The Color of Your Energy


chess3_icon.gif ignacio_icon.gif

Scene Title The Color of Your Energy
Synopsis The universe doesn't have all the answers Chess seeks, and neither does Nacho.
Date April 6, 2019

Botanica La Romana

Botanica La Romana is institution in Red Hook. The shop was originally owned by Luciana Rodriguez until her death during the Second Civil War, when it passed to her nephew who still owns and operates it. It sells products related to the practice of Santeria, including religious statues and candles, various herbs and natural remedies, and other products regarded as magical or spiritual. It also offers diloggún readings, a practice of receiving guidance by the orishas about one's life and how to restore its harmony.

The outside is painted with a vibrant mural depicting a tropical scene, including an ocean, a beach, and a woman watching over some children playing.

Some people carry umbrellas when the day is gray and foreboding, so that when the sky opens up and dumps what seems like an ocean’s worth of water onto the streets below, they don’t look like they’ve been through the rinse cycle.

And then there are those who don’t.

Chess is in the latter category when she steps into the botanica, blond hair darkened to a gold-brown where it’s plastered against her forehead and cheeks. The outer layers of her clothing are completely saturated, so it’s clear she’s been in the rain for some time, walking for some distance.

She clearly wasn’t just in the neighborhood. And there’s a look on her face that suggests what he foretold to her has come to pass.

The botanica is relatively empty right now — relatively, because there is one person there, and it’s Nacho. He’s flipping through a magazine, but when he hears the door, he looks up, getting ready to do whatever it is he does when people come into the store — probably help them buy things — though then he sees who it is. And he sees her state.

“Ay, mamita,” he says, and he shuts the magazine, pushing it to the side and coming out from behind the counter, “qué te pasa? You know there’s such a thing as a raincoat.” It’s a little bit joking, but he hasn’t missed the look on her face.

Chess is already shrugging out of her jacket, the old leather garment has done a good enough job of keeping her shoulders and arms dry, leaving only the front of her sweatshirt sodden with rain, along with her jeans. “Somehow I don’t picture you wearing a ‘slicker’ outside either,” she says, though it’s not angrily.

She sets the wet jacket on his counter, then leans against it. “Your reading was right. I mean, a lot of it was probably bullshit that could be interpreted a thousand different ways, one of those ‘I see a dark stranger in your future’ sort of things that could be the pizza guy or the bellhop, but still. True enough in that the thing I was buying the Refrain about did suddenly ‘pop up,’ to use your words.” Her expression is flat. “And it’s something that really, really shouldn’t have popped up.”

Her mouth tips to the side, before she adds, “If you make that into a sex joke of some sort, I will absolutely punch you.”

“I like how you come in here looking like that and then tell me I was right but also most of it was bullshit,” Nacho comments as he leans against the counter next to her. “Also, I’m hurt. I only make sex jokes every other day. Today is my Serious Day.” However, his expression is a little less sharp than usual, maybe, some sort of sympathy in there somewhere.

“Why shouldn’t it have popped up?” he asks after another moment. “What, did someone come back from the dead or something?” It sounds more like some random ridiculous thing someone would throw out there, rather than an actual serious guess.

“Oh, you alternate? Like leg day, arm day at the gym?” Chess quips back. She’s still capable of making jokes, at least. Until he makes his next.

Her expression slides away, shifting to something like shock for a brief instant, before the guards come up. She swallows and her jaw tenses and she straightens out of that lean, shoving her hand through her wet hair to push it back and away from her eyes.

“Or something,” she manages to say. It looks like she might say more, but she looks over her shoulder at the door, to the wet day outside, like she might be about to leave and reenter that stormy outdoors. It’s a long look, a wistful one, before she turns back to him.

“You really need the shell things to do a reading? You can’t just tell me straight out?” she asks.

“Exactly like that. You get it.” Nacho presses his hands harder into the counter, bending his elbows a little bit before he pushes himself up quickly, hopping up to sit in the counter. It’s right when she looks away from him, and he settles as he watches her, the corner of his mouth pulling a little bit. “Hm.” He doesn’t probe further — he may not want to get into a back-from-the-dead person as though this were a real life telenovela. It’s not, right? It’s not.

The last part, though, get a little amused huff. Sort of amused, anyway. “Thought you said it was bullshit,” he points out, fixing her with a look, before he shrugs. “Yeah, I need them,” he says. “But it’s not all about the shells. Part of it is that, and part of it is reading people. Some of the stuff I just got from how you walked in. I believe in it, but it’s not magic. It’s thousands of years of people passing on their insight to new generations who want to learn. There are patterns in the universe that you can see if you try.” There’s another shrug, “Or maybe that’s crazy. Whatever. It works.”

Her eyes roll slightly and she shakes her head slightly, but a small smile returns with his amusement. “I do and I don’t,” she says, in regards to it being ‘bullshit.’

What she means by that, she doesn’t explain.

“I do believe that people can see the patterns, though,” she adds, tipping her head to look at him, dark eyes studying his face for a moment. “And that there’s a lot of shit that we don’t understand, shit that shouldn’t work logically but does. Like people popping up that shouldn’t pop up.”

From the dead.

“Can you do another reading? Or is it one per customer?” Chess finally asks.

Nacho looks back at her without flinching, though unlike generally, he looks relatively serious now. “Yep,” he confirms. “So just ‘cause I can’t see it in my mind doesn’t mean Elegguá isn’t speaking to me through the shells. Or whatever force in the universe enjoys it when we pay tribute to it, just as long as we make sure we don’t assume we know everything.”

As for another reading? Well. “Yeah, I could do it,” he says. “But what do you think you’re gonna get this time that you didn’t get last time? It’s not necessarily gonna tell you what you want. Or anything at all.” He smiles then, wider than before as he spreads out his hands as though in apology. “Sometimes I piss the universe off and it tells me to go fuck myself. You know how it is.” It’s a little bit pointed, and while it’s not precisely a sex joke, it probably stems from them having done that, and him having pissed her off, which he has.

The words are not met with a quip or barb this time. Her brows draw together. “I don’t know anything. What I know — I don’t understand. Up is down and foul is fair and I don’t think I’ll assume anything ever again,” she says quietly, no hubris, no pride in the words.

The smile of his pulls one from her, though it’s small and fleeting. “I had different questions this time,” she says simply, one hand reaching up to rub at her eyes. There are no tears there, but there is weariness and hurt, the kind that comes from grief carried for years. “You don’t have to. I just… “

She heaves a sigh, fingers curling around her courier bag’s strap. “The other shit I paid you for — I haven’t done any of it. But I’m close.” There’s no question in her words, but it is still a request.

“Probably a good idea.” Nacho doesn’t sound like he’s being condescending — more a little resigned, like he’s speaking from experience. He slides off the counter and takes one step toward her, closing whatever gap there was between them. “That’s true. I’ll do one if you want — it’s up to you. I just don’t want to get your hopes up, that’s all.”

He reaches up to touch her cheek, brushing fingertips over it very lightly, if she doesn’t pull away. “I usually have a no refunds policy,” he says, “but I could make an exception this time, if you want. We could do something else instead.” His thumb moves to rub over the corner of her mouth, “I can’t promise it’ll be better, but it’ll probably be healthier.”

The mention of hope finds her shaking her head slightly, like it’s a non issue. Hope is not the thing that’s risen from the grave, it seems.

His other words, though, draw a small smile, her lips parting, and as she shakes her head this time, her lips brush the hand lightly, before she reaches up to catch it in hers.

“Oh, I didn’t realize this was an either-or thing. Is it like leg day? You can only give readings on the days you don’t have utterly mindblowing sex with the fucked up girl who insults your belief system?” she tosses his way, a grin chasing away a bit of the darkness.

It’s almost an apology. About as close as Chess gets.

“Of course I can do both. I’m just saying. Offer’s on the table.” Nacho meets her gaze, and the non-apology-but-maybe-an-apology gets a little bit of a wider smile. “Mindblowing, huh? Guess I’m glad to know it wasn’t just me. That would’ve been awkward.”

He squeezes her hand then, before he releases it and turns, gesturing for her to follow him back to the room where she’d had the reading before, grabbing the bag of shells from under the counter on the way. “So. Three questions. We’ll see if the universe is in a giving mood today, or whether we got everything we’re going to get.”

He sits down, gesturing for her to sit across from him and dumping out the shells into his hands, getting ready to toss them. “First question.”

“Don’t let it go to your head,” Chess says, with another eye roll, but this one is at least accompanied by a grin. Of course it’s wiped away again as things go back toward serious, the reason she’s here — well, one of the reasons she’s here.

That potentially mindblowing sex is another.

The blue vials in a makeup bag in her courier bag are yet another.

She sits, watching as he rattles the shells into his hands, her brows coming together to shadow her eyes. The questions are harder to think of, perhaps, or maybe harder to say.

“Yes or no questions are hard,” she says after a pause. “Um. Are they… are they okay?” Her expression turns wry at the inadequacy of words, but she doesn’t seek to elaborate. The universe should know, right?

99 reasons, but being sensible ain’t one. Nacho’s not about to tell her no on pretty much any of those reasons, though. Hey, sensible is boring. And as well, he doesn’t ask any clarifying questions. This is not Common Core Math here, people. Instead, he shakes the shells in his hands, and tosses them onto the table. Some of them land up, some land down, just as they had the other time she’d had a reading. Maybe more up than down.

“Yes,” he says. “Well, mostly yes. Yes enough. Nothing’s perfect, right?” This gets a little wryer smile of his own in her direction, before he gathers up the shells again to do the second question.

Chess nods slowly, one corner of her mouth tipping to the side. “That’s good,” she says quietly. Whoever it is, it’s clear she cares about them.

Even if it’s the wrong one.

She presses her lips together thoughtfully, one hand reaching up to shove another strand of wet hair out of her eyes. She stares at his hands, her own curling around the bag she now holds on her lap.

“Will-” she begins, before she shakes her head. For all of her talk about bullshit, it’s clear at this moment, she believes, that she doesn’t want to ask the wrong question. Or get an answer to the wrong question.

Her brows draw together and she then huffs a soft, unamused laugh. “Fuck. This is hard.” Her eyes come up to find his eyes again. “You’re sure the universe doesn’t want to just give me the winning lottery numbers?”

“Nena, if the universe wanted to give anyone winning lottery numbers, it sure as fuck better be me, and since I’m still here, what do you think?” Nacho grins, though, and she may be unamused but he seems to have thought it was funny on some level. The shells in his hands clink together as he tips them back and forth, studying her from across the table.

“We can stop if you want,” he says, after a moment. “It’s not like one of those things where you have to ask three questions or you get hit by a bus to balance it out.” You’re welcome, Chess.

The corner of her mouth pulls up in a half smile, and she shrugs. “Maybe the universe likes me better.” But that strikes her as funny, and she snorts cynically. Probably not.

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe it has to be threes. We like threes for some reason. Three wishes, three days before Jesus was resurrected, three midnights gone, three…” she pauses, “eleven.” That last one might be a joke.

The half smile fades again, and she lifts a shoulder. “I guess I’m afraid of the answers. This is harder than the other time.” Chess lifts a shoulder. “Should I stay where I am?” she says, clearly a shift in focus away from the more difficult topic of whoever the first question was about.

Nacho snorts at the last three. “Amber is not the color of your energy,” he says dryly. “Not that I’m complaining. I like dark.” When she asks the question, though, he gets a little more serious, and shakes again, tossing the shells down on the table. They roll out a little more gently this time, though whether it’s by design or by coincidence is anybody’s guess.

He studies the pattern for a few seconds, his head tipping to the side, before he says, “Yes.” It took him a little while to decide, but once he has, apparently he’s sticking with it. “One more.” He gathers the shells one last time, getting ready for the final question.

“I hate yellow,” Chess says with a smirk. “Green amber’s nice,” she adds. She watches the roll of shells, nodding once. Whatever that was about, it’s not as emotional a cost to ask, to know.

The third question takes her some time again, long enough that it might seem she’s not going to ask. Teeth rake over her lower lip thoughtfully, and when she speaks, it’s almost reluctantly.

“Are they better off without me?” she asks at last, breath catching in her throat as she watches his hands.

The corner of Nacho’s mouth pulls a little bit to the side when she asks that, but true to form — at least when he’s doing a reading, not at other times though — he does not ask any more questions. He does look at her a little bit longer this time, but then he tosses the shells again.

They all land face down.

A huff escapes him, and he picks them up again as he shakes his head — but he’s willing to try, it seems. However, when he tries again, it ends up with the same result.

“Guess that’s it,” he says as he looks back up to her again. “I never got two of those from the same person before. Seems like you’re a special case. You’ll have to decide whether they’re better off for yourself.”

She looks like she might speak when he looks at her so long before throwing the shells, but then he shakes them out. Her brows draw together when they all land down, and when it does it again, she leans back.

Whatever the answer she expects is, the one he gives is not it.

