It's like noticing that the light has turned greenish and realising that it will probably rain. It's like... it's like putting your hand on the hood of a car, and knowing from the temperature that the engine was turned off only recently.
But it's more than that. It's like hearing your boyfriend say "I love you" on the phone and knowing that the next time you meet in person, you'll be talking about breaking up. Or watching your five-year-old run up to you after swimming lessons and just knowing that she finally learned how to float today.
It's like none of those things. And the frustrating part is, it's uncontrollable. It comes and goes.
Usually the only hint that a bout of it is coming on is music in my head. I'll wake up in the morning with a song I never liked and haven't heard in years buzzing around my skull. Last Monday I woke up with "One on One" by Hall & Oates on the old cerebral jukebox.
The first thing I thought was, "Gah! Punch up the Black Flag playlist on the phone now now NOW!"
The second thing was, "Shit. It's happening again."
Nothing happened on the drive in to work, but as soon as I walked in and saw Kevin's back, I knew. He was leaning against the kitchenette wall, talking to some other people. I couldn't see their faces, but then Bernadette leaned around the entrance and said, "Hi Sheila!". I said, "So Gina said yes then, Kevin?"
And Kevin turned around and grinned and held up the hand with his engagement ring on it. "Yes on Friday, got the rings on Saturday," he said.
"Congratulations!" I said, and listened to the usual chatter about the date and the plans and booking the banquet hall and the honeymoon.
That's how they work, usually. It just seems like a regular, banal, communication thing, right?
Except Kevin came up to my desk at lunchtime, and quietly asked how I knew his girlfriend's name was Gina. It's a good question. Hardly anyone knew for certain that he had a girlfriend, never mind her name. He's a pretty private person.
I didn't have an answer for him, so I just frowned and said he must have mentioned it at some point. Believe me, I've gotten pretty good at that frown over the years.
Kevin looked like he was going to start arguing with me, but then Tom from accounting came up to ask him something, and he sort of shook it off.
So I'm safe again, at least unless someone really notices that no-one actually said "marriage" or "engagement" or "congratulations" while I was within earshot.
It's like... it's like walking into a room that's empty, and you didn't see or hear anyone leave, but you know a huge argument just happened right before you got there.
Usually it's changes to relationships that I pick up on, even when I don't know the relationship exists. Marriages, divorces, deaths, pregnancies. The worst time was probably when I asked my next-door neighbour if she was feeling okay, two hours before she had a miscarriage. She was only three months along, wasn't showing yet, and her and her husband had decided they weren't going to tell anyone for as long as possible. They'd been trying to conceive for a long time. She met me on the sidewalk when she got out of the hospital and started screaming at me that I caused the miscarriage by suggesting it to her. Her husband accused me of reading their mail. I can understand why they got upset, but it was still scary.
It's like your spouse covering your eyes and saying, "Guess what I got you for your birthday?" and you guess right on the first try. It's like guessing exactly the right number of jellybeans in the jar.
I've been accused of stalking a few times. That's scary too, but mostly because I can't imagine half the stuff I pick up on being available even to a very dedicated stalker. The few times I've tried to explain it to people, they've told me that it's just déjà vu and I'm imagining things. That doesn't explain things like knowing Kevin's girlfriend's name, though.
There's a bookshop I like to go to on Fridays after work. They sell new and used, have a small but very cool selection, and they have a café at the front with the best gelato in the whole city.
There's this cute guy who works the café counter most Fridays. The afternoon I bought Punk is a Four Letter Word, I got some vanilla gelato and a coffee and tried pouring a little of the coffee over the gelato, like I saw in a French movie a long time ago. I sat there and ate my ice cream and read my book, and it turns out the cute guy is a huge Screeching Weasel fan, same as me, so we got talking about music and books and all sorts of stuff. Now we always talk for at least half an hour every Friday.
I'd never ask him out, because I know people who work retail can wind up getting hit on more than a Mexican piñata, but I always thought I'd love it if he asked me.
It's like walking into your apartment and realising you've been robbed before it registers which things are missing.
The cute guy wasn't there today, for the first Friday in eons. The woman behind the counter was completely friendly and polite, and everyone else in the shop acted fine, but I just know he's not coming back, and I just know it's not because he quit or got fired. I can never put my finger on the specifics before the news actually arrives. The mood in the shop... it's entirely possible that they don't have the news themselves yet.
It's like getting punched in the stomach by a ghost.