I Don’t Think David Sedaris Likes Me
I met David Sedaris last night.
I’ve met David Sedaris multiple times over in my fantasies. While antique shopping, waiting for coffee at an airport Starbucks, or at a book signing, like the one last night. My fantasy conversations usually go like this:
Me: “It is such an honor to meet you. I’ve thought before about what I’d say if I ever got to meet you, and everything included some version of, “I’m a big fan.” But knowing how you think, I was afraid you’d look at me and think, ‘Yes, she certainly is.'”
David: (Laughing) “Oh that’s good, I’m putting that in my notebook.”
Me: “I’m honored. It’s been a dream of mine to make it into your notebook. Well I’d prefer to make it into one of your books, but I can settle for the notebook. As long as I make some kind of impression.”
David: “I bet you’re a writer, aren’t you?”
This is followed by 20-30 more minutes of witty conversation which turns into an exchanging of email addresses, and a life long friendship. He loves me in my fantasies. Thinks I’m funny, and brilliant.
What will surprise no one, is that meeting David Sedaris last night went nothing like that.
Firstly, there were about 1,800 more people there last night than I would have preferred. Secondly, I had a blinding migraine that made me feel like my head was about to explode, which put a huge damper on my wittiness.
Even through the searing pain I was able to enjoy the readings David did. Hearing an author reading his own words to an audience ready to drink them up is simply fantastic. You could see, and hear, the way he was relishing every syllable. Getting high off every laugh–and there were lots and lots of laughs. As a writer, I understood exactly what he was feeling, because I’ve felt it myself, during much smaller workshops. But I’ve dreamed of standing where he stood, and affecting people with my words the way his affected me.
Ryan and I sprung for Orchestra level tickets, which meant we were only a dozen or so rows from the stage. What neither of us thought about when purchasing these tickets, was the disadvantage this would give us when trying to get in line for the post-show book signing. By the time the theater trickled out and we made it into the line, we realized with sinking feelings that we were in the back. The very back. Behind at least a 100 people.
A hundred people in line at Disney is no big deal. If you’re stuck behind one hundred people in a line on Black Friday, you might wait for an hour, but you’ll be moving.
If you know anything about David Sedaris’s book signings though, you’ll know his lines move very slow. Unlike some authors who barely look up after scribbling a generic message before their name, Mr. Sedaris loves talking to people. He talks in his books and essays about how much he enjoys these signings, and the conversations he has with the people at them. I desperately wanted to be one of these people he remembered, and wrote about later.
An hour passed and we moved about twenty feet. During this time my headache, which I had kept manageable with a double dose of Tylenol, spread from behind my eyes to the back of my skull, my shoulders, and my neck. Standing on my feet was making it worse. Another 30 minutes passed, and we moved fifteen more feet. By the time we were only five people away from Mr. Sedaris, it was half past eleven. Any anticipation or excitement I had previously felt was gone, bludgeoned to death by my headache.
Finally, after two and a half hours, it was our turn to get our books signed. I hobbled up to the table and forced a smile.
David: “Do you teach?”
Me: (blank stare, followed by three beats of silence) “uhhhh. No. Not really. Ugh I’m so tired, I had all these plans to be witty and impress you and make a good impression but that line was horrible and I’m so tired.”
David: (awkward chuckle) “It’s ok! (Looking at the slip of paper in my book with my name) What do you do Emily?”
Me: “Well I write.”
David: “What do you write?”
Me: “Things that don’t get published.”
David: (frowning) “Well, you’re young. You’re what, 26?”
Me: “That’s nice. I’m 28.”
David: “That’s still young. I didn’t have my first book published until I was 35.”
He started drawing in my book then, and I asked him if when he was starting out, he ever struggled with being jealous of other writers. While still drawing, he told me a story about a woman who taught a writers workshop he attended. He remembered her speaking very negatively about another author, simply because he had a house in the Pokono’s.
David: “That woman was bitter. I didn’t want to be bitter.”
Me: “That’s good advice, thank you.”
He handed me my book, and I thanked him. He then spoke to Ryan for a few minutes, after which we both walked away. I stood there, delirious with pain and disappointment, while watching David speak to our friend Andrew, who we had taken with us for his birthday. To my horror, I saw David’s face light up when talking to Andrew, the way I had hoped his face would light up talking to me. No, no, no. Not him! That smile should have been for me! When I saw David reaching under the table, I let out a defeated groan.
Andrew was getting a present.
One of the unique, extremely cool things that David Sedaris does is give out small little gifts to people at book signings. Not everyone gets one of course, only special people. People like Andrew.
David reached into a black backpack and pulled out a smaller brown paper bag. Inside this bag he pulled out an even smaller black container, and from this he pulled out a single white card. From a few feet away I heard him telling Andrew about this card, which was made of thick expensive paper, and had embossed on it in small font the words, “Stop Talking.” This was for Andrew to give to customers at the store that wouldn’t shut up and let him get back to work.
Andrew walked over to us and I smiled weakly at him, trying to not be jealous. I was happy for Andrew, it was his birthday, and if I was being honest with myself, it didn’t surprise me all that much that David would be pleased with him. Andrew is funny, and a bit odd, and above all unique. Of course that would attract someone like Mr. Sedaris.
Trying to console myself, I said to Ryan, “Can I see my book? I want to see what he wrote.” At least I have my book signed.
And that’s when I saw it. The perfect ending to my story of meeting David Sedaris.
He drew a snail.
No words, no snarky message, no personal advice.
I don’t think we’ll be becoming friends anytime soon.