I started to say to a friend, “I’m not superstitious, but …”
She stopped me and said, “Whenever you say that you’re not superstitious, you tell me another one of your superstitions. You are very superstitious.”
She was right. I suppose I am. But one of my superstitions is that if I tell someone my superstition, then it ceases to be a superstition. In the past, I have believed that it is unlucky to stop reading a book on page 13 or at chapter 13. I do not like it when the little red number hovering above my email icon on my phone says “13,” indicating I have 13 unread messages.
I used to believe that I had to tap the steering wheel every time I saw a Volkswagen bug or a yellow car, reminiscent of the complex punch bug game Owen and I played: 1 punch for a VW Bug; 1 punch for a convertible VW Bug; 1 punch for an old-style VW Bug; 1 punch for a yellow car of any make; and– the grand prize– unlimited punches for an old-style yellow convertible VW Bug. We only saw that final prize once. I let him see it first and he punched me mercilessly.
When Miles was a tiny baby and just a few days old, I was holding him in my arms and rocking him. He sneezed. I said, “Gesundheit.” He was so young and I thought to myself that he has probably only sneezed a handful of times, dozens at most if even that. So I said “gesundheit” ten times. I wanted to cover all his past sneezes I had not heard. I wanted to give him credit for sneezes that had not happened yet and which I might not hear. I said it several times every time I heard him sneeze. I wanted to have him covered. I did this for a long time.
Miles’s allergies were so bad for his whole life that he sneezed a heck of a lot. I sometimes say it to myself over and over while I am walking, granting him a gesundheit for a sneeze, a beneficence I can grant him even now for all those sneezes long ago. He sneezed a lot, so I am sure I have a way to go. A long way to go. I am probably not even at age five yet. I like to think I could say “gesundheit” forever and never meet the demand. It is a superstition I am willing to hold on to.
I have a very weird superstitious habit that occurs whenever I recollect something that I regret. As such thoughts flash in my brain, the lyrics to this police song pop into my head: “O my God, you take the biscuit / treating me this way.” I hear and sometimes sing to myself that line from a second-tier Police song on a very good album, and nothing more of it. I do not know why that lines comes into my head, but it is automatic. When I feel the pangs of regret from some past misdeed, I hear those words and the bass line that introduces the song. It has nothing to do with the song. It has nothing to do with anything. It just happens, and I am aware of it. It is like dipping a bucket into the deep well of my mental cause and effect and always pulling this snippet up.