The Fortune Teller of Admiralty Way

The old weathered woman walked in the Bukka and all eyes were on her. She didn’t seem to mind, though, as she sauntered off to the main bar and ordered ‘something strong’.

I whipped through the bottles and found a nice mix of Hennessy that I also diluted; the woman looked old enough to be my mother’s mother. I gave her the glass and she downed it then gave me a look that soon turned to a glare.

“I said,” she said, “something strong. My grand-daughter could drink this.” She narrowed her eyes at me now. “My grand-daughter is five.”

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled as I went back to get her something else. Something stronger.

Bolu stumbled to the bar and he smiled and me and winked at the old woman. “Ah, mama,” he said, his words already slurred. “I think…I think…I think that you’ve, ehm, come to the wrong place. The hospital is…. the…the — next turning.”

“Two,” the woman said, not looking up from the drink I just gave her. She was swirling the brown liquid in her hands as she muttered to herself.

“Ehn?” Bolu said.

“Two,” the woman repeated. “That is how many times you will cheat on your wife before she finally catches you.”

Bolu looked at me, and then the woman. “What do you…what do you mean?”

She took down the shot and she didn’t even wince.

“Weak,” she muttered, “but it’ll do.” She looked at Bolu, “I can see things, child. I can see a lot of things, about everything. The sun, the stars, the moon: I saw when they were born, I saw before the nothing became the something, and then the everything.

“I can see worlds. And I can see your adulterous ass in the future, caught in the sheets with one of your golf friends. I can see your wife’s wide eyes now, her open mouth, as she realizes she was worried about the wrong gender.” Then she called, “Another one!”

Bolu stood up and staggered through the bar looking at everyone wildly as he left. The woman smiled at her glass as I refilled it. A small gathering of people had come as she was talking. They could sense what I could feel too, deep in my bones — this woman wasn’t joking. I was happy I had a good spot.

“Wait, wait,” Marcus said, splaying his fingers, “you can tell the future?”

The old woman nodded as she took a sip from the drink. “Yes,” she said, “I can.” Then, to me, “Boy, come there should be a red first aid kit under the counter. Bring the bottle of spirit there, that’s the good strong stuff.”

I didn’t ask her how she knew about the kit; I just did what she asked.

“But won’t telling Bolu the future,” Tiggs said, “change the future?”

Cynthia, Tiggs’s wife, muttered, “I’ve seen you before.”

The old woman shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. Human beings are stupider than you think.” She downed her drink and motioned me to add more. “It’s not my business anymore. I’m done with all this, finally.”

“Why?” I asked.

She looked at me with weary eyes. “I’ve seen what every fortune teller knows they will see at some point.”

“What?” Emeka asked from behind her, a glass in his hand.

She took a sip of her drink. Then, “My death. I’ve seen how I die.”

“But, can’t you change it?” I asked. “I mean, you’ve seen it, it can be avoided.”

She smiled at me then. “No,” she said, “that’s not how it works. Once you see the future, it’s set in stone. I am going to die today, and that’s it.”

“I knew it!” Cynthia shouted. “I’ve seen you before. You normally walk on this Admiralty Way. I see you every day.”

The woman nodded. “I walk around. I liked it before the roads and the people came in. It was nice, then. Quiet.”

“Can you tell us our futures?” Cynthia asked quietly.

The woman whipped her head to her, then considered. “Okay,” she said and she flapped her hands. “One last time.”

She looked at me and I felt it then, this cold shiver that travelled across my spine. The woman narrowed her eyes at me. “You will be married soon,” she said, and I smiled. “But the marriage will end,” she continued and the smile dropped. “Disastrously,” she ended and my shoulders sagged.

She looked at me and shrugged. Then she moved to Cynthia and Tiggs. “You will both have a child. A big one.” They smiled and Cynthia started crying into Tiggs’s shoulder. “We’ve been trying for a while,” he said.

“Ah, I see,” the woman said. “Your child will also be the first….” she closed her eyes tightly, “gay president.”

Tiggs’s mouth was open as Cynthia looked at the woman in shock, her face tear-stained. “What?” They both said in unison.

The woman had already moved to Emeka. She looked at him once and then twice. “You will die alone,” she said.

“Ahn ahn,” Emeka said. “Just like that? That’s all you saw in my future?”

The woman shrugged as she picked up her drink and stood. “I didn’t even look. I could just tell. You smell bad and your hair cut is stupid.” She downed the drink in her hand, and this time she didn’t ask for more.

She was heading to the door when she spun with her finger in the air. “And you,” she said. “I can feel you.”

I looked around, so did everybody. There was no one else at the Bukka. “Who?” I asked.

“They’re not here,” the woman said, “not in the real sense of it. They are watching these events, right now, through some form of…technology, magic? I can’t tell. But they are seeing these words spoken, they can hear us.”

Her eyes softened. “Life has not been kind to you, no? Oh, child, I understand…I understand.

“So, my last fortune, my very last, will be for you.” She coughed into her hand. “I won’t tell you that you can do it, gods know you that already. And I won’t tell you that it will be easy, gods know that is a lie. I will tell you this: one day, you will find what you are looking for, underneath this rubble and pain of a life. And you will be astonished, not because you found it, but because of the where. The where. That has always been important.” She looked at the ceiling. “Important,” she repeated and with that, she nodded at everyone in the bar and left. Leaving a kind of empty space in the seat she just filled.

Weeks later, I asked Cynthia if she ever saw the woman walking down Admiralty Way again and even before she shook her head, her stomach already bulging, I knew the answer.

Anthony Azekwoh is a Nigerian-based author and artist. He has written five books so far, and is now working on the sequel to his fourth book Ṣàngó, Oya.