Chapter 2: The Devil
Even though it was definitely “Not Safe For Work,” Rosemary brought the card with her. She couldn’t tear her eyes off it: The Devil. A huge, red, satyr-like creature with curved horns and goat legs, sporting an impressive erection. In each hand he held a rope, and attached to the ropes was a naked man and woman, collared, enslaved. It burned a hole in her purse; she took it out again and again on the bus, surreptitiously peeking at it when no one else was looking. The card was terrifying, but also arousing. Was the devil an ancient fertility god, or an evil force? Was he both?
She thought about it all morning, while serving snacks, reading books, leading songs for the kids. Rosemary worked at a corporate daycare downtown, in the toddler room. It was physical work, keeping up with those busy little bodies, but not challenging. The hours were good – 8 to 5, with an hour lunch break; the pay was decent, and the job was fun. She liked the routines, the caring aspect of it, and the opportunity to come up with creative art projects they could do. Mostly, though, it paid the bills. Now in her sixth year there, Rosemary couldn’t be bothered with making a career change.
It was after lunch, the toddlers snoozing for their imposed two-hour nap, when she drew The Devil out again. The card seemed to wink at her. Sex, it whispered. Passion. Lose control; release; submit. She shivered, setting it aside. Though they weren’t supposed to use cell phones during work hours, Rosemary sneaked over to her purse to check her texts. Nothing from Fabricio, which disappointed her more than she thought it should.
There was a text from Thyme, though: “Online dating. Make a profile. Now!”
“Guess I might as well,” she mumbled. Putting her phone away, she made the rounds to check on the kids, and then settled back at her computer. Having talked it over with some of her more experienced colleagues, Rosemary had settled on a website to start. Free, but pretty active and relationship-focused, so she had a good chance of maybe meeting someone on there. Plus it did profile matching and stuff.
Making a dating profile was definitely weird. The first issue was coming up with a username. Finally she settled on something lame: Happy_Art_Girl. Next came the inevitable personal questions. How the hell do I summarize myself? Feeling silly, she wrote some stuff about being an art lover, liking kids, reading, hiking. The rest was multiple choice. Religion – it’s complicated. She picked “Spiritual.” Politics: Mostly Liberal. Height: 5’4. Body Type… she hesitated between “Skinny” and “Athletic.” Rosemary thought she was slim, not skinny; but athletic implied some kind of regular physical activity. She chose “Skinny.” Age: 32. The next question had to do with what kind of relationship she was looking for. Rosemary didn’t click Friendship, or Hookup; she hesitated between Dating and Relationship, then picked both. Keep my options open.
The last step was uploading a profile picture. Flipping through her phone, she found one that Parsley had taken earlier that spring. In it, Rosemary was standing under a blooming cherry tree on the UW campus. The delicate blossoms looked like a cloud, and Rosemary thought she looked cute – approachable and attractive, but not intimidating – in her long jacket and scarf. She was smiling in the photo, too, which was a plus. She uploaded it, did a quick look-through to make sure she had no glaring typos, and then clicked on the big green GO! button. Your profile is live! the computer declared. Go get ’em, Tiger!
It was hard to concentrate on the rest of her workday. Rosemary desperately wanted to check her phone, to see if anyone had messaged her. But once they were awake, the toddlers needed constant monitoring. Her afternoon flew by in a series of dirty diapers, snack times, clean-ups, and trips to the playground. Five o’clock rolled around and before she knew it she was heading home.
As she waited for the 12 bus she opened up the website on her phone. Alongside her profile was a list of possible matches, so she scrolled through, glancing at the series of smiling male faces. With all these oysters in the world, why haven’t I been able to find a pearl? Nobody had sent her a message, though. Sighing, Rosemary was just about to put her phone away when something popped up with a buzz.
The bus came just then, and she hurried to find a seat. Opening her phone again, Rosemary saw that it was a message. From user name Dev’lish23.
