Red: Our Aura Reading

In the Polaroid from our aura reading, red holds our faces close and warm. Stepping into the temporary photo booth in the corner of a store full of crystals and incense and books exploring the paranormal, we were so many things, among them two sensible and practical woman lawyers on a special mission.

          “Place your heads together and close your eyes for the photo, if you want,” the aura reader had offered. And we followed, giggling at our pose that felt strange and good, momentary conjoined twins.

          The camera’s flash shocked through my eyelids, mapping pink vessels. The high hum of its mechanical distortion soon fell to a lower frequency, then silenced. We opened our eyes to the sounds of a rattling old printer and the aura reader’s hearty laugh. “The attraction between you is obvious. Red. I don’t need to see the image. It will be red,” she’d nodded. “The deep respect. The love. The fire!”

          I understood what she was thinking but no, I explained, we were not lovers. We were friends. Friends who met in law school a decade prior. Friends living in different cities since, rejoined for a sacred project, looking for clues, trying to eliminate the time we’d need to wait for an answer.

          I had reached out to touch your belly then, because within it, the bundle of cells was proliferating, a four-year-old expanding blastocyst transferred from its icy existence into your warm body—your body that you had offered up like surrogacy was something anyone would do for another who couldn’t carry a pregnancy, like a mother of three risking her life for someone else’s baby was simply doing what needed to be done.

          “My husband and I have a baby here, we think,” I shared. At this, the aura reader drew in her breath.

          “Yes, yes, I know! Of course I know. Yes. This baby is powerful. This baby is very, very special. But you know that.” She picked up the photo, waving it dry. “Look here, between you, and there she is. See that glowing, red orb? That’s her! You have welcomed her. Now, she has a choice.” We looked, and we saw her, too. Glowing. Red.

          The reader was saying things that we’d later find printed on the fan-fold paper she’d handed us. She and the paper explained red. Red, the color of the womb. Red, the color of the passion that yields life. The reader had so many details from the other side to share that she abandoned the line of seekers at her booth and followed us to the checkout, sharing, following, talking, pointing to the red orb that glowed. “You know this is good for you,” the reader said to me, “but you need to understand how much this means for her, too.” And when I looked, you were flushed like she’d been right, like she’d said something that resonated as truth. Red—the color of fire, the color of creativity, energy, enthusiasm. Red, the color of blood. Red, the color of life.

          For a few days following the reading, we remained those giggling girls in that booth in the store for the metaphysical. The booth in which everything was still possible. The booth in which our flame was still flagrant and catching. Inside me like some keepsake in a drawer, I keep that moment from the booth in which anything could still happen. I pull it out and we are here and it is now and we are still preserved, suspended, poised for all that is coming. Just look at that moment, and there she is. She is real. There is evidence, truth, testimony. She is proven. We are haloed in red—the color of life. A glowing, burning red.

          When the lines on the pregnancy tests kept coming up weak and your hormones weren’t multiplying exponentially and you wanted to comfort me, and yourself too, do you remember saying, “No matter what happens, the cells of your baby will always be part of me”? We puzzled on the technicalities, posing questions like lawyers about what we wanted to understand like scientists—frozen cells resurrected, multiplying, combining, shedding, remaining. Maybe never here, maybe never gone. Not a beginning, but also not an end. The life we made together. Mine, yours, ours. Red. Our fervent, fleeting life. Our light that will always burn hot red in the darkness.


ERIN WOOD is the editor of and a contributor to Scars: An Anthology (2015), which assembles the work of nearly 40 contributors on scars of the body. Her “We Scar, We Heal, We Rise,” was chosen as a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2013. Erin’s work has appeared in CatapultThe Rumpus, Ms. Magazine’s Blog, Psychology Today, Entropy, The Woven Tale Press, Tales from the South, and elsewhere. She owns and runs Et Alia Press in Little Rock, Arkansas.