When he was ten, Eddie’s grandmother, his abuela from the mountains, had told him his birthday made him special.
“Your birthday is the second,” she’d said, “and two is a good number. Gentle, intelligent, intuitive.”
His abuela from the city — whom he was only ever supposed to call ‘grandmother’ — told him to forget all of that. “She’s a country woman,” she told him in her most formal voice, the one that made him think of brittle, crumbling parchment. “She still believes in old folk ways. What is numerology? Just a lot of nonsense.”
Eddie didn’t like hearing one of his grandmothers talk against the other. Besides, he preferred listening to his abuela in the mountains telling him his number was special. How could that be bad? He didn’t know anything about numerology, but he liked that she believed, and believed so strongly. He liked the idea that something as random as the number of the day he was born could tell people that he was gentle, intelligent, and intuitive.
He never read anything about numerology, just kept in the back of his head the idea that two was special, that a two meant he was special. He started reading his horoscope every week. It seemed similar enough to numerology, and no newspaper he knew printed a daily numerology, so it was a good stand-in. He didn’t exactly believe what he read, but he read anyway. His sign — Virgo — was one astrologers needed to give some kind of a lesson. Every week, it was never just ‘good fortune’ or ‘bad fortune,’ but always ‘you need to learn about this and pay more attention to that.’
After college he started reading the weekly horoscope in the Village Voice. He liked that they seemed to be written specifically for him, but liked most that they weren’t always a lecture, that he couldn’t always imagine them in his grandmother’s parchment voice.
He didn’t mention this to either of his abuelas, of course. One would have dismissed his superstition and been disappointed, the other would have been too interested, too pleased, would have pushed him to go deeper, to shape his life according to what he read.
The idea of shaping his life from his horoscope should have seemed ridiculous, but the thing he could never have told his abuela from the mountains was that he did pay attention to what he read in the Voice. He didn’t know when it had happened, but acknowledged that it had.
On Wednesday, when he went to pick up lunch, he made sure to grab a paper from the shelf by the check-out. Sitting in Madison Square Park, he read:
Here are some ways to get more respect: 1. Do your best in every single thing you do. 2. Maintain impeccable levels of integrity. 3. Don’t try so compulsively hard to do your best and cultivate integrity that you get self-conscious and obstruct the flow of your natural intelligence. 4. Make it your goal that no later than four years from now you will be doing what you love to do at least 51 percent of the time. 5. Give other people as much respect as you believe they deserve. 6. Give yourself more respect.
At first he was annoyed to find that the week sounded more like a scolding teacher than he’d come to expect from the Voice. But later that night he read it again, and the line that stayed with him was: “Make it your goal that four years from now you will be doing what you love to do at least 51 percent of the time.”
That line kept repeating for him over the next few days. He liked the mild pressure of “four years from now” and “51 percent,” appreciated that acknowledgment of imperfection.
On Saturday he went to the library and started reading about interior design and the color wheel.