This article about all the weird things that can happen during book tours and signing events has me alternately excited and anxious about the events of the next few months (and there are about a dozen of them now, holy crap), because besides the usual reasons for being excited and nervous, I think I already have a weird and poignant book-signing anecdote, so God knows what else is going to happen.
The story is this: back in the fall, my friend Dana and I were attending our friend Erinï¿½s wedding, and we were staying at a hotel with another friend of ours. The wedding itself was over by two PM. The reception didnï¿½t start until after six. It was nearly four and weï¿½d already taken a long nap. “Well, I guess we can start drinking now,” one of us said. Okay, so maybe it was me.
Dana went down the hall to get some ice. When she didnï¿½t return after a while I peeked outside and found her in the hallway talking to the woman next door. The hotel was part of a casino and there seemed to be a certain anything-goes spirit to the whole place which made it easy to strike up conversations with total strangers.
“Theyï¿½re making green apple martinis,” Dana said when sheï¿½d come back inside. “They said to come on over!”
There were three of themï¿½a woman in her thirties with her teenage daughter and her mother, who looked far younger than her years and in my head I called her Grandma Foxy. They were all dark-skinned and gorgeous. The younger two looked more polished in high heels and jeans than we did in our wedding-guest outfits, and the foxy grandmother had a bias-cut dress and a totally amazing weave. They made us drinks and we brought over candy.
The woman our age was single again and her daughter made fun of her for only wanting to date white men. Grandma Foxy mentioned matter-of-factly that she had incurable brain cancer. “Nothing I can do,” she said, “but just enjoy myself.” I loved her after about five minutes of conversation. We all loved each other after about five minutes of conversation. The women lived nearby but they had come here for a “girlï¿½s weekend,” they said. They were going to dinner at a fancy steak house for dinner later on, they said, and maybe we could meet them after the wedding reception.
Dana and Ericka and I looked at each other. Hell yeah! we were thinking. We wanted to meet them later; we wanted to be their best friends; we wanted to buy them bottles of champagne and designer handbags. We wanted to change our whole lives. But what time did we have to leave for the reception? When did we have to check out? We let our neighbors add more vodka to our plastic cups.
“Wendy has a book coming out,” my friend Ericka told them. “A book!” exclaimed Grandma Foxy. I explained that I had just turned in the manuscript and it would be out in the spring. I tried to tell them what it was about but I was having a really hard time. I wished I had a copy and could just give it to them. “Will we be able to buy your book?ï¿½ they asked. Yes, I told them, in a bookstore and everything.
ï¿½Well,ï¿½ said Grandma Foxy, ï¿½you are just gonna have to sign our book for us.ï¿½ Sure, I told her. ï¿½So will you sign it?ï¿½ she asked. Well, yeah, I said. Maybe she didnï¿½t understand that it wasnï¿½t out yet. ï¿½Okay!ï¿½ she said, and she walked across the room to the dresser and got something out of her bag. ï¿½Sheï¿½s going to sign the book for us,ï¿½ she told her daughter.
She handed me a big, thick hardcover book. It was My Life by Bill Clinton. It looked almost new.
“I haven’t finished it yet, but itï¿½s very good,” she said. And then she fished a pen out of her purse and gave it to me.
“Oh, gosh, I canï¿½t sign this,” I said. I was a little drunk. And this was the memoir of our former president. “Are you sure?” I asked.
Oh yes, they said. They insisted.
I opened it up to the title page. The paper felt expensive and I could feel the binding yield just a little. I heard myself say, “Now how do you spell your name?” as if Iï¿½d always known to ask that.
I wrote “Dear” and wrote her name, which unfortunately Iï¿½ve forgotten by now. “It has been an honor to spend this time with you and your beautiful family. Best wishes to you all.”
I wanted to write more, but it wasnï¿½t my book. It was written by someone else; it belonged to this woman I knew I’d never see again, because of course Dana and I would stay at the reception until it ended, and when we got back to the hotel it would be too late to do anything except kick off our shoes and change for bed and sleep off all the wine. All the same, I signed the book with my name and it almost felt right. Or at least not all that wrong.