Posts Tagged ‘a hero’

Day 3!

I was practically shaking, standing in the line that stretched around the the display tables of the bookstore and even outside, beyond the blue mail box and the tattoo parlor next door. There were probably twenty people in front of me in line to meet my favorite author, Ingraham Stiles, but I was already nervous.

I’m not sure what I had to be nervous about in the first place, to be honest. He was just a guy, right? And even if he’s more than just a guy–even if he’s a guy who has touched millions of fans hearts with his witty young adult literature, historical dramas, and even a few screenplays that turned into major motion pictures–it goes without saying that I was just a girl. I was a fan, just like any of the dozens of people waiting in this line, so it’s not as though he was going to remember me.

Still, I was nervous. I put my palms on my face–they were cold against my flushed cheeks. I sighed, because what else should I have expected? I always blush. I have really red hair, we’re prone to it. I look like a big splotchy, freckley mess. I was glad that I had at least made myself put in contacts instead of my glasses, and that I’d put on some proper clothes–well, a tank top and a skirt–instead of my usual overalls. Even though my skin and hair were trying to work against me, I wasn’t about to let myself look stupid in front of my all-time hero.

The line kept moving. I was getting closer. I was feeling more self-conscious by the second. Did I bring too many books to sign? I thought that an autograph on my three favorites of his was a reasonable request, but was the special poster from the early release party too much to ask? Four signatures. The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it sounded.

I peered around the fan in front of me to see if there was a sign that said the limit. There was a staff member of the bookstore walking up and down the line with a tray of Dixie cups and a pitcher of water, what with it being the middle of August and broiling outside. Anyway, I don’t know exactly how it happened, but in the process of leaning around the Brobdingnag in front of me, I guess she must have moved, and the water boy must have tripped, and the water must have spilled, and I guess I must have slipped in it because the next thing I remember was having no wind coming into or leaving my lungs, holding up my poster so that it wouldn’t get wet, and a small crowd gathering around me.

I wondered if Ingraham Stiles would remember me for this: the girl who practically died at a book-signing.

“Oh my god, is she okay?”

“I’m… fine,” I croaked, trying to smile a little bit. I wasn’t actually hurt, really, I just had the wind knocked out of me. I knew the feeling pretty well, since I was quite familiar with the ground and all its nuances, as they relate to falling off monkey bars, balance beams, and horses.

I felt someone trying to prop me up from behind and I groaned a little. Honestly, my favorite solution to having the wind knocked out of me was to just lay there and contemplate death–“like I had a bullet in my gut” or something–until my lungs started working again, and I could easily and happily get up. I guess that wasn’t really an option in the middle of a bookstore, though, so I tried to sit up. Someone’s hand was firmly wrapped around mine and I was pulled to my feet.

“Sorry, sorry,” I apologized hoarsely.

“Don’t be! You’re okay, right?” asked the voice of the man who had helped me up.

“Sure, yeah, I’m–oh god, I’m so sorry, did I ruin your book signing?!” Suddenly my voice was back, and only so that it could squeak into its highest range, making me sound like a chipmunk right in front of my idol, Mr. Ingraham Stiles, who must have jumped from his table to see if I was, y’know, dead or something.

“No, not really, just made it more exciting. So you can breathe okay?” He was really short in person. He also looked pretty young. I knew he was somewhere in his late twenties, but he looked like a college student at the oldest. A short college student. I must have had a solid few inches on him. “I said, you an breath okay, right?”

“Yes!” I responded. “Sorry! I got distracted!”

“Yeah, it’s cool. Hey, want me to autograph those?” He nodded at the small stack of books in my arms and the poster.

“Please? Sorry, is it too many? I wasn’t sure if there was a limit…”

“Well, yeah, I’m only supposed to sign one per person, but since you practically died, I’ll make an exception. So, who am I making this out to?” He had a pooka shell necklace on, and a starchy white shirt tucked into his jeans. It was long-sleeved and I thought that he must have been positively on fire or something, since it was so hot, even inside the store. They had the ceiling fans going but they really didn’t do much. I think they were mostly there to give the little old people in the store some peace of mind about the temperature regulation. “What’s your name?” he said and I realized he was repeating himself. Again.

“Ah! Right! Um.” That’s as far as I got before my words just got stuck in my mouth. I ran through a list of names in my mind, none of which seemed right. Some were characters and some were people I knew and some were names that I just kind of liked. I seem to remember seeing Indianapolis somewhere in there too. After what seemed like way too long, I managed to sputter, “Margot! M-A-R-G-O-T. I’m a really big fan of yours, and I guess you’ve been hearing that all day but it’s true. I mean, I’m sure it’s true for everyone here, but I know for a fact that it’s true for me. See, I was going through some stuff, I won’t get into it or anything, but there was some stuff, and I just kept rereading Flying Machine and for some reason it helped.”

Flying Machine helped? Jesus, what were you going through that you would turn to Flying Machine of all things?” He was holding my well-loved paperback copy of it in his hands. The spine was so cracked that you couldn’t read the title, but I knew every crease that I’d made on that book and could discern it anywhere.

“Oh, stuff. I dunno. It was a year ago. A friend of mine got put in a mental institution for almost killing herself and my parents were fighting a lot and my brother had just dropped out of college. It was crazy and I guess I needed something consistent, and fantastical, and maybe a little self-indulgent. It always helps me. There was this one passage about independence and human ingenuity that was just perfect. I was really mad at everybody in my life at the time, so independence was a really appealing idea for me.”

He smiled, chuckled, and handed me back the poster and books. “Good luck with everything, okay? I’m glad that my book helped you through that. Feel free to talk.”

I left and he went back to the booth. I was confused by his words, until I saw it, on the back corner of the poster: his email address.