When I was a teenager, I thought it would be only a matter of practice before I could read minds, and then the world would be mine. I believed this because I was good at reading people anyway. Sometimes, I caught things I wasn’t supposed to, or at least things other people missed. A friend’s grandmother might glance at an old picture of her dead husband and I’d know, clear as Arkansas sky, that she’d never loved him.

I’d had precognitive dreams, too, though mostly they involved the location of choice parking spaces or upcoming sales, and I thought this was all part of the same mental fabric; if I could tone up my mental muscles and focus, I could not only read minds, but predict thoughts. It was only a matter of practice.

Of course, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would do with this ability. I hadn’t thought of a way to make money from it, except in a sideshow kind of way, and though it could be useful in getting laid, the girl would already have to be interested in me; I would just be able to cut through all the usual BS.

Really, of all the extraordinary abilities I could think of, telepathy was the worst. Walking through walls would be way better. To achieve this, I had to actively control my molecules and move them in between the tiny spaces between the molecules of whatever I wanted to walk through. But this required a level of concentration I couldn’t muster. I tried going on Ritalin for a little while, but only managed to stick a finger through a piece of paper, and I was so surprised at my success that I inadvertently stopped concentrating and my finger got stuck in the paper. It took me two hours to get it out, and I ended up with a paper cut. So that was right out.

In comic books and movies, telepaths can change and control people’s minds. I didn’t see that happening for me any time soon; it just wasn’t the way things worked. It was sort of like the difference between listening to the radio, and using your ears to somehow convince the station to only broadcast Milli Vanili songs. What I’m saying is that sometimes the DJ takes requests, but most of it is automated. People are like that too. Most of what people do, they don’t think about until after they’ve done it. And if I projected my thoughts into their heads and thought, for example “Give that guy over there (the one staring at you strangely) all your money;” most people’s response would be: “That’s a stupid idea.”

I tried forcing it, but strange things happened, like I’d suddenly pass out because I’d been concentrating on controlling someone else’s thoughts so much that I forgot to breathe. And the subconscious, well, it’s complex. It’s like a river - people don’t control rivers, they just channel them. Now imagine if that river was made up of a bunch of ferrets all running around in different directions and mostly trying to find things to eat, mate with and pee on. That’s the best way to explain people’s minds. Except that ferrets can be trained.

And what I’m not saying, here, is that most people’s minds are like college students’ bathrooms; dirty and evil smelling. Because they don’t expect anyone to see them. Even the good people; they’re worse, in some ways. The good people see an overweight person and think, “She is really fat. I bet she’s lonely,” then they act friendly. The normal people just think about whether or not they’d have sex with the overweight person, which is what most people think about most other people, I’ve found.

At first, I thought reading thoughts might be useful in furthering my career. For example, if the boss liked me or disliked me, I could act accordingly so he’d promote me. What I realized is that people don’t think in straight lines. My boss might hate me one second and love me the next. Mostly, he just thought about whether he’d have sex with my female coworkers if he were stranded with them on a desert island.

So really, I wouldn’t say my teenage years were a waste, in the same way that an English major might not say his or her college tuition was a waste, even though he or she now works in a totally unrelated field. I’m just saying that telepathy, like an English degree, doesn’t pay. It’s a shame because I put a lot of time into it and it would’ve been nice to have some income coming in. But now I have a different plan: the lottery. They say that the chances of winning are two and a half billion to one, but I think it’s just luck. And luck is a skill. Just like anything, it can be developed.

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