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You Were Here

Psychic Junkie

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2021 by Gian Sardar

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Lake Union Publishing, Seattle


Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Lake Union Publishing are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781542026895 (hardcover)

ISBN-10: 154202689X (hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781542022422 (paperback)

ISBN-10: 1542022428 (paperback)

Cover design by Micaela Alcaino

First edition

For my father, whose stories inspired this novel and whose gracious heart has taught me to find the beauty in the world.


June 8, 1979

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19




June 8, 1979

She’d seen it clearly: a woman half-over, half-happy with her life. A focused, single snapshot of her future midmark, that moment the hourglass gets flipped. She’d be forty-five years old and play a mere footnote in her own life: someone’s secretary, someone’s wife, someone’s mother. Just thinking about it made her want to run naked and screaming into the street—which she might have done had she not hated herself naked and had she not been afraid of dying, particularly in the street.

Olivia was twenty-seven when she imagined this future self. Now she’s twenty-eight, and what’s happened in the interim is proof that life can be condensed into a sharp, horrifying essence, that after years of stagnancy, events can tumble with white-water rage. It’s clear to her that her previous worry was born from youth, from an innocence she knew she had even then but tried to keep hidden. After all, to panic at having a job, a spouse, a child? To see a brick house and block parties as punishment? A failing?

Boredom, she was told—and now believes—is a privilege. If she could go back in time, she would, just to kick herself. A pinch in the rib. Without thinking, she’d trip herself to stop her restless wandering, to keep her from boarding that plane.

Be careful what you wish for, her father used to say. And there she’d gone and wished for love. That bottomless, enduring kind of love, the kind in which you see the depths of all someone wishes to keep hidden and yet still you love, relentlessly. And she had wished for her career. To take photographs that would matter, that would catch breaths and make people shift in their seats. And now, in her room, in a folder she’s not opened, are photos she’s afraid to look at. The wish, she knows, came true.

Her best friend says her eyes are less green. Some days Olivia sees it, that they’re not as vivid, that before they were filled with something that on good days she calls hope and on other days calls ignorance. Her hair as well. Auburn still but wavier then, as if after the trip, the weight of all she’d been through had pulled frivolity and flourish from everywhere it could.

Now she stands in their yard. Baking in the Los Angeles sun and watching the windows of his room, feeling his absence like a draft. When she cranks the knob on the hose, the water arcs from this side to that from their flimsy sprinkler, and the simple fact of this current is a fist clenched within her because she remembers too clearly carrying water in a pail. Each drop precious, each spill a denial. And then she remembers the way white woven shoes looked against the dry earth. The way hands brushed dirt from a new leaf, helping the sun reach through its skin. And the way blood looked on that same earth later, soaking in as if the land itself had made the demand and would take whatever it could get.

Usually the memories are pulled from unexpected hooks. A low-flying airplane, she hears its rumble and instantly is there, teacups shaking and glass rattling in window frames, feeling confused at the panicked reactions around her because to her, in her life and where she was from, an airplane had only ever been an airplane. The scent of diesel or kerosene. A heavy mix of spices. Even the crisp of grilling meat. Any of it places her in the bazaar, his shoulder pressing into hers, this way, through that alley. With the rough feel of sequins or taffeta against her skin, a hand is always placed within her own, and without fail, the scent of oleander takes her to the moment of a confession. Heart racing. A rising heat.

Damask rose. She cannot smell damask rose.

Nor can she listen to someone pounding their chest with their fist. A couple of weeks ago, a man from Houston was celebrating his Oilers’ recent season while cursing their last game. Nine turnovers, he’d said. You don’t come back from that, and man, they’d have killed the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. He ended his proclamation with a pound on his chest—next year is ours. Once more he beat his chest—a macho display, something like a battle cry—and though it was in the midst of a party in her house and the man’s breath was peaty with scotch and the room was rising into formations of Ys and Ms to the commands of the Village People, Olivia heard the sound and had to turn away, to lean into the wall and fight to stay where she was. Because to her, that sound was an attempt to beat

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