Sunday, December 10, 2023

on ghosts

Yesterday was a strange day for me. I drove to Bangor to attend my first ever book fair as a writer, sitting behind a table, talking to people about my book. I don't know what I was thinking when I signed up. Maybe that I would be a different person, one who is actually pretty okay at talking to strangers, which I am not. I've never been. I remember one of my first times in New York, my friend David threw a party at his apartment so I could meet all of his friends and what not. I think I lasted 45 minutes before I disappeared into a dark room to watch movies, spending half the time trying to will myself back into the party and the other half of the time asleep. The party lasted a long time. I have no idea what happened.

Yesterday's book fair was kind of like that, except the only room to hide in was the author's break room, and it was full of delightful writers who were wonderful at speaking to others, so it wasn't really the same as a dark room to watch movies. I spent most of my day at my table, writing in my journal. It was at the book fair that I really started working on my new writing project. I don't know if that sounds more romantic than it actually was. 

If you went to undergrad or grad school with me, you know I read books in public places to avoid talking to people. Writing in my journal was equal to that. I was on the third floor of the library, under very bright lights, next to a very kind author who gave me tips on how to do the selling part of all of this. 

I left the book fair having sold a few books and a plan on a post-it note for how to better handle the weird space of the book fair. Have you ever read Kafka's "The Hunger Artist"? It sounds dramatic, but it felt like that. Maybe I wasn't the Hunger Artist himself, but I was definitely part of the show, and I did not like it. I want to learn to like it though, or at least make friends with other writers in the area, so it isn't so much of being a stranger.

Anyway, I left the book fair with:

  • having sold a few books
  • a plan on a post-it note (I've already sent an email to my local library, ordered businesses cards with QR codes, and a large matted poster of the book cover-- I am heeding all advice)
  • and a few pages of writing about the house I grew up in
When I spent the two or so hours writing at the book fair, I stayed on topic, but my mind wandered through the space of all these old memories. I remembered Bunky and JR, Fran and Candy. The pink trailer, the burned down walls, the dog house castles around the yard. The swamp and skinned rattle snakes, the legs of my crib in bowls of water to keep away the ants. I wandered the space, paced the rooms in my mind, all while in this incredibly uncomfortable physical space of the book fair. 

At the end of the day, the roads were bad. The state police closed the interstate between Bangor and home. I drove the state roads home, which ended up being the very, very, very best part of my day. It was like driving through a silent snow globe, through all those small towns covered in snow. If you grew up in Florida and closed your eyes, imagining what Christmas in New England would look like, it was just like that. The road took me all the way to my front door, which seemed unbelievable. 

I should have know all these remarkably disparate spaces would come to something, and here it is. A dream:

I was at a baseball game with the cheerleaders. It was summertime-- everything was green and gold and humid. We were in an open-air stadium with metal bleachers and an awning. The cheerleaders were spread throughout the stands. I called for the "Hello" cheer twice, but there were so many people in the stands, munching popcorn and excited to be there, that it was too loud to hear anything. We decided to leave the stands and head down to the field. I walked down the aluminum stairs and waited at the pass to get to the field. There were a lot of people still coming into the stands. That's when I saw my dad. He was in the sunshine, about to come into the shade of the stands where I was. He was wearing one of those old Clanton Welding t-shirts that my mom made when he first took over the shop. The writing on the shirt was gold-stitched and slightly crooked. His face was turned away from me, but I knew he was smiling. He had a big belly and really long, golden brown hair. He was holding a little blonde baby. I was stunned. I reached out to touch his shoulder, but right when I did, I realized it wasn't him. It was a thin man with short, thin hair. He was wearing a black shirt. It was like right when my dad left the sunshine, he wasn't there anymore.

That was the end of the dream. When I woke up this morning, I read what I wrote yesterday. I should probably come to expect these visits in my dreams because I am now letting my mind go into rooms I've pretended weren't there. Its like the old stories of the old families who only lived in one-room of a castle. 

No comments: