Monday, January 31, 2011

The Ultimate High

When I saw my first book on a shelf in a bookstore, I thought I was experiencing the ultimate high. I stared at the spine, rereading the title and my name, thinking — this is it. Life will never get any better than this. But I was wrong. A year later, when my book was out in paperback, I had another experience that topped that one completely.

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon and I was riding the Metro in Washington DC, to Union station where I was going to catch a train home to Philadelphia. I was depressed because I had spent a wonderful weekend with my daughter and her family and I hated to leave. While trying to drum up some enthusiasm for the week ahead, I stared at the subway car filling up with people dripping from the rain. My gaze fell on a man in a neat raincoat. He grabbed the center pole and took a paperback book from his pocket and began reading. I was too far away to see the title, but the cover was vaguely familiar . . .

It was MY book!

Someone I didn’t know was reading MY book! I watched his face intently as he read, looking for every nuance of expression. Suddenly he smiled! What had I written that had made him smile? I tried to gauge how far along he was in the book. It looked as if he had read about thirty pages. Let’s see, that would be about Chapter Four. What was that about? I tried to remember . . .

The man was totally engrossed. People jostled him on either side, but he didn’t look up once. Maybe he would be so engrossed he would miss his stop. What a victory that would be! But, no, when the garbled announcement for the next stop came over the intercom, my reader closed the book (MY book), stuffed it into his raincoat pocket, (a little roughly, I thought) and prepared to get off the train. I wanted to rush up and ask him how he liked it, but of course that was impossible. I watched him make his way through the crowd on the station platform until he disappeared. It was like seeing a good friend disappear, although we had never met.

Robin Hathaway

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