I was so nervous
I could barely stand up. And hungry
. And weak. She was going to sign my book. The writer
who made me look at myself in a different way - the one who's words always sunk into me by some strange osmotic
process every time I read them - she was going to notice me and put her pen to my paper.
It didn't feel real, But the tightness in my throat was real. The words running through my head were real. Or, more precisely, the lack of words. In the end I decided on no words. Just a book placed in front of her as a kind of implied compliment. Instead of the big, clunky new bestseller everyone else was shoving in front of her hand, I offered poetry from her early days. A little book that reeked of innocence and fear and being at a certain point in the middle of growing up when nothing is quite real.
My friends used to tease me and tell me that I was secretly trying to be her, this woman in front of me. Yes, I was born in Ottawa. Yes, I moved to Toronto for University. Yes, I like to write. And I definitely have curly hair.
I started reading her books when I was twelve, until I moved away and those friends that likened me to her were gone. I was left only with myself, wondering whether I did, in fact, follow her path by some unconscious logic. No. Not at all. We are different, her and I, and I'm glad.
I can't get over the look on her face when she signed my little brown notebook. She had just finished signing the poetry book, and on a whim I turned back and said:
"Um...would you mind signing my little notebook?"
A sneer from her publicist. What kind of a loser would expect her to sign a book that wasn't even her own? But she did. A fallen face from the publicist. She smiled and flipped through the pages - my pages - and found a blank one at the back. She scrawled her name sideways across it, and then moved her head back a little, as if to get a different perspective. I recognized the look. It was the need to fill space. The unwillingness to leave a white page unfinished. How many times have I created things thanks to this irrational fear of emptiness?
She smiled and drew a little sun over her name, filling in all the rays at appropriate intervals and even going back to fix the ones that were too short or not spaced right or just plain ugly.
As she handed it back to me, she looked up and told me I was a "bright light". I couldn't speak, just smiled with that slightly amused grin that was already on her face. Again - thoughts of unconsciously trying to be her. Will it ever end?!
So I walked away. And on the subway I ran my fingers over the sun, the bright light, the rays that had been so carefully adjusted. I am not going to be her, that's for sure. But I am going to make it on my own, I know that now. Someday I will thank her for this.