“Hey. I just noticed two things about you: you’re beautiful and you’re new. Just joined up today?”
Rosemary’s heart pounded. He’d messaged her just now! What was the etiquette? Should she respond, or pretend she hadn’t gotten it? Play hard to get, yeah, that’s that you’re supposed to do… but Rosemary had never been good at following those classic dating rules. Her itchy fingers got the better of her, and she typed, “Yeah. First time trying online dating. Friends recommended this site.”
While waiting for his reply, she clicked on Dev’lish23’s profile. His profile picture showed a smiling tan face, smooth-shaven, with cropped blond hair. He had that all-American charm, with his blue eyes and wide grin, like a 1950’s golden boy. Religion: Atheist. Politics: Liberal. Height: 6’1”; body type: Athletic. Age: 30. Looking for: Relationship, Dating, Hookup, Friendship. Huh, so he’s down for anything, I guess. His bio was full of charm, written in a confident, clear style. He mentioned kayaking, salsa dancing, and amateur filmmaking among his interests. Rosemary kept looking for red flags, but none jumped out at her. Maybe the coincidence with The Devil card was just that… Parsley couldn’t be right all the time. This whole Tarot thing could be a load of crap.
“Good choice,” he messaged back. “This is the best site, in my experience.”
Rosemary briefly wondered how extensive his experience was.
“Just thought I’d try it out.”
“So your profile says you’re looking to date. Are you free on Friday night?”
Whoa! Just like that, he asks me out? What the hell? I mean, is that what people do? Rosemary almost missed her bus stop; she pulled the cord just in time. The phone went back in her purse as the bus screeched to a halt. She needed time to think. By the time she pulled her phone out, halfway to her apartment, he’d messaged again.
“Sorry if that came off wrong. I didn’t mean to scare you. I just prefer to actually meet people in person, and I would definitely like to meet you.”
Steeling herself, Rosemary decided to go for it.
“Okay. I’m free on Friday.”
“Let’s grab drinks?”
“Sounds fine. I work downtown, so maybe a bar around there?”
“Got it. You ever been to Black Velvet, on 3rd and Pine?”
“It’s awesome. You’ll love it. See you there Friday at 6?”
“Works for me.”
“Sweet.” There was a pause, while Rosemary wondered whether she should reply. Then he added: “Hey, what’s your name?”
For some reason, she felt reluctant to reveal that about herself right away. I mean, I’ve only been a member since this afternoon! Is this guy for real? At least we’re meeting in a public place. Maybe I’ll ask Thyme to come shadow me, just in case…. Oh, don’t be stupid, she chided herself. This is 2016, for God’s sake. You’re a grownup, independent woman. Just go on the freaking date! Still, she didn’t want to give him her name.
“Rose,” she finally said. That’s half the truth.
“I’m Josh. Can’t wait to see more of you on Friday, Rose.”
“See you then.”
She replayed the exchange in her mind for hours, as she boiled water for pasta, heated up a jar of sauce, shredded the Parmesan cheese. Josh – Dev’lish23 – The Devil. On the spur of a moment, Rosemary cleared off the top of her bookshelf, deciding to place the Tarot cards there, one by one, in order as they were revealed. She tucked The Fool into the corner, smiling at the happy little white dog. Now this card seemed hopeful, cheerful; a memory of yesterday – the first day of my Tarot journey, and meeting Fabricio. I wonder if he’ll actually text me. Probably not. Maybe I should’ve gotten his number, too. Setting The Devil beside it made The Fool seem even more innocent and appealing. The Devil was dark, suggestive, heavy. It drew her in, yet also terrified her. What is that card trying to tell me? Do I want to go there, or not?
Unsettled, yet also thrilled with the unexpected events of the day, Rosemary plopped down on the couch. She turned on Netflix, found the latest episode of her show, and dug into a bowl of pasta. One thing was becoming abundantly clear: this whole Tarot adventure was sure to bring surprises.