Talismans

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One of the residues of my unfortunate upbringing in one of those disgusting godmen cults is that I place some faith in the idea of the talisman. (Other residues would include wavering agnosticism and intense hatred of said and similar godmen cults.)

It’s something that’s been shown to be at least a serendipitous belief, if not a provable one. Two years ago I endured some impossible trauma in which my life was endangered by a person obsessed with me to the point of losing all she actually loved. The experience destroyed me in ways I have yet to recoup. It was at that point that two talismans entered my life.

What I believe is not in the protection of talismans by themselves, but in their definitive, specific purposes. I believe they enter my life, do the required, and then go away once their power has played its use out. One of the talismans I got at this time was explicitly religious, a pendant of Kali which I attached onto an old necklace of slim beige beads. One night, a few months later, I woke up startled and screaming, and found that the necklace had shattered all over my body. The next morning, my mother called from another country to say that she had woken up in the middle of the previous night seized with the certainty that something terrible had happened to me. We had both been shaken from sleep at the same time.

On the day that I spoke to Evelyn Hii of No Black Tie to confirm my first solo spoken word show, a first in some ways in Kuala Lumpur also, it was raining and she was stuck in traffic. So I spent some time at the new age place next door. Everything in it was absurdly expensive, from the espresso to the books. But there was a large bowl near the entrance filled with small orange-yellow stones and a sign that invited the visitor to leave with one. I spotted it as I left, couldn’t resist putting my hand into that cool, textured heap of little gems. “They’re carnelian stones,” said the guy who worked there. “Take the one that calls to you.”

I did. It looked like a miniature mango, with a small brown flaw that could have been from where the stem would have emerged. I went to my meeting. My show was confirmed, with the stone in my pocket. I continued to carry my carnelian stone for months. But somewhere between the four hotels of my Indonesia stay, it disappeared. Its purpose had a clarity I saw right away: it came to me at a crossroads in my career, and went away once the outcome of that crucial period — a period in which opportunities came one after the other, and in which my life became enriched by the generosity of some wonderful people I met then — was sealed.

The second of the talismans I got two years ago was almost a fashion purchase, a cheap metal bangle of a two headed snake. I liked it because it looked good. It wasn’t something I needed to explain. But as soon as I saw and touched it, I understood that it would mean more to me than that. I have an embarrassing amount of jewellery, so you have to understand that this doesn’t happen very often, which is why I recognised it right away. I almost never took it off since then.

Last night, I found my bangle among a pile of clothes on the bed. I had no memory of taking it off, I did not even realise it was gone, and its size is such that it cannot have slipped. It was like it sneaked off my wrist and waited patiently until I saw it.

I wonder what that means.

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