Only An Illusion

There’s a lot I don’t have that other people have, but there’s a lot I have that other people don’t have.”  Aimee Copeland, September 2012


May 1996

I looked around the small, dark apartment on 14th street near Avenue A.  This had been my third or fourth visit to see Reese at her home.  The first time had been inadvertent.  I was with a friend at a restaurant in the Village in New York City.  We noticed a sign on a door, “Tarot Card Reading: $20.00.”  Figuring it sounded like a fun way to amuse ourselves, we each took a turn to see the small woman with black hair and equally dark eyes waiting to inform us of our future.

My friend went first.  “Meg!  Reese told me I am going to move to the West Coast within 5 years and I will meet my husband there!” she reported excitedly.  I got up, and grew nervous, yet anxious to meet Reese.  Would she be able to diminish, possibly even remove my fears about whether I would ever marry?  Have children?  Would they be born with my condition?   I got up to hear my destiny.  The room was more the size of a broom closet adapted for this purpose.  Reese was seated next to a small wood table.  She pointed to the empty chair across from her.  “Sit here,” she beckoned to me.  Reese appeared to be in her fifties, and was quite beautiful, but almost hauntingly.  Her dark eyes focused on me, and I could see the reflection of the candles on the table in her pupils.

Without saying a word, Reese began to shuffle cards and then lay them out neatly on the table.   I was completely unfamiliar with the Tarot cards, other than having heard about them.   Nonetheless, I was intrigued.  There were many cards, each with an individual picture, representing something I did not readily understand.  None of them had any meaning to me, but when Reese had me select cards from the deck, and examined each, she seemed to be in some type of trance.  In truth, deep inside I was uncertain whether I truly believed that the cards held any fortuitous value, but the possibility had me locked in, clinging with hope.  At that time, I had been dating someone for several years, and wanted to hear her say aloud the answer to my greatest fears.  I waited, until finally Reese addressed me. “Meg, you will marry your current boyfriend.”  I inhaled.  Her words entered me like an opiate and I felt calm.   Although I was already a lawyer in Manhattan, what I wanted the most was to be loved unconditionally by someone other than my family.   She looked at me, as almost looking through me.  “You will have two children, a boy and a girl.  They will not be born like you.  They will have all their fingers and toes.”  Immediately, I exhaled, with tears now streaming down my face.

But my visits to Reese did not end that night.  Reese’s initial forecast about my future led me to wanting to hear more.  I began to understand what it meant to become addicted to something, or in this case, someone.  I began to visit Reese at her home, and paid her for each reading.  But I was extremely vulnerable, and Reese was no dummy.  As time went on, and as the readings continued, Reese would come up with reasons I needed to “help her family out.”  Her son needed a new coat.  She needed money for a special treatment for her face.   One day I even met her at Century 21, a discount clothing store, so she could buy her son some more clothes.  At that time, I didn’t care what I needed to do for her, as long as I could receive my “drug,” the knowledge that everything in my life would ultimately be okay.  I had enough sense to know what she expected of me was wrong, but I was too weak to close the door on Reese.  I hated her, but needed her. 

 Katie Couric has a new talk show in the U.S. that I must admit, I have never seen given my work schedule.  But if I had the time I would watch. I love Katie’s vibe and decided to watch a taping of her first guest.  The interview was with Aimee Copeland, the Georgia student who is now a quadruple amputee after battling a life-threatening, flesh-eating bacteria over the summer.   She came on stage and, at first glance, appeared to be a tragic victim of life’s cruelty and randomness.

But in fact, Copeland practically beamed as she carefully walked, with the aid of a new walker, across the stage to join Katie. When Couric asked Copeland if she “ever felt like just dying” her response was practically inconceivable, given her recent ordeal.   She gazed at Couric with complete sincerity.  “I love life.  It’s a beautiful thing…even more so now.  Senses are so deepened, everything smells better.  Everything is more vibrant, more beautiful.”  As Couric described it, “She is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met.  Her spirit and determination are just completely overwhelming.”

I was mesmerized.  To me, as she spoke, Aimee Copeland’s inner beauty shone colorfully and brilliantly. As someone who was born with and has been living with a blatantly physical difference, it took me years to flaunt.   It was not just a struggle; there were times that my insecurities left me, in a word, pathetic.  Self-acceptance did not come naturally to me.  Instead, it had been a long and winding road, filled often with difficult turns and even negative influences.  Although I was always a naturally positive person, that did not automatically translate into an immediate ability to accept my lot in life. Rather, for years it haunted me, leaving me fearful and vulnerable to people like the fortune teller who would soothe me with lies.

This post is written to celebrate Aimee Copeland, a true vision.  Her now weakened and imperfect body is actually only an illusion.  To me, she is one of the strongest people I have seen in years.  


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