I met a famous writer once in New York.
It was at a book reading. When the event was coming to a close, I was cajoled into the ‘meet and greet’ line. I didn’t want to queue up. That wasn’t how I wanted to meet this writer. Standing in line, I was not a person. In that position I was a fanatic; with a slight pejorative feeling to the word. It’s an itchy label to wear sometimes.
One more person to make the line longer, I was part of the fan gauntlet. This is not a fair kind of meeting. For either party.
At the time he had a finger injury; a break, I believe. I do clearly recall that he made a point to tell everyone not to shake his hand. For the obvious splinted reason.
Feeling like a complete fool jacked up on the usual influences: caffeine, cortisol mostly; I waited for my turn to meet this renowned individual. Ugh. Be still my conflicted thoughts and feelings.
When my time came to stand before the man himself-
We shook hands.
It’s far too much to say that he recoiled at my touch in agony, but he certainly winced.
When was I suddenly the kind of person to fall into the habits of western social custom?
I don’t like shaking hands and yet there I was.
I was making the idiot thing happen.
This idiot thing was happening.
I was not stopping this idiot thing from happening.
What the ever loving doof was the impulse for this? The rule was set: No handshaking. Then what? A localized cloudburst of stupid let down on us and we just could not follow directions? As if anyone needed to feel more awkward here.
For all the people he’s encountered in the world, he would never remember me. He probably doesn’t even remember the hurt of his injury; but because I have such fantastic self-esteem, I remember that moment for being the unwitting Pain Inflictor- Inflictrix?
I hurt some one I just met, who clearly did not need more discomfort inflicted on him.
Even though we both reached out, we both shook hands, I am pretty certain I’m the one left with this odd little moment of negativity encapsulated in my brain. Not him.
And I don’t know what to do with the memory. It is a perverse treasure. Something would trade in for better, if I could. But it’s all I have. And with my limited access to… people, I may not ever get a chance at making a new memory.
I would that someday we met proper and the way between us could be made different than it is now. With at least 50% less stupid.
It’s not a big ask. Is it?
I hope. In the hells of mediocrity.
I made an inquest into the author’s blog for a report on that vey occasion. I knew I would find an entry, I just could not remember the date. It took me a bit of scanning, but I found what I was looking for. Now I half understand the moment of thoughtlessness. He hadn’t eaten enough. That explains him, but what about me? Why didn’t I stop it? Was it my weird version of empathy kicking in? Mirror neurons firing away?