European Mystical in the Enchanting Harlem

As a former resident of the mesmerizing city that never sleeps, I found myself captivated by the fervent belief in the paranormal that seemed to permeate American culture more than any other developed nation. Living amidst the glimmering jewellery stores and psychic shops of my neighbourhood, I was constantly tantalized by the enigmatic neon signs, their allure compelling me to embark on a journey into the heart of the city’s mystical realm. It was in the vibrant neighbourhood of Chelsea, with its multitude of psychic shops and tarot reading establishments, that I found myself drawn to explore a queer psychic shop during my recent visit to New York.

Leaving behind the familiar surroundings of Chelsea, a neighbourhood that had always held a special place in my heart, I hopped on the A train and made my way to Harlem. It was during this subway ride that I stumbled upon a Keano flyer, a ubiquitous sight for New Yorkers who frequently use public transportation. These flyers, printed on cheap paper, were scattered throughout the subway cars, advertising the services of a “Spiritual Consultant, Powerful Master in Love.” However, my quest was not for the services of Keano, but rather for a clairvoyant in Harlem.

Stepping off at Cathedral Parkway, I easily located the establishment I had set my sights on. The entrance to the shop was adorned with purple neon lights, casting an enchanting glow that spilled through the expansive transparent windows. A lone white chair stood before the shop, seemingly placed there for waiting clients, as the interior of the one-room shop could only accommodate one reading at a time.

I was warmly greeted by Esmeralda, who had adopted the moniker “Enchanting Esmeralda” after shedding the previous title of Celestial Sage. The doorbell chimed as Esmeralda emerged from his reading area, a cosy space with blue walls and a table equipped with three chairs. At the centre of the table lay a deck of tarot cards, their presence inviting the mysteries of the universe to unfold, while Himalayan salt candles adorned the corners, casting a soft, ethereal glow. Behind Esmeralda stood a shelf that resembled a shrine, adorned with ceramic figures and framed photographs. After closing the heavy purple curtains that obscured the window, he locked the door, sealing us in his sanctuary. It became evident that purple was the colour of the day, a hue that coincidentally happened to be my favourite. Had he already read me?

The concept of the future can be a daunting one, and while my fascination had always centred more on the individuals who sought out psychic consultations rather than the psychics themselves, there was a certain comfort to be found in these enigmatic encounters, despite the inherent scepticism surrounding the mystical realm and its countless interpretations.

Enchanting Esmeralda, a captivating individual who embraced the art of female impersonation, was quick to clarify his identity smiling after my naive question about what pronoun to use: “I am not a woman, I am a man. You may refer to me as he or she when I am dressed as Esmeralda. I simply derive joy from donning women’s attire, and that is where it ends. As for my racial heritage, I identify as Black. My ancestors may not have had a direct connection to Africa, any more than anyone else does.” With bewitching eyes that held a world of secrets, it became clear why he chose the name, Enchanting Esmeralda, although he merely chuckled and remained silent. Tall, in his thirties, and draped in a resplendent dress that boasted a touch of golden flair, he exuded an aura of grace and beauty. The dress itself was a vibrant red, its neckline adorned with a sparkling ruby collar. His presence exudes an undeniable beauty, the enchanting eyes drawing me in. Maybe the name…

Esmeralda began by asking me a series of questions before proceeding to draw the Tarot cards. As the room filled with a familiar scent, memories of my adolescence in Amsterdam flooded back—a nostalgic reminder of the heady aroma of marijuana. It seemed that my olfactory memory had not betrayed me.

He commenced his revelations, stating, “From this point forward, your intuition will grow ever deeper, urging you to heed its whispers. Be mindful, for you may experience a prophetic dream—pay close attention to its messages. The celestial bodies are aligned to fortify your reputation and solidify the path to your future career growth. Despite a potential setback in a particular project, your reputation remains untarnished.” At the end, he concluded: “Beware… You are in a year of preparation for the Emerald Year that is coming, starting May 25, 2024, and extending a full year. You have been waiting 11 years for this sparkling year. Make the best of it.” The atmosphere and the sincerity with which he spoke were deeply persuasive, instilling in me a belief that transcended mere words. However, the details of his revelations shall remain confined to the realm of my personal affairs. Still, I really needed an Emerald year.

Curious about the state of my love life, I inquired about it, to which Esmeralda responded with a mischievous laugh, saying, “Honey, with the knowledge I possess and our immersion in the queer world, there is much to be seen beyond the confines of our romantic lives.” Perhaps it was the ambiance, the flickering candles, or the hypnotic timbre of his voice, but my mind began to conjure images of a love life yet to unfold. “The cards indicate the presence of a significant, final love,” he uttered, a statement that sent a shiver down my spine.

We bid our farewells, and I seized the opportunity to embrace him more than mere professional courtesy would dictate. In a parting gesture, he kissed both of my cheeks, leaving an indelible imprint of his charm upon me as we ventured back into the bustling streets.

Unable to contain my intrigue, I confided in my friend Fred Alcock, an artist and professor who had accompanied me on this mystical excursion, as we made our way out. “The reason behind people’s enduring fascination with psychics is quite simple,” he shared. “In a world where control is often elusive and anxiety prevails, individuals seek solace in unconventional sources for reassurance. Also, in the absence of definitive answers from scientists, physicians, or elected officials, people turn to more unorthodox channels. Additionally, the disparity in educational levels between the United States and Europe plays a role. Did you know that 1 in 4 Americans firmly believe in individuals with the ability to foresee the future, according to a recent YouGov survey? Furthermore, 1 in 5 people seeks out psychics for guidance.”

Writing the text, the words of Susan Sontag rang in my mind—words that spoke of the unique perspective of queer individuals, who possess “a way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon.” Sontag celebrated their spirit of extravagance and their love for humanity, a love that relishes rather than judges. Enchanting Esmeralda had, in his own enigmatic way, embodied the essence of camp—a fleeting encounter that would forever linger in my memory.

Note: Enchanting Esmeralda did not agree to take any photographs, so the images are for illustration purposes only.

 

Article by Răzvan Ion.

Răzvan Ion is the founder of GAY45.eu. He is a professor in Vienna specializing in curatorial studies and critical thinking. Răzvan authored “The Tooth Brush,” an anthology of fantastic micro prose. His diverse passions encompass technology, comic books, the stock market, art, alternative music, movies, literature, and blockchain. Răzvan’s upcoming book, “The Key to Augmented Education: Data Analytics,” is a non-fictional academic work set to be published in 2024.

 

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