book fair

Went to the Miami International Book Fair by myself for the first time in three or four years (I’m usually with a friend) and while my cousin ended up joining me by chance toward the end of it, and even though I got a quick cuppa coffee in the morning with a colleague who was working the event and even though I bumped into and chatted with an old college friend, the whole experience felt kinda solitary. Not lonely, I don’t think. I didn’t feel like anything was really missing. Wasn’t really longing for a companion. But I was thinking the whole time of my past two visits with Rosie and about the things we did together afterward.

One thing I was thinking about when I first got there, jotting notes at a patio table waiting for the tents to open, was how tense I’d sometimes get when I went to the book fair with dates, because I spend so much time browsing and sifting through shelves and bins and piles, wedging my way through crowds. Meanwhile my date would be perusing some nearby titles, having a fine enough time, probably. They’d follow along while I hopped from tent to tent, and then back to the first one to re-consider something I’d put down a few minutes ago.

I always figured I was trying their patience and I’d cut myself short. Invite them to leave with me before I was really ready to bail.

Last night I was listening to Ira Glass on Dax Shephard’s podcast. Glass is the host of a super-famous radio show called This American Life. It seemed to have plateaued at 2.2 million listeners for a few years but when the adapted it into a podcast recently, alongside the standard broadcast, the audience doubled.

So he and Dax are talking about radio and about Glass’s recent divorce, about dating and threesomes, podcasting — it’s a good conversation, it goes all over the place, but then it gets really focused and heavy toward the end when Dax prompts him to consider the extent to which radio is a part of his identity, and what a major figure he is in the eyes of people who appreciate the medium.

Stepping off the fairgrounds toward the end

I’m not anywhere on that wavelength of cultural influence or professional standing but, with that conversation on my mind this morning as I jotted Remembrances of Book Fairs Past at a patio table in front of a college cafe, I thought of it in tandem with that thing about the friends who’ve come along with me over the years and stood by while I went nuts and obsessive about book browsing. I was thinking too of how, just the night before, my friend Sechina messaged me to say that, when she saw the fair being set up, she thought of me, and of how much I was probably gonna enjoy it.

Anyway, my point: it’s possible that, within my intimate circle of friends, I’m known as the Book Guy because I love them so much and I’m always tryna write one. And it’s possible too that this is something my friends might like about me. Probably girlfriends too. So, yes, darting back and forth between the same two tents for an hour might not be their definition of a great time — but it’s also not crazy to think that the reason they aren’t complaining is that they really don’t mind it, that a friend or lover will accompany me to the Book Fair and think, “OK, this is his Super Bowl,” and they’ll be happy to endure a couple hours of relative tedium because I’m all aglow — in the same way that we’d all (ideally) go happily out of our way to please a partner in bed, or cook their favorite meal, or make sure the house looks the way they like it after a long day.

Looking in my car today I found one of the several gifts Rosie got for me over the past couple years, gifts that she usually presented to me out of the blue — gifts that stressed me out sometimes, senselessly, because I thought I needed to find a way of reciprocating. Like I needed to match her gesture real fast.

By doing that, though, I killed her gesture, subverted what the gift signified. I couldn’t let myself just receive it. I had to make it into a transaction.

I wish, looking back, that I had just accepted those gifts and used them as an occasion to pause and appreciate the fact that, when I wasn’t around, somebody thought of me enough, cared for me enough, that they snatched something up so they could give it to me.

Even just thinking of it now, a little bit drunk at Hole in the Wall, those gestures are putting a belated lump in my throat. Feels like the kind of regret old people talk about. The shit you didn’t appreciate. Letting hangups and insecurities distort the beauty of what’s in front of you.

I want, in the future, to become a more graceful receiver of affection, kindness, help, love.


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