The night your dream comes true, everything should go according to plan. Your groomsman zooms your pumpkin coach along the carpool lane past traffic, and finds the site of the ball without GPS. The hipster clerk greets you warmly, and one of your besties is already there with her daughter. She gives you a hug and you both giggle like kids.
The clerk tells you to find the manager in back. You turn a corner and stop. Your eyes well up. The night your dream comes true, a table holds 40 copies of your book, beautifully stacked next to a poster of you. You realize this is the first time seeing your book in a bookstore with your own eyes. You swallow back the lump in your throat, but it won’t stay down.
You knew indie bookstores did this sort of thing for local authors, but not you. Never you. You’ve been so accustomed to criticism and rejections, to being ignored and overlooked, to the blank looks from everyone but the guy who brought you here, that it didn’t occur to you that they’d set up this many books and that many chairs and there would be a microphone on an actual stage.
The manager comes over and greets you, and you don’t know what to say. So she does the talking. Over your shoulder you spot a long-lost cousin. You haven’t seen each other except on Facebook in more than 20 years at least. Your mothers were close, and you hug, and you meet her husband and see pictures of her grown kids, and wonder why it’s taken this long to connect with people.
And you try to forget that you dropped people from view because you never thought, in your entire life, that you’d have a night like this, the night your dream comes true. And you were ashamed, and you carried your shame in tiny little pockets and secret hiding places all over you, as if they were sewn directly into your skin, and every time you were halfway okay with how your life was turning out, one of the pockets would tear and out would trickle all that mortification like sand, and it would be there, invisible but grating, rubbing you raw in tiny, but permanent, ways.
But the man who brought you here is holding the camera now at just the right angle so he gets your good side. You suspect you don’t really have a good side any longer, that it’s been years since you fit into the clothes that made you feel like you might have a good side, but you grin like a crazy fool anyway.
A coworker shows up, then another. You recognize a student. And others. That kid who talks all the time but promised he’d be there shows up. Your son’s best bud comes with his Dad and brother. The funny, wise-cracking girl you first had in 6th grade drags her Mom and BFFs. One of your shyest students hands you a bouquet of flowers, and they’re colorful and lovely and vibrant, like her, and the girl smiles and you’re suddenly Queen of All That Is.On the night your dream finally, finally comes true, all those chairs are filled and it’s standing room only. The book sells out. Sells. Out. The glorious display is just an empty table now.
The manager introduces you and she’s funny and everyone laughs and claps and you get up and the microphone works the first time. You look out and there’s a guy you used to work with five years go and his wife, and over there’s your boss waving at you and behind her is that goofy kid who always has a question, no matter what, and over on the other side is a gaggle of girls hugging copies of your book.
You start speaking and the butterflies settle down. You haven’t prepared anything specific, except everything you’ve wanted to say all your life. Every time you dared to picture this, which isn’t often, it didn’t look nearly this good, because you stopped letting yourself even have this dream. So you’ve picked up the microphone without expectations of how it’s supposed to go, and it all goes fine.
And then it’s over, and you know that even if it ever happens again, it won’t be like this. There is only one night your dream comes true. It’s the night you realize that you had to be your own fairy godmother to make anything happen at all, and patiently grow your own damn pumpkin, and that Prince Charming was there all along, holding the camera.