Someone recently asked me to describe the strangest thing that had ever happened to me during my 20 plus years of living in Costa Rica. My first memory was of an incident that occurred in downtown San Jose in the early 1990s. I had spent the night in a pension in Barrio Mexico. The following morning I walked the kilometer or so toward the small, congested center of downtown San Jose. The most direct route took me through a bedraggled district of cheap all-night bars populated by loud and broken-down street people, but as I was walking among a multitude of pedestrians all en route to downtown, the scene—which was right out of Hogarth’s Gin Lane—seemed harmless. At 6 feet 1 inch, I had no problem seeing over the heads of the people walking in front of me, and ahead I saw a small, boisterous woman, standing in the street and clutching a sort of bedroll. The first thing I noticed was that she was missing an arm. The second thing I noticed was that she was staring right at me. Her wild eyes locked onto me as I approached and did not waver. I glanced away and glanced back and the look in her eyes suggested that I might have been a walking composite of every man who had ever wronged her on her life’s tortured path, As I passed where she stood, I saw a sudden motion from the corner of my eye, then was struck hard on the side of my head by the thing she had been clutching. If it was a bedroll it must have been of the cement lined variety. I reeled and grabbed the shoulder of the person in front of me to keep from falling as she continued whacking me with all the force her one arm would allow. She was saying something as she swung, but I did not understand. Within a couple seconds I was out of her reach, absorbed by the flow of the pedestrians. I heard laughter coming from across the street as I regained my senses and continued toward the city.
I am not sure if that incident qualifies as “strange”. The streets are full of crazed and defeated people often ready to react violently, and my brief experience was more a result of walking down the wrong street. Strange—to me—is when one or more events occur randomly and senselessly, like an odd dream one awakens from laughing or crying or shivering. Had the woman struck me on the head, and then jumped into the back seat of a waiting limousine and sped off, the event may have truly been considered “strange”.
Of course, what is truly strange varies from person to person, dependent upon one’s collected experiences. My incident in the street was a great story that I repeated numerous times over the years, but in terms of strangeness, pales compared to what I am about to reveal for the first time here: Back in the late 1990s I made the acquaintance of a well-traveled English-speaking Chilean woman who claimed to be a psychic. With her flowing prematurely gray hair, steady shining eyes and intense demeanor, she certainly looked the part. I was skeptical of her claimed powers—whenever she greeted me with an innocent “How are you doing today, Matt?”, my first instinct was to say, “Don’t you already know?” I spoke with her frequently, but never about her alleged psychic powers. Then one day in 1999, she told me that she had a job offer in Los Angeles and would soon be leaving. We made some small talk and before departing she kissed me on the cheek and told me to be prepared for big changes in the near future. She locked her eyes on mine, took my hands in hers, and made the only psychic prediction I had ever heard her make. Here is the last thing she said to me:
“A loony is soon to come out of his bin, laden with terrible surprises.”
Sometime in late 2001 or early 2002, I awoke one morning with that sentence pounding through my head. I got up and wrote it down on a piece of paper and saw the name of the recent perpetrator of the worst attack against the US in recent memory, along with a word derived from the word “terror”. I fell back into bed and shivered for the next half hour.
Strange? You be the judge.