“The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this, because it is the key to making art and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life. Every time I have set out to translate the book (or story, or hopelessly long essay) that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper (which, let’s face it, was once a towering tree crowned with leaves and a home to birds), I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. Every. Single. Time. Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe that, more than anything else, this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”
I lucked into a ticket to go see David Sedaris speak. He is like David Bowie or Wes Anderson to me. His name is thrown around regularly by those who want to present as creative, unique, or those who simply are. I tread on the line separating these two groups.
I left at the time of day that everything is glowing. Only west faces, but the contrast between shadows and orange makes it more striking. We drove to the Thai place up the street, where I have practiced my minimal Thai. I wai and they smile. I ate my Thai omelet dipped in a mixture of sriracha and ketchup. We talked about the intricacies of baking pie. And my friends cousin who just launched his first published book. We talked about work and the oddities of social media. The idiosyncrasies in our respective life paths. We described them as indirect. However, it is rare to find a person who has taken a direct route, whatever that means. We finished our pad thai, green curry, and pad siew, all of which filled my nostrils with memories of a much more exotic life.
We drove over the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The lights blue, outlining the skeleton of the structure that connects San Pedro to Long Beach. Small town to city. If the lights are the frame, that makes us, the cars, everything else within, keeping it alive, the blood pumping, the neurons firing. Without us the bridge is connected blue bones. The colorful building blocks of San Pedro towered high. There were yellow lights, warm stars, glowing, exposing the colors of the containers around us. I heard rumors that the lights, of the skeleton, were for the birds. The pelicans and the seagulls. Whoever they are for, I’m glad they were added. They create a spectacle at night. Frozen stars that have dropped from the sky.
We go to the venue, parking underground, making our way to the, grand, open lobby with strings of Christmas lights hanging over the windows. These did not look as natural as the warm and frozen stars of the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The people were like fish swimming against the current. There was no particular path. From up above we looked like koi swarming and circling, in our many different colors. There were beards and glasses and red lipstick surrounding us. There were impeccable suits and hand holding and rings and eloquence in the air. These are the kinds of people his writing attracts. He must be proud.
Bells ring, informing us to go to our seats. Our milling turns into a purposeful march, long lines forming outside of each door. We find our seats inside. He comes out in a shirt and tie and culottes from Japan. He speaks. He is blurred from the back lighting. His face anonymous. His honesty humbles. The audience laughs. They laugh hard. My friend, wiping her laughter tears with her shirt sleeve. I laugh too, enjoying the words of this anonymous, honest man. At the end he reads the excerpt above. Anne Patchett. I cry and we leave.
We drive back over the skeletal bridge. We talk about David and how much we enjoyed ourselves. But this drive was much quieter. They asked me if I wanted to be dropped off at home. I said that I would. I went to my blue and yellow room. It hadn’t been repainted since middle school. I have pictures up reminding me of the several lives I’ve already led.
A picture of my grandfather with a quote about technology and the struggle we have with our past and our future. He is young in this picture, his hair still dark. He has a lit cigarette between his fingers with the stream of smoke unaffected by gravity, floating to the edges of the image.