Some writers I cannot love any more than I do already, even if I tried. Roxane Gay is one of these writers.
This is what I do when I write, or at least this is what I try to do, what I hope to do—disguising my voice with my voice as I tell some version of the truth.
–Roxane Gay, What Zadie Smith Taught Roxane Gay: Identity Is Drag
A couple weeks ago, Roxane Gay did a reading at Tattooed Mom, courtesy of TireFire Readings. (A local group I’d never heard of before this, but one whose projects I’ll definitely be following in the future.)
My friend and I got there early, and when Ms. Gay–uh, Roxane–also got there early, I took the opportunity to introduce myself. Thanked her for coming. Told her what a big fan of her work I was. Embarrassed us both in the process. (“Uh…’Roxane’…” was actually quite a gracious response to my initial tongue-tied, “Uh…Ms. Gay?”)
Despite the fact that I surely came off as:
I still managed to disguise my true feelings, the expression of which Ms. Gay–ahem, Roxane–might have found not only embarrassing but also potentially alarming:
So I’m counting that as a win.
Gay read from her newly released first novel, An Untamed State (which I will not be reading any time soon, not because I think it isn’t exquisitely written–I’m quite sure it is–but because I fear reading it might shatter me), and a few short pieces, including a love letter to Mr. Rogers.
[Sidebar] If you’re not familiar with Gay’s fantasy love stories featuring herself and famous men, you’re missing out. Truly.
I would take such good care of the idea of Morgan Freeman. I would say, “Morgan Freeman, real man who I am confusing with the various characters he plays in the movies, I want you to live forever and ever.” He would smile at me, you know how he does, with his eyes crinkling at the corners and his lips stretching seductively, slowly across his perfect face. He would say something ambiguous like, “I know,” and I would hear something unambiguous like, “I fucking love you so much.”
—“The Idea of Him“ [/Sidebar]
[Hold up. One more sidebar]
Other pieces that she writes but did not read from–and which I also find incredibly compelling–are her blog post ruminations on life-and-love-and-living (and sometimes rage) conducted while cooking. About these, let me just say:
“Roxane Gay, real woman who I am confusing with the various voices she writes into being, I want you to live a life overflowing with beautiful lovers and deep soul healing and always-perfect buttercream frosting.“
Actually, those are things I wish for us all. Plenty of ease and pizza, too. [/Hold up. One more sidebar.]
As I listened to Gay read about greeting Mr. Rogers at the door of their home, wearing a crisp apron and carrying sidecar cocktails for them both, I thought about pulling out my phone and snapping a surreptitious photo of the event. But I’ve got a Thing against taking pictures of people I don’t know without their consent. Even at a distance and in a dark room, it just feels wrong.
Then I thought about taking a picture of the phone of the blond woman seated next to me as she took a picture with her own phone (clearly my Thing is not universal). But I decided against. Any resulting pic would just be far too precious and twee.
So I have no souvenir but my memory, which I generally prefer to photos anyway. I pulled a portrait pic off the Internet as a note to end on instead. One I’m sure Ms. Gay–‘scuse me: Roxane–won’t object to.