I’m in Eugene. I walk to a park down the street, and at first I’m not sure why there were all these brown patches of grass in the middle. Then I realize oh, wetlands, this really is a swamp. It’s not a pretty park, but there are a lot of chirping birds. I sit in the rain in my sun hat and sunglasses, I’m so glad I brought this hat because even in the rain the glare is hurting my eyes.
Moments I want to remember from this tour, already. The looks of recognition in people’s faces, sometimes literally recognition of exactly the moments and people and places I’m talking about but more often a recognition of our common histories, of similar experiences in similar places. The feeling of closeness and intimacy when people come up to talk to me afterwards. All the stories and hugs, I love all the stories and hugs.
The affirmation when someone comes up and says I’m nervous because I’m a total fan girl, I quote you all the time, every time I write something I quote you. Or someone I met five years ago on a different book tour, who says: I went out and bought for your book, and the changed my life. This is what makes touring so important: feeling the impact. So often I feel incapacitated, overwhelmed, barely able to function, so it’s important to feel that softness and hope too, right?
An older guy and a younger guy who come up to me in Portland, and the older one says thank you for your bravery and truth-telling. Truth-telling was in the exact word, but I can’t remember it exactly. Something that means truth-telling. Bravery and honesty, I think that’s what it was. And he said: your work could be so important to so many youth. Which means a lot to me, because so often we’re told that youth need positivist bullshit or glossy lifestyle brochures.
At my Portland reading, I notice that I could actually start crying. It’s the part where I’m talking about San Francisco in the early-‘90s, and remembering I was sexually abused. Of course I told this story so many times, but now I’m actually feeling it, I guess that means my writing is working. But I don’t want to start crying while I’m reading, right? Maybe later, during the Q&A. But of course it passes. What would it mean to start crying while I’m reading? Would it ruin the effect or enhance it, and does asking this question already limit the possibilities for my response? In the moment.