October has been a whirlwind of bookstore launches, after-parties, interviews, reviews, and appreciation via email, phone and old-fashioned note cards from family, friends, and strangers, and best of all, oceans of love. As wonderful as this experience has been, there was one small public moment and one big private one that were most powerful for me, distilling it on both a macro and a micro scale.
After signing extra copies of Dying in Dubai for my home bookstore, Oblong Books & Music, to sell post-event, I waited a few days to return. When I did, I made a beeline for the memoir section. There it was, the most satisfying accomplishment of all: my book on a bookstore shelf, cover face out, adorned with a silver “autographed copy” seal, propped against a few more, Napoleon to its right, Mindy Kaling on the left, Michael Maslin above, The Black Calhouns below. If you’ve been reading my previous blog posts, you will recognize the continuing theme: my manifest arrival in the company of other authors. The simple fact that my first book sat on the shelf of a bookstore made the achievement concrete. I saw it. I felt it, and I was grateful for it.
That was the macro (public) moment.
The micro (private) one was this: the day after my official book launch in Montclair, New Jersey–a sold-out SRO event with an audience reflecting our whole family history and mine before Jerry; even a grad school friend showed up–I entered my Hudson Valley home, tired but satisfied, and noticed that the copy of Dying in Dubai I had propped weeks before on a high shelf in my living room for all to see, face out (as in the bookstore photo), was on the floor. It had been standing there for weeks, as had a few other books I displayed similarly, which stayed put. Books didn’t fall off my shelves.
Nothing else in the room was amiss. I shrugged and went to my bedroom to unpack. About 15 minutes later, I reentered the living room. Dying in Dubai was on the floor again–in exactly the same place. I noticed that it was a few feet from the bookshelf, as if it had been thrown.
I should say here that I don’t believe in ghosts, I don’t talk to them, but I do believe that we are all made of energy that changes, yet doesn’t leave. I looked up, and said out loud, “Jerry? Okay, okay, I hear you.” Then I picked up the book and placed it back on the shelf. It hasn’t moved since.
I had the distinct feeling that the book fell the first time, while I was in our old hometown reading from it to our community. Later, I wondered if my husband was sending me a specific message, that he was with me regardless, because I had forgotten to go to his grave; Jerry was buried in Montclair. I had every intention of paying my respects while I was in town, but by the time the event was over and my son and I had our brunch debrief at our favorite restaurant the next morning, all I wanted to do was go home. And I did.
Reading this, the skeptics among you might think that this line of thinking is a bit crazy. I agree, but I can’t dismiss what happened. It was as real and as important as seeing my memoir on the bookstore shelf. Jerry’s energy is out there, whether between the covers of my book or in my new home. My beloved husband is in the world. Still.