She made contact by email. I’m guessing the newspaper article from the previous week had put me on her radar. The article was an embarrassment, by the way, but not for being poorly written. A paraphrased interview conducted by an international best-selling author would never be poorly written. The embarrassment was, of course, all mine and it had to do with me being unable to produce good copy despite three days of preparation wherein I stared at my reflection while reciting what I hoped would pass for good copy. It clearly wasn’t good copy, but the international best-selling author interviewing me had plied her trade in a compassionate manner and the following week my bad copy appeared on the fifth page of the local newspaper as legitimately good copy. She even went so far as to call me handsome, and then a few lines after that she compared me to Cormac McCarthy which did not sit well with my impostor syndrome. I simply could not believe she was being sincere and I still don’t.
Not long after the article appeared in the paper I received an email from an ambitious young woman organising some kind of book fair. I think she used the word expo in her preamble to offering me a table at her inaugural event for writers of genre fiction. I’m not a writer of genre fiction in my humble opinion, but I did incorporate a bank robbery into my debut book which she had read and therefore, by her authority, I was placed under the action-adventure banner.
My girlfriend was out of town on the day the expo happened. This left a vacuum for my impostor syndrome to fill and within ten minutes of waking up I had talked myself into blowing the whole thing off. That is, until she called from her mother’s place in Windsor imploring me to uphold my obligation: “Remember what Billie Jean King said…Pressure is a privilege,” she admonished, unleashing within me a strong desire to get drunk. There was a bottle of vodka stashed in the freezer but the cliche scent of alcohol on the breath of a rookie writer stopped me. The expired cough syrup in the medicine cabinet, however, made for an acceptable alternative.
Directly across from my action-adventure table was the horror table, behind which sat a large man very much at ease with himself and the people who approached him on their way down the rows of writers. Now and then we’d catch eyes and I’d have to ignore my internal dialogue while it expounded upon his mute disapproval. I had but one book to his five and adding to this inadequacy was the fact that I couldn’t sit up straight in my chair like everyone else. My congenital slouch had been made worse by the cough syrup. Moreover, the active ingredient in the cough syrup was having no effect on my impostor syndrome, as evidenced by the muscles in my face twitching uncontrollably. This is probably why the expo-goers all seemed to pick up speed as they passed me by.
Thomas Hardy once said that novels are impressions not arguments, both of which I’m bad at. But making bad impressions and arguments is nothing compared to making bad speeches…When the ambitious young woman who emailed me appeared at my table requesting I take part in a panel discussion, my reaction was, quite literally, visceral. The cough syrup had worked its way through my system inducing a net laxative effect and this, combined with my existential dread of public speaking, produced a wet fart that although inaudible within the murmuring din of writers making sales pitches to half-interested strangers, elicited a stench which did not go unnoticed. I saw her nose twitch, which made my eye twitch even more than it already was and that’s when I pretended my cell phone was ringing, “I have to take this,” I said, gathering up my books, “it’s the clinic calling with the results of my colonoscopy.”