I was on a lunch break from the domestic violence support hotline where I worked part-time. Day after day, I sat listening to women tell me their stories over the phone without being able to do much besides providing an ear and references to various shelters, most of which had waiting lists. There are only so many times you can tell a woman who has just been beaten up that her sole option is to take herself and her children to the PATH Office in the Bronx and sleep in what is the equivalent of a bus station before you start to wonder about how people cope with life, how they make up strategies to keep on keeping on, often in the face of insurmountable stress and crisis.
Maybe because at that point I was getting daily confirmation that shit actually is seriously fucked up and bullshit, particularly for women that find themselves outside of the available structures of care and support, I saw with a different set of eyes a psychic’s storefront sign, the sort that is near ubiquitous in New York City. It claimed to “solve all problems, including love, money, and health.” Despite the cynicism such claims would usually inspire, I was suddenly curious about the ways women might speak to each other in “psychic” spaces. What did they say and do there? Was it ever effective, given that effective need not be defined strictly by the sign’s promises? Could psychic work be more than the “most bullshit-like of vernaculars,” as a woman on Twitter recently put it?