I helped Lorijo, Suzanne, and Marlene from IL-SCBWI protect our stuff from getting soaked and we huddled together in the middle of the tent. Then someone official looking (ie. they had a walky-talky) approached and told us we had to get out of the tent because there was lightning. So we fled for the nearby Dearborn Station. We made the best of the circumstances and sat around talking about our writing. It was quite nice actually. Eventually Scott turned up, totally drenched. I told him that as soon as he was ready to brave the elements that he could feel free to go home. He was being chivalrous as usual, concerned about how I would handle getting my large poster and raffle box home on the train, but I said I’d manage. (I’d later regret sending him home, though not because of carrying things.) When the storm broke a little bit, Jenny turned up with my sandwich and Scott went home. I ate and had more fabulous author chatter now with Jenny added to the mix.
Finally the lightning went away and we were able to set up shop again. It was an hour after my time at the booth, but Lorijo and Suzanne the organizers were wonderful and arranged things so Marlene and I could stay at the booth. I’m sure I would have had the opportunity to meet more folks if it hadn’t stormed, but quite a few hearty souls stopped by my display with my big IWBYJR poster and raffle box. Lorijo captured this photo of me with one of the sweetest teen girls I talked to that day filling out a raffle form:
Unfortunately as it turned out, the rain is not what made my day (and week this far) unhappy. You can tell from the photo that I'm a little distracted and that's because soon after I set up the booth, I got a phone call from one of the people who matters most to me in this world. I knew immediately from her tone that something awful had happened. I won’t elaborate on details because it is not my business to discuss and the extent of what you need to know that it upset me a great deal and is still upsetting me and may be for awhile.
Still, I had just opened my booth and needed to solider on and then wanted to see Jenny’s reading before rushing home to my friend.
I finished with the booth, saw the reading and hustled to the train. The train was underground for awhile so couldn’t call to check on my friend. When I did call, she did not answer, so I sat there worrying and staring into space for several stops until I finally snapped back into reality and began to pay attention to my surroundings. Suddenly I realized that unpleasant things were happening directly across from me.
Anyone who takes the L on a regular basis (or probably public transportation anywhere) is rather used to unpleasantness. For example, I’ve had friends who’ve sat in urine, friends and I have witnessed urination, and I’ve suffered through long train rides where I couldn’t escape the stench of urine. Things are not usually so bad during rush hour except for BO, the occasional homeless person slouched a seat, and that one time a crazy guy was blasting his boom box, but taking the train during off-peak hours, that's when things get sketchy. I've taken the train in the afternoon and have witnessed a schizophrenic war veteran have a massive freakout, teenagers smoking crack, and on my way to my interview for my current job, a man sat down across from me and began to masturbate.
Well, that's exactly what happened again on Sunday afternoon. Tuned into my surroundings after being preoccupied by upset and worried thoughts only to notice that the man across from me had a newspaper over his lap but it was not full concealing his member and he was yanking away. I quickly got up and moved to the other end of the train car near a suburban looking dude and his teenage son. I also called Scott and very loudly told him that I wished I hadn't sent him home because the dude across from me had been inspired to masturbate. The dude exited the train at the next stop. I felt nauseous and angry and violated and tried to console myself in my usual sarcastic way by thinking, "Well, the last time this happened, I pulled myself together, went to the interview and got that job. Maybe this is my equivalent to a pigeon shitting on you bringing good luck." I chuckled slightly to myself. Scott chuckled as well when I told him that, as did my friend Kathy when I told her about it at work today. She shared her tale of having her ass groped on a crowded train once and solving it by announcing very loudly, "Whoever has their hand on my ass better remove it if they want to keep it." Again, we laugh, but it's not really funny. These things that we just accept as a part of urban living that are utterly humiliating to us as women. As sarcastic as I may be about it, the fact was it was mildly traumatizing. I went home and scrubbed my hands for no real reason. I had to resist the urge to go take a shower.
This still was not as upsetting as my friend's stuff though. She came over for awhile, but I didn't feel like I was really able to help. I just had to hope that today would be better for us all.
I hate it when you can't protect the people you love the most, the people who are most deserving of protection and who haven't really gotten it. All I can do is listen. And I did. And then tonight I cooked while blaring Rancid and cleaned while blaring Hole. The angry comfort music that's been there since high school. It's been years since I've wanted a cigarette as badly as I did today after not being able to make everything okay for her. But the music helped some and at least I made some damn fine vegan cornbread and my kitchen sparkles.
I should go to bed now and I'm trying to keep in mind my favorite quote from the Crow, "It can't rain all the time." Or as my mother is fond of saying, "This too shall pass."
ETA: I removed the whole thing about the article, I was being overly sensitive. It's not a big deal. Press is weird.