Well, Mary Gaitskill is reading at my house, my house.
We arrived late to the monthly Writer’s with Drinks at the Make-Out Room. The place was packed and we were standing in the back trying to get a better view. Of course we were in the exact wrong place, which is of course the aisle. People kept pushing past bumping my shoulder so that I would suddenly be looking at the wrong wall, and wondering where the writer went. During one of these accidental shifts I noticed a girl selling books by the authors who were speaking. I saw Mary Gaitskill’s Don’t Cry, and was immediately in awe, because I’ll just admit that there’s something about seeing someone famous in the flesh. She would go on last.
During intermission we edged our way to the front. At this point people were sitting on the vacated stage, and I desperately wanted to sit down, as though standing for 20 minutes at a time was really too much for me. B and I flopped down on a small set of stairs that leads to the stage. The featured authors were milling about chatting with each other, and B and I (or at least I) pretended we were featured authors and we chatted with each other. The guy who wrote Permanent Midnight, was there. One of those former addicts who never stops writing about drugs, certainly a deep mine for material, but James Frey at least pulled himself out of that one and got a day job writing well-received fiction, well-received fiction is its own genre of course.
We saw Mary Gaitskill now. She was flitting about. I recognized her from the book jacket of Veronica, a book I’ve never read, but thought about reading on at least one occasion.
Intermission ended and the MC got up and introduced Ms. Gaitskill. I guess other stuff might have happened but I was very sleepy at this point. B had gotten up to clear the steps for the next featured author, but for some reason I thought this was basically unnecessary and could only bring myself to scoot over until I was pressed against the keg on one side of the stairs. The announcer came down and Ms. Gaitskill went up.
As soon as she was onstage I thought it might be a good time to reclaim the stairs as my own, and shifted over so that I too was facing the audience, my chin cradled in one hand, the dark room stretching out in front of me, all those upturned faces looking not quite at me but in my direction. At this point I immediately fell asleep, and was in and out of a strange doze for the rest of the reading, waking briefly to glance at my audience, and hear something about snow, her story must have been set in winter I deduced smartly. I was at that point of painful tiredness when you can imagine nothing worse than keeping your eyes open.
I glanced back briefly at B, his face alert and interested in the red light, and got a twinge of jealousy, “What’s he so awake about?” When I turned back Gaitskill was on her way down, headed toward my stairs with long strides. She had great legs. It was one of those times when you’ll wonder later why instead of clearing a path you kind of swung your knees to one side and twisted your arms together like a wounded velociraptor, and let Mary Gaitskill, enthusiastically featured author, slide on by.