The Devil, The Lovers, & Me

Gotham Creative Writing teacher Kimberlee Auerbach recently saw the publication of The Devil, the Lovers, & Me: My Life in Tarot. The book isn’t really about tarot. At a critical point in her life, Auerbach visits a tarot reader, and each card sparks a memory, taking her on a tarot-tour of her life. It’s funny and philosophical and, according to trendsetting author Naomi Wolf, “So fresh and original you don’t want it to end.”

Here’s how it begins:


Cement lions. I'm a Leo. It's a sign! I pet each one on the head as I run up the steps of Iris’s brownstone building on West End Avenue between Ninety-first and Ninety-second streets. It’s a thick August night, 10 P.M., not that late, but the street is empty and eerily quiet. As I reach the top of the stoop, I see the shadow of a man round the corner. My stomach tightens. It’s not as if I'm new to the city. I’m thirty-three and have been living here for eight years. I’m a big girl. Five foot eight. Size ten shoes. Not easy prey. But my apple cheeks and Bambi eyes make me look less like a streetwise New Yorker and more like a farm girl from Nebraska.  

I glance at Iris’s business card. Apartment #9. Nine is my favorite number! I push the button, and she buzzes me in a second later without asking my name. Of course. She’s clairvoyant. Or the intercom is broken. What if the intercom is broken? What if she lets anybody in? What if the man on the street comes in after me? Calm down. There are lions. There’s the #9. I make sure the door is closed behind me and climb the steep carpeted staircase.  

When I get to the third-floor landing, I spot Iris’s black lacquered door. I knock once and wait. I knock again. No footsteps, no shuffling, nothing. Without warning, the door swings open, and Iris stands there, still as a morning lake, as though she's been there the whole time.  

She is a small woman, but her presence could fill a stadium. I don’t know why, but I thought she would be big and fat and wearing an oversized purple dress, adorned with blown-glass jewelry, like some new age earth mother spirit goddess. Instead, she is wearing red lipstick, wire-rimmed glasses, a white cotton button-down and crisp, black Capris, making her look more like a European ballet teacher, chin up, shoulders back, silver hair tied tight in a bun. She strikes me as someone who would eat a mango with her bare hands, yet spend hours lovingly ironing her linens.

“Are you going to stand there all night?” she asks in a surprisingly deep voice.

“Sorry.  Hi.  I'm Kimberlee,” I say, and reach out my hand to shake hers.  

“I know who you are.  We have an appointment.”


Iris waves me in, then glides across the marble floor into her living room where there are candles on every surface.

“How long have you been here?” I ask.

“A long, long, long time.” By the tone of her voice, I’m not sure if she's talking about the apartment or her many lives on Earth. “Please take a seat.  I'll be right back,” she says, and leaves the room.

I place my purse on the floor and sink into the navy velvet armchair, feeling my belly jut out over my I-can't-really-get-away-with-such-low-cut jeans.  

Everywhere I look, there’s some kind of relic from another country, another time: a threadbare turquoise kimono in a shadow box; a unicorn tapestry hanging above the fireplace; black-on-black pottery, the kind I saw when I was in Oaxaca, Mexico; and five African masks in a row staring down at me from the wall.

Iris comes back into the room holding a bamboo tray with two glasses of iced something and what smells like fresh-baked lemon-snap cookies. She places the tray on a side table next to her chair and sits down. I take a cookie and sip some strange tea and smile at her from across the antique mahogany wood table between us.

Crossing her legs, tucking her right foot under her left calf, she asks, “So, why are you here tonight?”

I have no idea what to say.


Reprinted by permission of Dutton Books. Buy the book online at  For more information on Kimberlee and her book, go here: