“Hey there, I’m Courtney,” she says. I smile and introduce myself. “Have you been waiting here long?” she asks. “Nope. Just walked up,” I say. Around her neck, she’s wearing a Barnes & Noble employee badge with the word “MANAGER” under her name. She nods and then asks to see my ID. Without flinching, I hand it over and she looks me head-to-toe again. “Am I being Punk’d?” she asks me in a hushed voice, handing my ID back to me. “Huh?” I say. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I just drove here from Lafayette to meet David Sedaris. I don’t know what’s going on.” She looks nervous. “Wait here,” she says. A few minutes later, she returns and asks me to follow her towards the signing table. “Okay,” she says. “I’m extremely embarrassed. My employees were playing a joke on me and they told me that you were David Sedaris.” There’s a beat of silence while I stand there, unable to say anything. “And I realize you’re much younger than David Sedaris,” she says. “But you have to understand that I’ve never seen him before. Plus, I know he’s infamous for playing jokes on people and you’re about his height, right? Please let me make this up to you. Can I get you something from the café? Anything you want.”
The only words I can find are these: “But I’m 24. Ice coffee, I guess.”
All day long, I’ve been on the verge of a complete meltdown. Sedaris is my literary hero. He is the reason I write. He is everything I aspire to. And within the last five hours, I’ve smoked half a pack of cigarettes and nursed a nosebleed. I’ve never been more nervous about anything in my entire life. And now I have this bizarre Kristen Ritter look-a-like harassing me because she’s confused me for the author? This is shaping up to be the perfect storm of me losing my shit.
Courtney returns with ice coffee and a muffin and tells me again that she’s sorry. She tells me that she’s going to get David, but she’s going to take care of me. Then, she leaves for a third time. A few minutes later, I hear rumbling from behind me, so I turn around and see Courtney ushering a small man in a pink button-down and a faded navy blazer along the shelves labeled “SUMMER READING” and “TEEN PARANORMAL ROMANCE.”
Jesus. That’s him.
Courtney shows him to his seat between two beefy security guards and with the help of several Barnes & Noble employees, she organizes the line that leads to him. Before I know it, Courtney’s hand is on my shoulder, and I’m staring at the man whose voice I hear in my sleep.
“Now that’s more like it. That’s what I’m talking about,” says David Sedaris to me. “Where did you get those boots?”
I anticipated waiting in line until nightfall, so I packed some projects from work and dressed comfortably. My ensemble includes a plaid, pearl-snap shirt; grey, cut-off shorts; and brown, nearly-knee-high combat boots. In this moment, standing before David Sedaris while he asks me about my boots, I realize I’ve never been more overwhelmed in my life. And instead of telling him the truth — that I borrowed these boots from my friend Nick more than a year ago and I have no idea where he bought them — I just start lying to my hero.
“Charlotte Russe,” I say.
“Where?” asks David.
“I got them at Charlotte Russe. It’s a clothing store for poor women in malls in bad areas,” I say frantically.
He looks at me over his glasses and says, “Well, no one could wear those boots like you can.”
I feel the ice coffee coming up my esophagus. Oh, fuck. I’m going to vomit all over David Sedaris in front of all these people at this stupid Barnes & Nobel. Courtney is standing next to me, and she looks uneasy.
“There’s so many things I want to say to you,” I stammer, hot sweat beading my forehead. “Like how I read Corduroy and Demin when I was in high school and it inspired me to be a writer, so I worked towards a career as a Copywriter, and now I’m the Associate Creative Director at an advertising firm.”
“Oh, that’s swell! What kinds of commercials do you write?” he asks.
“Um.” My mind goes blank. “I don’t know. Lots of different kinds. For big hospitals and Indian tribes and stuff.”
“Do you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race?” he asks.
“No,” I say bluntly, distracted by the abrupt change in subject.
“Why not?” he wonders.
“Because I grew up in New Orleans where there’s lots of drag queens,” I say. “And If I really wanted to watch someone do drag, all I have to do is walk outside or go to my grandmother’s house because she’s basically a drag queen and her eyebrows are tattooed on. Plus, there are better things on TV.”
“Oh, I love it,” he says. “I find it just fascinating. Do you know what a Alabama Slammer is?”
“I’m guessing it’s like a butt thing?” I bend my tone to make it sound like I’m completely unsure, even though I sincerely am.
“It’s when a man shits in a woman’s mouth and then fucks her in the mouth, using the shit as a type of lubricant,” he says, sternly.
I’m fully beside myself. But from somewhere, I hear myself say, “Cool. I guess I’d be willing to try that.”
He grins and then opens the book I’ve laid in front of him. He flips to the title page where my yellow post-it note lies. Earlier, we were instructed by the Barnes & Nobel staff to write what we wanted David to inscribe in our books on post-its. But to me, telling David Sedaris what to write is like telling Christ how to walk on water. So instead of doing that, I just wrote [something fucked up]. As he scribbles, he asks me another question: “So, you’re a writer. Do you have a blog?”
“I do,” I say
“Can I see it?” he asks.
I pull out my phone, which is coated in palm sweat, and I tap the button on the screen labeled XBFM. He takes it from me and scrolls a little through my last post, It Didn't Work Out, But I Don't Remember Why, which I wish wasn’t my last post because it’s just a rant about some douchebag and it’s not exactly Pulitzer material. He immediately hands it back and says, “There. Now I’ve read your blog.” The reality of that statement hits me in the balls. David Sedaris just read my blog. Now, I’m fighting back tears and a boner.
He has a small stack of sticker books on the table, one of which he grabs and begins looking for something specific. He flips past the marine life and the insects until he comes to a page of woodland creatures. He peels a sticker of a log off and presses it under the message he’s written to me. He gives me his hand and I take it. “It was lovely meeting you,” he says. “It was really weird,” I say. “But an honor, I think.”
I start to walk away when Courtney grabs me by the elbow and says, “Hang here with me while he signs the rest of the books. You can hear all the fucked-up shit he says.” So I do. When he’s finished, he goes upstairs and reads to us like we’re a congregation. In the crowd, I run into my friend, Jenna, and together we stare up and let his words rain down on us like Mardi Gras beads. He stops talking, shuffles his papers around, says “thank you,” and returns downstairs to sign more books.
I find Courtney and thank her for being so badass. “I’m glad I could make up for scaring you,” she says. I laugh and tell her that I thought she was playing the role of the rock band manager who wrangles groupies. I thought David Sedaris had seen me from afar and sent Courtney to feel me out before bringing me back to his dressing room. “You think we give visiting authors their own dressing room?!” she yelps. “Can I just live in a fantasy where an aging, gay, internationally famous memoirist wants to fuck me?” I demand. “Would you have gone through with it if that were the reality?” she asks. I open my book to the cover page and show it to her.