I met David Sedaris. It is hard for me to write this without italics or exclamation marks or at the very least a change of font; I’m thinking Garamond. I did wonder if I had dreamt it, but I have proof; I have the book, signed by him, and I have witnesses that we talked. Perhaps I should clarify; I haven’t just read David Sedaris, I have sucked him dry. I have read and reread him to the point where none of his stories hold any surprises. I know what’s coming, always. I read to reassure myself that the world has him in it, with his mass of menial jobs and his need to touch people’s heads at odd times. I feel a sense of possession about the books that borders on the kind of repetitive obsessive detail-orientated disorder of which David himself would be proud.
I waited in the book signing line after the show at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea – my first of his – like a child waiting for Santa Claus. The wait was horrible. He was taking an inordinate amount of time talking to people and also eating from little plastic boxes of feta and olives and greenery. He was actually stuffing his face; he must have been starving. He was drawing a caterpillar on the front page of a girl’s book, while talking animatedly to her about something I couldn’t catch, with bits of salad peeping out of the corners of his mouth. At the end of the show, during the Q&A, he had asked for two things: the hood of his stove had broken and he needed the name of a handyman who could come and fix it, and he needed a psychiatrist for a friend of his who was having a hard time. Could we please meet him afterwards with names and numbers?
It was finally our turn. I hadn’t planned to be here and now here I was, sweating with bright red cheeks and a borrowed coat. I’ve only ever had the books and now, thanks to a fabulous fairy godmother and a returned ticket, I had him. We approached and he immediately started talking about the weird coincidence of being given three recommendations for exactly the same psychiatrist. ‘There are times when I get kind of blue, but this friend really needs help’, he said. We talked about cycling in Sussex, where he now lives. He sometimes cycled as far as Angmering and I sometimes cycled as far as Newhaven. My name means ‘wisdom’ in Greek, did I know that? His face was both familiar and not, small ashen and with a bright and convincing smile. In fact it was his smile that was most in evidence, and gappy teeth. He smiled almost all the time, to himself, to people, while writing. He had a pencil case stuffed with coloured pens, and he doodled as he talked, writing in loopy black ink.
I forgot to say how much I’d loved the show; that’s what happens, you meet your hero and forget to say, that was great, thank you so much for lighting up my life for the past decade or so. That long dark night in Normandy when you tried to drown that mouse in a bucket got me through my own long dark night. The first book I ever read of yours, Me Talk Pretty One Day, was the only good thing that came out of a terrible relationship. I’m sorry your sister died. Do you still have to lick letter-boxes? Instead we talked about cycle paths. He gave me back my book, and I walked away, feeling a weird mix of wretchedness and elation. I had met him and hadn’t found the words. Then I looked at the inscription inside as we walked towards the exit, and it made me laugh so much none of the rest of it mattered. And it was what I’d wanted to say. Those were the words.
On picky eaters
“Neither were we allowed to choose what we ate. I have a friend whose seven-year-old will only consider something if it’s white. Had I tried that, my parents would have said, “You’re on,” and served me a bowl of paste, followed by joint compound, and, maybe if I was good, some semen.”
David Sedaris, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls