A cookie with no fortune.

I've never had this happen before.

Tonight, a little while after I rolled up to my Lexington friends' new house, we headed out to a local Chinese restaurant and had a lovely meal. After we finished eating, we received saucers bearing a nicely presented segmented orange and the requisite fortune cookie. My friend opened hers first and was instructed not to trouble trouble until it troubled her. Good advice, particularly since we're throwing a party tomorrow. As I tore open the cellophane wrapper, I joked that I knew what mine would say: "Follow the signs you see around you." But when I cracked the cookie in half, I was startled to find nothing at all inside. I cracked each half in half, wondering whether the fortune had gotten balled up in one side. But no. Nothing. (My friend's husband, by the way, was told that he and his wife would live a happy life.)

I am more startled by this occurrence than I might have been at the end of any other couple of weeks. Those of you keeping score at home know that my eyes have been open for signs and signals, directions and suggestions. They've been trickling in all my life, but perhaps never so steadily as in the past few months. And now, by virtue of its silent refusal to offer either corroborations or contradictions, an empty cookie seems to have answered my prediction that I'd be told to keep following other signs.

I've been keeping fortune cookie fortunes in my wallet for about a decade now; when I get around to replacing worn-out, torn-up wallets, the fortunes always survive the inevitable purge I do when switching over to the new. Now my collection will have a gap, one that will figure as significantly as all the paper slips it joins.

And a postscript, a day later. Hands down, my favorite response to this post: "An empty fortune cookie is called freedom." True that--double true. But does it also mean that an empty fortune cookie is just another word for nothing left to lose?

source for tonight's image: Hampton Eats.