The accomplished author entered the room to rapturous applause. Many had turned up to watch him talk about and read from his best seller. Just as many had turned up to substantiate a claim to fame – “I’ve seen him in the flesh”, “I was so close I could’ve touched him”.
The author lapped up the applause. He was contented, if a little smug. He had the right to be – his bestseller had sold over half a million copies to date. Selling books was a difficult thing to do. He had worked hard to be in this position: from a middle class family, of which his father was a lawyer, he could have easily followed in line. Studied law at a good university. He had instead taken the hard option, which many had thought to be easy at the time. By choosing writing, the author had followed his heart.
He sat down and read aloud to the gathering. It was funny, the author thought, as his lips formed the sentences he had so painstakingly etched and edited: before he had found fame and success, few had taken him seriously. If, as a twenty six year old aspiring (i.e. not successful) writer, he couldn’t write without first consuming a pop tart, he would be called weird, childish. If this were the case as a twenty seven year old successful writer, people would laugh; emulate; write about it in magazines. Anything, everything, added to his genius.
It was the same with coming to universities and doing these book readings and signings. The author was far from a good orator, and was fully aware of this. Yet since his writing had taken off it didn’t matter one jot. He talked; people listened. If the author was to stumble over his lines, people would provide an excuse. It was because “he possessed so much knowledge and wisdom that it was difficult to put it into layman’s terms”. If the author made little eye contact with the audience, or seemed slightly awkward, it was as a result of the many solitary hours he had spent writing, working, slaving.
Once the author had finished, he sat at a small table, head protruding from between two great piles of his newest book. Before, his casual demeanour might have had people asking him why he was bored, why he couldn’t cheer up a little. Now it exuded nonchalance, class. People crawled up to murmur their obsequious platitudes and get the author to scribble in their copies of his book. He had always been told in school that he had terrible handwriting. Now people actively scrambled to get his scrawl onto paper.
The queue went from long to short, until there remained just one figure. This woman sidled up, unsure, and the author studied her. Chiming’s, from a distant past, sounded in the author’s head.
“Hey Paul, I don’t know if you remember me? I’m Emily, we were both-”
Her sentence went unfinished; the author dived across the table and embraced her tightly. He knew this woman from a different life.
“Of course I remember you Emily! We had some great times in Tanzania,” the author eventually said to the woman, detaching from embrace. The author had forgotten where he was, who he was supposed to be. The photographers in the corner of the room loved it. He kept on, oblivious. “We have to have dinner!” he cried. “Tonight?”
The woman nodded, pleased. It was a date.