I watch her peek out from the wings. She reads us, plots. She pulls herself up, paints on a false smile, and strides quickly across to centre stage. Looking upwards and out into her audience, she’s all open arms and ‘look at me!’ We applaud and she nods, clasping her hands together in mock appreciation, phony gratitude. Her long, painted nails; fake like the rest of it. I’m infuriated by the whole damn thing. My wife is already jabbing me in the ribs. Apparently, I am supposed to be ‘sitting up straight’ and ‘looking interested’.
The audience goes crazy. I just don’t get this....this...hero worship. She wallows in adulation for another minute then they’re quiet; expectant. She introduces herself, explains how we found ourselves sitting here. Apparently, it was our destiny. We were meant to be here. We didn’t just buy the ticket for an evening at the theatre. No. We were drawn here, by some inexplicable force, and for good reason. I, for one, am here because my wife and her friends needed a lift and I didn’t want to sit in the car for two hours. Fact. She starts talking about the other side for God’s sake. I struggle not to laugh out loud and earn myself another bruised rib.
The lights go up on the audience. An old woman already dabs her eyes. I’d have been willing to bet on it. She’ll be one of the first ‘victims’. I feel a sting of pity.
So it begins. She’s getting names, places, dates, all coming through from the other side. I can see exactly what she’s doing! How do they get so wrapped up in this drivel!? She scans the audience like some bird of prey; looks for tell-tale glimmers of recognition, changes in demeanour. The most revealing indicators of all are glimpses of whispered conversation between companions. And she swoops in...
“I feel drawn over here....” She points a finger, vaguely in the direction of the snivelling woman and immediately, she’s up on her feet. I was right; she makes for the perfect first victim. Anyone that desperate to receive even a shred of comfort should make for a good ‘hit’ rate; a good way to show off ones prowess so early on in the evening. And so it goes on.....More victims receive their messages from the other side. It’s all so vague, so see-through. She throws out another handful of names.
“Harry....no? It could be Harriet I have coming through now.” And finally something sticks with some poor, gullible soul. I can’t listen to it anymore. I need a beer.
I walk towards the exit and catch something she says about smelling cigar smoke. I can smell it too. Always makes me smile; takes me straight back to my childhood Sundays. Dad always had a cigar in the shed after Sunday lunch. It was our secret; mustn’t ever tell Mum.
“Don’t go!” She shouts. “This is for you! Your dad is here with me....”