“And when were you born?” the wizened gentleman asked Anna and I in a bar one night in Thailand. He opened the astrological oracle he always lifted from place to place. “And what time were you born?” We sipped our drinks and fed him our lives and all was well in the cosmos until I told him that I had just split up with my long-term boyfriend.
“Oh, no, no, no,” he shook his head in sorrow. “In this you have chosen the wrong path and I see that for your choice you will experience many strange happenings.” A smile passed across his face as inscrutable as the Orient but I could have sworn it was a smirk. He arched an eyebrow at me. “You do perhaps experience them already, yes?”
“Wise man,” I said, “you don't know the half of it.”
We had been travelling in Thailand for three days, dancing wildly at a full moon party, and I was already wasted in body and mind. I desperately needed sleep but the hut on stilts we'd found to stay in was so impossibly humid that I soon found myself hallucinating. The pervy landlord I lodged with back in England -there he was, his balding head ballooning towards me, getting bigger and bigger, then exploding. Again and again.
The next day we went on a snorkelling trip. Out at sea I jumped in and my breath was instantly taken away by the rainbow of fish swimming all around me. It was only when I saw the shark that I truly couldn't breathe. My pulse quickened, I kicked and splashed away, forgetting that we had been told to stay close to the boat. Other people were also trying to get back but the current was too strong, taking us further and further out. My body tensed. We were caught in a rip-tide. One girl was spluttering and shouting and I fought my way over to her, tried to calm her down, to hold her head above the water while her panic kept pulling me under. Everyone around us was losing control. Then our guides came into sight on a motorboat and we could breathe again.
That same evening, running along the beach, I found myself being followed by a growing number of stray dogs. Their hackles were raised and they were growling through drool hanging from their mouths. Shaking, I stopped running and at least twenty dogs formed a circle enclosing me, snarling. Instinct took over, a mist descended and I snapped. One attacked my ankle and I kicked out, connecting with its jaw. A “RAAAAAH!” escaped from my mouth and spread across the beach and the animals, sensing my rage, fled.
The following morning Anna and I decided to have an eyebrow tint. Please bear in mind, dear reader, that whereas Thai ladies have black hair, mine is red. Halfway through treatment Anna said, “You've got two slugs on your face!” I grabbed a mirror and burst out laughing. My eyebrows, now huge and coal-black, stood out like two nuns in a night club. Anna tried to shush my hysterical cackling as the beautician looked on bemused. But just the thought of it would start me off again. When Anna said I looked like Nicole Kidman I gave her a huge laughing hug.
“It is the wrong path,” the astrologer said again. My sleepless body had been battered by the sea, attacked by dogs -Christ, nearly attacked by a shark. I knitted my chimney sweep's eyebrows into a frown.
“You just might be right,” I said, phoning my ex to declare undying love.