Archive for April, 2006

To the young woman in line in Seattle

Monday, April 24th, 2006

You were at my signing tonight at Barnes & Noble in Bellevue, just outside Seattle.
You were tall and thin with long curly brown hair, and you were wearing a gray sweater.

As I signed your copy of Marley & Me, you told me, very kindly, how much reading it had meant to you. You said you had bought it to cheer yourself up after losing your fiance. And I, somewhat distracted trying to listen and talk and sign all at once, assumed the relationship had fallen apart before the wedding date. Better before than after, I thought. And I tossed off a light joke.

I handed your book back and you stepped away without really responding. As I signed the book of the next person in line it suddenly struck me as so obvious. What you might have been saying — what you probably were saying — was that your fiance hadn’t walked out on you, but had died. Lost. Of course, that was what it meant. And I had cracked a joke. A totally inappropriate joke under those circumstances.

I stood up from the signing table and looked for you, and asked the Barnes & Noble staffer at my side to look for you. But it was too late. You were gone. I wanted to explain to you that I had misunderstood, and that I was sorry.

I’m hoping you will see this and know. Sometimes I’m such an idiot.