. I have one, but it stays in the camera bag.
“Floor lady,” Kathe says to one of the guests who has opted to sit on the floor tonight. “I have two people standing behind you. A couple, a man and a woman. They’re laughing at me because I jump every time he takes my picture. I see them as a couple, not as a couple in life; they just happen to be there.”
Kathe concentrates on the man, who she says reminds her of Burl Ives.
“One of the things he enjoys about being dead,” she says, “is that in the morning in the mountains – I think it’s the mountains, it’s like outside – just when the sun is starting to rise and the air is cool and the dew is on the grass’… he feels as if he’s a part of it.”
“I know exactly what that means,” says Floor Lady. “It’s a sunshine connection.”
“Who is it at my house that’s doing things to get my attention?”
Kathe takes one of the woman’s rings and holds it in her fingers.
“Is this electrical?” she asks. “Lights and stuff?”
“Ummm’… male. Did you have a dog? There’s a dog here.”
“The dog was with him when he died.”
“He wants you to be kind to someone’… or kinder to someone that you should be kind to but you don’t really want to.”
The woman nods.
Afterwards I approach Kathe.
“If you saw a picture of that first guy, the guy from New York,” I say, “would you know it was him.”
“Yeah, I would,” she says.
I pull out the shot of Mike, taken on New Year’s Eve 1993. He’s wearing a T-shirt and a necktie, holding a beer in one hand and making the “okay” finger circle with the other. He’s smiling widely which makes his eyes crinkle and squint.
“No,” she says. “Unh uh. He had more of a somber look.”
I don’t know if Kathe Martin summoned the spirit of my dead friend Mike. I don’t know if he’s around, watching my life unfold, sharing in my joys and aiding in my trials. I’m not as confident as Kathe Martin is when she says, “Death as we know it is not death of the spirit. It’s just physical death. When people die they don’t really go that far away.”
I do know that I spent an entire afternoon and evening thinking about my friend Mike. I looked at his picture; I remembered his stories; I wondered what he’d think of all the things that have gone down since he died that night on the highway.
I smiled. I made a few phone calls. And I missed him a little less.
To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at firstname.lastname@example.org.