Saturday, March 31, 2007

Oh, the humanity.

Certain things just happen to me, especially when it comes to books. Take tonight, for example.

I was browsing the aisles at Barnes and Noble, flipping through a stack of Harlequin romance novels. (No, seriously. I got hooked on these when I was in college and found a huge collection of those romance novels from the 80's - these were published by Silhouette - in the basement stacks of my university library. They were hilarious. The novels are all the same, and they all take about ten or fifteen minutes to skim through. One doesn't live by Tolstoy alone). A voice comes from behind me. Excuse me! I jump, startled. A slim, tawny-haired woman (ok, I think I've read too many of these romance novels) wearing jeans and holding a stack of books is bearing down on me. She looks like any other Bellevue soccer mom. I was just wondering if you read those Harlequin books? I am blushing furiously at this point, but I tell her yes. I write them! she says, pointing happily to one of the books I'm holding. That's me! It was just one of those nights. I wanted to hide. But she is so happy to see someone reading one of her books it has totally made her night, she tells me, and I am glad to have given someone a little pleasure with a few words; it is the same feeling I have when someone posts a comment here. I think about buying the book and asking her to sign it, but the chance passes and I slip it back into the rack. I'm sure we'll meet again.

Even more embarrassing (aside from the time, at the age of eight, that is, old enough to read the signs but young enough to still do stupid things like this, I went to the men's bathroom in the basement of the Elliott Bay Bookstore by mistake) was something that happened in a movie theater some ten years ago. I had just turned sixteen, and had been wrestling with The Master and Margarita all summer. L. and I (and my mother, who was sitting behind us) went to see Emma at a small art-house theater not far from the University district. Cocooned in the semi-darkness of the theater I began telling L. about the book I had been reading. I wish I had learned Russian, so I could read it in the original, I tell her. A voice comes out from nowhere. I highly recommend it in the original Russian, says the man sitting in front of us. We jump. At sixteen I am much shyer than I am at twenty-six (which is not saying a whole lot, let me tell you) and can do little other than stammer and mumble a few words at intervals, because he will not stop talking. (Next to me, L. is giggling madly, if quietly, and my mother is silently going into convulsions at my distress). The man is probably at least twice my age; he has a devastatingly sexy accent which I find strangely attractive as he continues to discourse on various poets (whose names I could never remember) and other works by Bulgakov. But three years later I would study Russian, I would return to Bulgakov in his native language, I would fall in love more deeply than I ever though possible.

There are other embarrassing stories, but those I will save for another time.

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