I run into an old lover I haven’t seen in thirty years, and after a bit of mundane chit chat, he asks if I can still predict the future. He doesn’t laugh. I don’t laugh. If I could have predicted that I would have run into him, I would have gone a different direction. He waits for an answer that will never surface, while I wonder why, after all these decades, this is what he remembers of me.  I want to be elsewhere, and I am elsewhere, but not sure where, and I know where I don’t want to be. 

Back in time. 

1979. Sitting at Windmill Restaurant overhearing the detectives who have come to town to investigate a murder, saying there’s a crazy girl with ESP we have to meet today. I eat my eggs and drink coffee, looking at them in the next booth. We look at the clock on the wall, and then the five of us walk across the street to the police station, and when they realize I am the crazy girl, they all laugh, and the oldest one says, I bet you knew this would happen, didn’t you? We’d be sitting at the same restaurant next to each other, then heading here?

Their laughter hurts my ears and I regret carrying my sketch book, knowing I’ll be sharing my crappy doodles, the drawings of people I may never have seen. When the oldest detective asks what I know about the murder, I admit I am not sure I know anything about the murder, but I have a feeling that more than one person is involved in the murder. He wants to know why I think this if I don’t even know the dead college girl. I shake my head, embarrassed, because I don’t know why I think this. I say I haven’t been able to sleep since she was murdered and that I have a bad feeling that there was a group of people, people she already knew, and they were somewhere late at night not far from here. 

One drawing has four numbers of a license plate number I may never have seen in real life, numbers I wrote down another night in bed when I woke, thinking about this recent murder. The fattest detective suggests that I’m psychotic, then laughing, oops, I mean a psychic, not psychoticHa. Ha. The thinnest detective says he’d like to be a psychic so he’d know what his wife was doing while he’s at work, and all the men sitting around the table laugh until someone returns to the room with info about the license plate, and they stare at me, wondering how I knew those numbers, and I say I’m not sure, but maybe it was the plates of the man I had seen jerking off by the school days before the murder, when this man kept asking me directions for streets that didn’t exist, and something told me to not look at his hands, which I didn’t do until I saw the kids leaving the elementary school. Then I looked at his hands as he smirked at me, jerking off. I screamed and he drove off. So maybe it was his license plate, his face in my sketch book, or someone else’s that I’ve never seen. 

The oldest detective says his daughter is also named Janet, just like the murdered girl, and they are both the same age, so maybe that’s psychic also. I say that sounds more like a coincidence. The youngest detective asks if I worked at the Blue Mill Inn with Janet and wants to know if I’m holding back information. I tell them I’ve never been in that motel and I don’t know this girl, then wonder if maybe I do know this girl since she attends the local college, and maybe I’ve seen her at a bar in town, she sitting at a table with her friends, me at a table with mine, and everything becomes a blur and I wonder why I offered to come to the police station to discuss this case. I flip through my sketchbook pages, and they ask if they can keep it, and I don’t dare say no, so I hand it over and assure them that that there’s nothing I know about her murder except I can’t sleep at night thinking I know she was murdered somewhere not far from here and there should be plenty of footprints. Great tip, the thin detective says, and once again they all laugh. 

The oldest detective says I should get help, that I’m not normal. The fattest detective looks at his notes and asks if I am the same girl who had just found that old man by his car, the man who ended up in the hospital, the man I noticed from my upstairs apartment window looking confused, so I left to see if he needed anything, and he said he couldn’t unlock the door, maybe the lock was frozen. I put the key in the lock and he started passing out, so I opened his car door and shoved him into the car seat, ran to a phone booth, and when the ambulance came, they said I should ride with him, even though the hospital was just a few blocks away, but maybe they thought I was his granddaughter, and at the hospital, a police officer asked me about my connection to this diabetic man who had a pocket filled with candy bars, this man I didn’t know, and when I said I saw him through my apartment window and went to check on him, the officer said I could go home now, just like these detectives also finally release me, so I can walk home in the snow, remembering how once, long ago, I believed I was a witch, casting spells on the bogeymen I was certain hid in the closet and beneath the bed that I shared with my sister, assuring her every night that I turned these men into frogs, then sent them away into manholes, and we could sleep soundly now; but deep down, years later, I knew that wasn’t possible. 

After meeting with the detectives about the murder, the police circled my apartment late at night, shining their lights through my window, maybe thinking I’d come running out in my pajamas confessing I knew more about that girl’s murder, or just shining their lights to let me know they had enough of my shenanigans with old diabetic men, younger masturbating men, and unknown murderers, while I thought, that’s no way to treat someone you think is crazy. 

And after years of dreaming of deaths that never happened, then answering that dreaded phone call about a death I never expected, I finally started breathing more deeply, feeling somewhat free of this curse of believing I knew when bad things were about to happen, untangling myself from this déjà vu of past, present, future, and elsewhere, finding comfort sitting in fields of flowers and walking next to roaring waves, far away from people who ask me questions about things that may or may not have happened decades ago.


  • Diane Payne is the author of Burning Tulips (Red Hen Press). Her work has been published in Watershed Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Kudzu House Quarterly, Superstition Review, Burrow Press, and Cheat River Review among many others. She is the MFA Director at University of Arkansas-Monticello.