Chapter 46

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"What the hell?" the woman at the front door says after giving in to Zandra's relentless knocking. She looks and sounds like she hasn't slept in years despite the stained pajama pants and T-shirt hanging from her emaciated frame. She could be 50. She could be 80. It's hard to tell, but the sight of a psychic in a purple gown holding a souped-up radio next to a hairy hermit in an ill-fitting bathrobe doesn't breathe any life into her.

This must be it.

"Is there a Mrs. Diana Walsh available?" Zandra says.

"That's me. Who wants to know?"

Zandra extends her hand to introduce herself. Diana doesn't reciprocate.

"My name is Zandra. I'm that psychic you've probably heard about," Zandra says.

Diana's eyes skirt back and forth between Zandra and Hermit. "No, actually. Who are you?"

She's either playing dumb or she is dumb. Who hasn't heard of me before?

"Well, I run a well known business in downtown Stevens Point called Sneak Peek. I provide my clients a special type of service, if you catch my drift," Zandra says.

"Sneak Peek? Special services? What are you running, a strip club?" Diana says. She starts to shut the door. "Whatever it is you're selling, I'm not interested."

Zandra sticks a foot inside the door to keep it from shutting. The brief, mild pain reminds her of the ankle surgery. "Listen to me, child. I possess the third eye. I'm a psychic who is constantly in contact with the spirit world. Those spirits told me to come here this morning to deliver an urgent message. Can you think of any reason why?"

Diana stops with the door. She pauses and stares at Herman. "Is that a spirit? Am I the only one seeing him?"

Herman doesn't take offense about his appearance, just as he hasn't for the past several years. He says, "I wish I was, but I'm as real as the world inside your head. Our thoughts are the only things we can know for certain exist, you know."

"What?" Diana says, her tired eyes bulging.

"This is my associate, Herman, who also provides spiritual assistance," Zandra says. "Perhaps we could come in and explain more?"

"I just, I, uh, I'm not exactly set up for visitors right now. Could you come back later?" Diana says.

Zandra glances past Diana to get a look at the interior of the house. It's a mess of dirty dishes, piles of scattered trash and general neglect. But she knows it's not the product of laziness. There's an organization to the chaos, as if it sprouted from the seeds of everyday clutter and grew with each unkempt day.

Looks familiar.

She recognizes it from her home many years ago in the long days, weeks and months after David died and she lost her unborn child to grief. Another look at Diana's eyes confirms it.

This isn't the handiwork of a slob. The poor thing is drowning in depression. This is going to work out even better than I thought.

Zandra reaches out and takes Diana's hand in hers. "You've been in pain for too long, child. It's time to start healing. I only want to help you. Won't you let us come inside?"

Diana's hand trembles inside of Zandra's. A tear rolls down her cheek. "How did you know?"

"The spirits tell me lots of things, child," Zandra says in her most soothing voice. "They told me about how you lost your son, James, in a motorcycle accident. How long has it been? Five years? Six? I'm so sorry."

"Oh, my God," Diana says. Her hand breaks free to cover her mouth. "How did you know?"

"I'm an empath as well as a psychic. I pick up on these things. The hurt, it'll never go away. You grieve and you grieve and you tell yourself there's an end to it, a bottom. But the truth is there is no end. There are only better distractions, better ways of keeping yourself from falling apart for that second, for that minute, for that hour. You might work your way up to days or weeks, or you might not. Eventually you wonder why you're even around anymore. What's the point of going on if there's no one to live for anymore? So you give yourself a mission bigger than yourself or you implode. You go back to school, you find religion, you work for a company that assigns you a lofty goal too big to ignore. Or you destroy yourself, little by little, until there's nothing left inside of you to feel that pain," Zandra says. Her voice cracks as she recalls all the time spent cradled on the floor sobbing so loud she thought the paint would flake off of the walls.

This is a common technique to method acting to make a performance feel more genuine. In order to better identify with a role, an actor will recall situations similar to what the character is experiencing in fiction. If the character is happy, the actor will adapt a real-life moment of exuberance into the performance. It's the same with sad scenes. Having to relive traumatic experiences can psychologically damage the actor, but the results are all the better for the audience.

Of course, method acting isn't limited to actors.

Diana remains silent for a few moments. Her watery eyes look deep into Zandra's. Finally, she says in a whisper, "Come inside."

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