One day, I wake up with $40,000 in the bank where I used to have none. Well, none is a bit hyperbolic but not a lot. Sometimes I’d be able to scrape together a grand that I inevitably needed all at once later, for a deposit or critical emergency or the beginning of luxury. The poor understood crisis differently; it existed in a constant loop and you can never leave so you adjust to seeing the statement say 200.00 every month and you try not to think about it. Sometimes you have to take a trip to spain and forget about the medicine.
I don’t like to gloat unless it’s about being right and then I am loud. One time, a friend texted me after a tarot reading, maybe only a couple weeks later, and I had noticed she was put off by it at first but she wrote,
“And I met someone, I really like him, it’s super secret and you were right! I know you like being right so I wanted to tell you.”
I did enjoy it. I liked being right, rich, well fed, skinny, opulent, buoyant, busy and in love. I had been saving carefully to buy three medical procedures and two new houses: for myself, my mother and my father. My father had a heart attack that almost killed him.
“How do you convince someone their house isn’t haunted?”
I was talking to my friend about the fine line art of “reality testing.”
“Or that they are not haunted?”
I was explaining how to hold two things at once without favor.
“Or that people aren’t watching them online?”
We were at the beach.
“Reality testing is a common practice for people experiencing psychosis in which they talk to another person about the delusion and most people do it with a psychiatrist. BUT,” I suddenly project my voice, eager to keep the attention, “You can also try to test with the person you are having the delusion about but it only works with the person if you get an affirmative answer.”
He was gazing at the waves but engrossed.
“You mean you only believe them if they say yes?”
I dig my toe into the sand.
“Imagine deliberately asking someone if they were stalking you or watching you. You would only believe them if they say yes because otherwise you would always think they are protecting themselves.”
He nodded, looking at me, “That makes sense.”
“So I had a ton of clients that believed their neighbors were spying on them. I could tell them they weren’t but only their neighbors could admit it. And no one would do that. And in our world, people are being stalked online. So people kind of spiral,” I make that perpetual motion with my hands, “And you don’t get any definitive answers because the truth is we are all being spied on.”
I watch a wave crash.
“It’s not just in our heads. Some people are just really sensitive.”
“Hmm,” he started. “So how would you ever reality test?”
“You don’t. I mean, you try. Bring statistics and probability into it.
The likelihood of the TV being directed at you is high because of the way advertising works now, but it’s also not sentient so to break the pattern of thinking electronics are talking to you, you first have to accept they were programmed to cater to your desires, and then to ignore them. But the likelihood of your neighbors watching you is less. Your crush, maybe. An abusive ex, probably. The mailman, unlikely. And the internet is father: always watching.”
“The algorithm,” he said.
I was always talking about the algorithm.
“So anyway, you can’t actually tell me that I don’t owe these ghosts a favor because you can’t tell me that my house isn’t haunted, that I didn’t invite them, that I didn’t communicate with them and ask them for help. Only the ghosts can tell me I don’t owe them anything. Only years can tell me. Only no one can tell me because I would only believe the affirmative. You can’t say no.
“No, you can’t.”
We both watched my feet in the sand.
“But I can teach you how to kayak down Alligator River.”
We both watched the waves crash.
I started guessing with a 98.3% accuracy rate.