The magic begins with lunch. Deirdre and I sit in a tin-topped booth table, walls adorned in giant-patterned palm tree wallpaper, a stylish bar lit with tiny drop lights. The bartender, also our waiter charms with his smile and attentive service, dosing us with copious hot water refills for our tea before finally setting a pitcher on the table.
The fact that we are able sit together in a stylish Vietnamese restaurant on a Thursday afternoon is not lost on me. Deirdre skin shines with health. Her hair, curly and greying is trimmed into a cute pixie as it grows back after her year-long assault from radiation and chemo. The brain cancer appears to be conquered and she has been busy converting those errant cells into words that will become her memoir of the experience, Brain Candy.
After lunch we shop. This is not an activity I enjoy, unless it is an excuse to extend a lunch into more time. Only with Deirdre would I dare enter “The Rack,” Nordstrom’s home for overstocks. Only with Deirdre would I know to carouse the “designer” rack and only with Deirdre would I actually find two designer brand dresses for a ridiculous bargain. Deirdre possesses the midas touch for bargain hunting.
Typical of my lunches with Deirdre, it didn’t end until 6pm. There was a time some 25 years ago in Brussels where we first met, that I would arrive at the door of her tiny 400 square foot “garden” apartment with two bottles of wine and some “chocolate” pasta, and we’d still be sitting at her table at 6pm.
The previous few weeks I spent dreading my upcoming book readings for Remember The Moon, my enthusiasm for the book lacking. Marketing the book turned out to be much harder than I anticipated, involving a whole slew of tasks that I didn’t particularly enjoy: social media blasts; setting up “free” or discount days and paying to promote them on sites where I knew I would not see a return; asking bookstores if I could read at their stores; writing media releases and contacting a long list of media outlets only to have zero response. It felt like an uphill battle and I truly wanted it over. I worried that my attitude would bleed into the reading itself and mar it in some way. My afternoon with Deirdre bolsters my flagging spirit, as do the new dresses.
The following night, Deirdre makes me take off my coat when I come to her house so she can see the new wrap-dress and she squeals appropriately. The dress is a perfect fit, and makes me feel more confident. We drive north to my second reading for Remember The Moon. At the bookstore, a sectioned off expanse at one side of a food-court-type space, we find Lisa, my special book reading guest-star/psychic medium. I suspect I am the first author to invite a psychic medium to their reading, but our unusual alliance is a tale unto itself.
Deirdre and I join her at a large wooden table in the food-court. Lisa seems both nervous and excited, but she is all lightness, smiles and laughter. She has become more confident in the five years I have known her, but I can tell the unusual aspect of this event has her a little off kilter. I am nervous for the same reason. At lunch a few weeks before the reading we both felt a sense that we’d be playing this evening by ear.
Deirdre plies her with questions. How long has she seen “dead people?” (Since she was four.) Can she turn them off at night? (She has learned how to set boundaries, yes. She learned to wear a hat at the beginning, as a way of telling them she was off duty.) I suggest she name her planned memoir “The Hat Comes Off,” which she loves.
I begin to see familiar faces filing into the bookstore. Soon they are gathered in a small alcove in the middle of the store, mostly good friends and acquaintances, plus a new face or two. I read a few selected pieces from the book before telling the story of how Lisa and I met. After I tell my version, Lisa tells hers: she recounts a “powerful” Arron-spirit “popping” into her car as she drives the Vashon Island highway, only her second time to Vashon, having driven up from Portland to visit a friend. Arron insists she visit a coffee shop and shows her my image. The following day, she follows his instructions and is surprised to actually see me in a coffee shop looking just like Arron said I would. I have the bizarre experience of a total stranger asking me if my husband or boyfriend has died recently because she has a message from him. Of course I don’t hesitate to sit with her at that coffee shop and a friendship begins. After she moves full time to Vashon, we do a series of psychic readings together, but instead of the usual, “this is what I see,” I ask direct questions of Arron. I transcribe as he speaks through Lisa and many of those words are woven into the story that is Remember The Moon.
As Lisa talks I notice a friend whom I haven’t seen in a few years find a back row seat. I met Rachael at a gym and eventually discovered she was a pet psychic. I smile thinking that of course she would come to this reading. As she sits down, I notice that she seems shaken, or discombobulated, I assume on account of her lateness. Only later do I learn that she has been there all along, but became so emotionally caught up in our story that she’d had to leave for a few minutes to regain her composure.
After Lisa speaks, I stand up again, preparing to read a final piece, but I am interrupted by a jazz band that begins playing in the food court drowning out my words and so the reading ends. Lisa answers several questions before a book-signing line-up forms. I am self-conscious, trying to think of something personal, fun or witty to write in each book. Deirdre approaches and hugs me with her usual enthusiastic “That was AMAZING!” Another friend tells me it was the best author reading she’d been to, how she loved the special guest star aspect and our unusual story and learning how the book came to be. The air seems to crackle with energy and excitement that surprises me. My worries of the last few weeks finally float away.
Rachael is the last to have her books signed and she meets Lisa for the first time with excitement and enthusiasm. Lisa immediately recognizes her as a kindred spirit and Rachael cutely stammers and giggles as they speak, as if she has just met her favorite celebrity.
The magic continues after the reading as Deirdre, Rachael, Rachael’s husband and I eat dinner together at a nearby pub. Our waitress, who we discover is also a burlesque dancer, is pulled into the excitement and business cards and promises of reconnecting are exchanged. Deirdre and Rachael, both social extroverts bubble in each other’s presence and it is impossible not to be caught up in their froth. There is a moment that strikes me as I watch them when I realize the book is more than me, that the words and thoughts and feelings spill out into the world, effecting magic at every turn.
How do I always forget the power of words?