“What does that mean? Listen, if it’s a yes, I can take it. I don’t mean it in like, the broad sense of the word. I’m not going to go do something stupid if the answer’s yes, if you think I mean the entire world when I said ‘they,’” she says with another roll of her eyes. “It’s a person. One. I basically just want to know if … if I should steer clear of them, for their own good. You don’t have to protect me, Nacho.”

Nacho shrugs, shaking his head. “It’s not that,” he says, lifting a hand as though to stop any further protests or questions. “It means you’re not gonna get an answer. It’s not yes or no. I’m sorry. That’s the best you’re gonna get out of it.”

He picks up the shells again, shaking them a little half-heartedly but enough to have shaken them somewhat, and throws them down onto the table. He does it a little bit too hard this time, and some of them roll off onto the floor. However, it’s still the same answer. Or non-answer.

“See?” he says as he looks back to her, and he really does look apologetic. He honestly doesn’t look like he’s trying to play her. “It’s just not gonna give anything else. It just isn’t.”

She stares at the shells when they land in the same way, shaking her head slightly in disbelief. And yet part of her seems resigned to it.

“No. It makes sense.” Her voice is soft but flat. “The universe… “ she huffs that laugh of hers, but there’s no amusement in her eyes, “doesn’t know what to do with it because one of us is in the wrong place.”

She takes a breath, and it’s a little shaky. “Which is why it’s probably a yes.”

“Oh, Jesus Christ.” Nacho rolls his eyes so far back in his head that it’s a wonder they don’t get stuck there. They manage not to, though, and he starts to gather up his shells to put them back in the bag. “So melodramatic. I know your brand is all angry and dark and don’t get me wrong, it’s hot, but enough.

“Maybe you’re right,” he continues. “So what? Lots of times people are out of sync for whatever reason. Doesn’t mean it’s gonna be like that forever. Maybe it means you’re just blocked because of…” he waves a hand vaguely around her, “whatever this is. Or maybe it’s because of me, and I just don’t understand what’s being asked enough to give an answer. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes the universe is just confused as fuck like the rest of us.”

“My brand?” echoes Chess, with an exasperated huff as she shakes her head. “And what the fuck does that mean, whatever this is?” She gestures at herself in that vague way he did, rolling her eyes.

She shrugs. “It’s a complicated thing and I’m not just being melodramatic.” She opens her bag to rummage in it for her wallet — he can see the thing is full of strange objects — a couple of frisbees and a hubcap of all things. There’s the sound of rattling metal, something smaller, within.

“How much for the reading then?” Last time she bought a trio of Refrain syringes and the reading, so she’s not sure what the price is for the reading on its own. Clearly she’s not expecting a freebie.

“It means I don’t get it, and I’m not gonna try to ask about it. I don’t fucking know what ‘one of us is in the wrong place’ means. Did they just move here and don’t speak English? Are they from Outer Space?” Nacho throws up his hands as though washing them of an explanation. “We’re grown-ups now. Everything’s complicated. Doesn’t mean anything except whatever we let it mean.”

He may glance at the contents of her bag, but maybe it’s one of those complicated things that he’s going to just leave as a mystery. Instead of asking, he waves a hand again — this time the vague gesture is a little different. “Call it even,” he says. “I don’t feel like I did as good a job this time, so.”

She looks away, shaking her head, as if there’s someone to her left that she can commiserate with. “It’s not your fault the universe doesn’t want to answer,” she says, looking around for a price on the readings and pulling out a couple of bills to toss onto the counter whether a sign gives her the right price or not.

“You probably wouldn’t believe me if I tried to explain, but the second is closer than the first. Some sort of sci fi bullshit that shouldn’t exist but does,” Chess says, then huffs another of those short, breathy, unamused laughs. “That’s pretty rich coming from myself, I guess. Maybe I’m the one not supposed to be here. I don’t know. Maybe it’s both. Don’t worry your pretty little head over it, though — not that you were planning on it.”

She tips a head to the backroom. “You have anything back there to take the edge off my melodrama?” she asks, a small smirk tipping her mouth upward again.

That she throws out some bills anyway even though he’s told her not to gets another eyeroll, but not quite as big as the first, and Nacho doesn’t comment on it. He just takes them without bothering to count, and sticks them into his pocket.

“I definitely wasn’t,” he confirms with a lopsided grin. “But I might see the movie, so if you ever end up selling the rights, let me know.” He glances over his shoulder briefly at her last question then, before turning back to her.

“Yeah, I got something,” he replies as he stands up and reaches for her hand. “I hear it’s mindblowing.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License