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The Thought Crossed My Mind That I Might Have Slept With Him

Last night I did a reading at The Depot in Mill Valley, CA. Five minutes before the reading was scheduled to begin, there were only three people in the room, all of whom I knew. Then a gentleman wandered in, very tall and broad, dressed in a motorcycle jacket. Because readings always breed in me a certain brand of desperation, I walked up to him and said, “Are you here for the reading?” He looked confused for a moment, then told me he wasn’t, at which point I sort of jokingly begged him to stay. One wants to fill the seats, of course, even at the price of one’s own dignity.

By the time we began we were up to ten or eleven. Much to my surprise, the stranger in the motorcycle jacket was among them. Because of the small group I decided to forgo the formality of the podium and sound system and do the reading sitting down. It happened that the motorcycle man was sitting very close to me, and I quickly realized how awkward it is to read to another grown-up face to face, so close one’s knees could almost touch. It’s very intimate, uncomfortably so, more like a date than a reading. In this case it felt like a first date, the kind where you’re hoping you don’t say the wrong thing, and I could feel myself blushing as I read the scene in which the narrator encounters someone in a café in a foreign place and realizes that she knows him, or has known him, although she can’t place the context: “The thought crossed my mind that I might have slept with him. There had been a period following my sister’s death when I slept with many men.”

I worried for the gentleman in the motorcycle jacket, whom I had accosted, and to whom now I felt I had exposed myself completely. After all, there is always some element of truth in the fiction. I wanted to tell him that he should feel free to leave at any moment. Because, along with desperation, readings always make me feel apologetic. Baptist guilt and all that, you know…there are so many other things the audience could be doing, I feel I ought to offer them something more than a story (and at times I have, which falls along the lines of “things I’ve done at the price of one’s own dignity,” which I shan’t go into here.)

The small coterie grew in numbers, the reading came to an end, I took some questions, signed some books. And then, after everyone was gone, I noticed that the man in the motorcycle jacket was still standing there. He’d been waiting around the corner. He approached me shyly with a copy of my book. “I wish I hadn’t told you I wasn’t here for the reading,” he said. “I didn’t even know this was a bookstore, I just wandered in, but it was so nice to have someone tell me a story.”

He recounted details of the excerpt I had read, confessed that he doesn’t read much, and said that he’d be back to The Depot to hear another reading—it was a nice change of pace, he said. For a moment the awkwardness fell away, and for once I didn’t feel apologetic. I was relieved to realize that it had been a fair exchange—the stranger made the room a little less empty, I made his evening a little more interesting. It wasn’t about the book—it was about the act of gathering around a story—and allowing the intimacy to happen, despite all our best efforts to avoid it.

I’ll be reading tonight at Rakestraw Books in Danville, CA. Stop on by if you’re in the area,

18 Comment count
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Varoom, Varoom

The power of literature.

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  Thanks for the comment,


Thanks for the comment, Dale. One doesn't hear the word varoom nearly often enough.


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"...but it was so nice to have someone tell me a story.”

This made my day, Michelle. What a sweet post!

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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Hi Huntington...thanks for

Hi Huntington...thanks for the comment! I'm used to reading bedtime stories aloud, but only to a toddler. Now if only we adults could get someone to read us a story ever night before bed.

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That's a fantastic story.

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Thank you, Natasha! Glad you

Thank you, Natasha! Glad you enjoyed it.

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"It had been a fair exchange"

I loved that realization on your part and the sense of self worth it gave you.  All human encounters should be fair, and this story about your sharing a story is very satisfying.

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Thanks for your comment,

Thanks for your comment, Sue. It was indeed nice to be reminded that the audience is receiving something in return...

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But did he actually ride?

Just curious. Nice story.

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To Matthew--yes! I later ran

To Matthew--yes! I later ran into him outside, climbing on his...um...hog? Is that what they call them these days? Anyway, it wasn't some little Honda or Vespa, it was the real deal.

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Yes, it is interesting …

Yes, it is interesting … is tempting, when In exchange the person "from a bedroom" get the reader …

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What an amazing connection

It's those joyously serendipitous moments of intimacy that make us realize that we're all made of the same stuff, just gussied up in various shells. That no matter what crap is happening in the world -- our small one and the much larger one -- there's so much to treasure. What a magical experience, for you and him.

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to Kat and Janri

Thanks to Kat and Janri for your comments. There are indeed still magical experiences to be had...and books do have an amazing power to bring people together!

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strangers who might want to sleep with you

Loved your story, Michelle. It gave a happy ending to what is often a miserable experience. My first reading of my memoir in NY at Barnes and Noble for instance attracted a homeless man possibly a bit deranged who sat in the front row relentlessly cracking his knuckles. At the public Library instead an unknown man came up to me afterwards and said he loved a particularly juicy sex scene. He looked hopeful until I politely declined a drink. He didn't buy my book.

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knuckle cracking

Brenda, what a nightmare! The one at the public library is funny, though. Ah, the dangers of reading sex in public...

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Like Something Out of "No One You Know"

Such a nice post! As soon as I read the title I thought, "This is like something out of 'No One You Know!'" (great book, by the way) :-) And it's no wonder that the motorcycle man didn't know that The Depot was a bookstore at first since it was originally a real train depot.

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Hi Wendy. I didn't know it was a train depot...now I think The Depot is even cooler. (I already thought it was really cool).

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i'm new here and just saw your story.. well it was like deja vu for me!

even though i'm only 25 but i had such embarassing moments a lot soi'm glad ur story had a good ending:)

it's so truth..that we all humans have such moments..i remember my first one when i was serving in the army and it was really awkward situation... but at the end i found out he had the same feelings and  we both were in love..