the reading

I have told no one this story—not until this moment.

It was 1973. I was 22 years old, hitchhiking around the Mediterranean Sea, with no itinerary and no time constraints. It was my hope that, by surrendering all expectations, I might acquire some insight into what to do in life.

In Nice, France, three English musicians invited me to stay with them for a bit. With a place to stash my guitar and other stuff, I was free to walk the city streets, something I treasured more than visiting museums and historic battle sites.

On a slightly run-down street, I walked by a girl not older than seventeen but whose smile had the air of an old soul. She told me she was Romani, and offered me a one-hour reading for 30 francs. I had the feeling I was being played—and also that, years later, this would make for a good story.

I gave her the 30 francs. She ushered me into a room lit only by a small window cut into the thick stucco wall.

We sat across a small table. She took my hands in hers, turning my palms upward. I expected her to read my palms and issue a prediction. Instead, she gently closed her eyes.

Ten minutes went by. Then twenty. I told myself “I guess this is the story I paid 30 francs for.”

Thirty, forty, fifty minutes passed.

When the hour was up, she opened her eyes. She said “Now I will give you your reading.” What she said, I found both simple and astonishing, a touchstone when I have felt stymied by life’s vagaries:

“If you know the present, there is no need to know the future.”