But where do you come from? Who are these people you were born into? That moment, when they first hold you, and the moment in which your eyes meet theirs for the first time, are like coordinates marking the direction of your entire life. Because families are the all-important clues to the questions you will spend a lifetime answering, to your strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes, unwittingly, the cause of your sorrows.
I, for example, come from a family of non-seers who, nevertheless, had seers scattered all over their genealogical tree like freckles. This is because clairvoyance comes in strains, like a disease, and the particular variety that seemed to run in my family was partial to women, arrived with puberty, and as my mother found out much after I was born, behaved pretty much the same as blue eyes and dimples, skipping a generation like a recessive genetic trait.
Ana Cecilia Valdes, my maternal grandmother, had it. According to my mother, she was a strikingly beautiful young Cuban woman from a well-to-do Havana family that frowned on “all that nonsense and heresy.”
When Ana Cecilia “got” her gift along with her first period, her maternal grandmother (my great-great-grandmother) moved into her bedroom with the pretense of keeping a better eye on her now that she was of a “dangerous” age. Using an unassuming handmade journal to write down each lesson, she began to secretly teach her all she knew about divination, intuition, white magic, and clairvoyance.
My grandmother studied it all avidly, happy to please her beloved nana, reading and rereading this bespoke clairvoyance textbook made just for her, guarding it jealously, and speaking of it to no one.
Later, in college, she began doing private readings for her friends, almost as a joke or an excuse for conversation at their living room parties, or fiestas de marquesina, as they were called. Until a new fellow, just arrived from some small town or other to study medicine, sat in front of her at a friend’s impromptu birthday party and gave her his open palms.
“So tell me. What do you see?” he’d said, smiling.
“I don’t do palms,” she retorted.
“Okay. What do you do?”
“Nothing. I just…feel something…and—” She’d stopped, panicked because she could usually get a stranger’s “scent” the moment he spoke to her, and here she was, incapable of thinking, feeling, or seeing anything other than the smile on this boy’s half-expectant, half-curious face. “I feel something,” she began again, “and just know…something else. And then, I tell you. And…it makes sense to you.” She swallowed. “Or…it doesn’t.”
“So you’re saying you guess?”
“No. What…I feel something, and then something comes…into my head, and feels…like truth.”
He considered that for a moment.
“Can you ‘feel’ what I’m thinking right now?” he asked, roping her in with his eyes and holding her there, wherever it was he’d begun taking her with his voice from the very first word he’d said to her.
“No. Not really. I’m not getting anything right now. Maybe later. Excuse me.”
But I guess she did “get” something, because she married him against her family’s wishes and moved to the town of Violeta, where she had my mother and lived a simple but happy existence, to hear my mother talk about it.
And that’s the reason little Mercedes, my mother, spent her childhood hearing the wonderful things my grandmother foresaw for others while sitting at the kitchen table, and anxiously waiting for puberty (and for her own gift) to kick in. To my mother, clairvoyance was like Santa Claus: the provider of amazing gifts you got only if you were very, very good.
Anjanette Delgado is a Puerto Rican novelist, journalist, and TV producer. She writes about heartbreak and lives in Miami with her husband, Daniel, and her Mini Daschund, Chloe.
The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho is Anjanette’s latest novel. Set in vibrant Little Havana, it tells the story of Mariela Esteves, a woman whose choice to renounce her true calling results in two failed marriages, a brush with murder, and a lot of heartbreak. It will be released in the Fall of 2014 by Kensington Books Publishing, and in Spanish in the U.S. and Mexico by Penguin Random House. Both novels have also been optioned recently for film and television.