So last weekend, I was at a baby shower where one of the grandfathers-to-be
read my palms. This wasn’t some kind of baby-shower game — although Tom was really good and also really earthy. I imagine if it were a baby-shower game and
we’d all gotten a lot more sauced up on the delicious rum punch, we could’ve
totally spiced it up and asked the man to do boob-readings instead, and I bet you anything he coulda nailed whether every last woman in that room put in as many months of breastfeeding as the La Leche League recommends, although, you know, AWKWARD. . .
But Tom read my palms and told me all kinds of intriguing things about myself, or things I’d modestly considered but hadn’t really thought about, or things that just completely tripped me out. I mean, on the one hand, he told me I was “very set and very defined in who you are as a person.” (I’m pretty sure that was just a nice way of telling me I’m an obstinate ass.) On the other, there was that part of the reading where he said I was “very energetic, and very philosophical, and very spiritual, and you have SO much energy impelling you right now toward something huge.”
So I squeak off with, “Uh, I’m a writer?”
And Tom explodes back at me: “You’re like Charles Dickens! You see the connections between people and societies and you want to bridge those! This is your life path — this is what you were meant to do.”
(And later, when I tell Rudy: “I mean, of all the writers I’d have compared myself to, Charles Dickens!? I didn’t even tell him I wrote fiction. Dude, that palm-reading totally tweaked my brain.”
“Charles Dickens?” Rude asked. “Are you sure you heard him right?
Because if he had any real fourth-dimension insight into your novel,
he’d’ve said, ‘You write about dicks.’ ”
And I’m all, “SHUT YOUR EVER-LOVING CAKEHOLE.”)
But then I got to chewing over what Tom said, and thinking about it in terms of my novel, which — outside of making sure everyone in this house has a clean ass and whether there’s enough vodka in the freezer — is ALL I think about these days. And there’s one character in the novel my writers’ group made me fight for, and that character is the city of Seattle. It HAD to be set in Seattle, because I love this town, because I know this town, because she’s a character in her own right, and because I’ve always felt like it’s the world’s most enormous small town: I don’t feel I know a tremendous number of people, but even in a city of 1.7 million, I’m always bumping into them. Between its size, its geography and its urban design, it’s a city proportioned for coincidence — perfect for a novel.
As it turns out, Seattle is exactly the same size as London in the mid-1800s — precisely when Charles Dickens was writing his own novels. It’s the reason former Londoner, novelist and essayist Jonathan Raban sets his tales here, too; in fact, I came across this terrific blog post in which he speaks to just that.
So while it was strangely coincidental and ridiculously flattering of Tom to compare me to Dickens, I’m hoping it’s totally true because Dickens was actually rich and famous in his lifetime. Which means that conversations like the one I just had with Mike can go a lot differently.
Me: “Hey, can you call (So-and-So) and ask if they’re available to watch the kids next weekend?”
Mike: “No, I can’t. I have a very busy day today.”
Me: “Well so do I. Anyway, the rule is we always call our own friend or family member, and (So-and-So’s) your friend.”
Mike: “I can’t do it! Also, I’ve been feeling a little queasy the past few days. There’s a strong possibility I might have to go to the emergency room.”
Me: “I’m sorry, you have a tummy ache, so you can’t make a three-minute phone call because at some point today you might need to be raced to an emergency room?”
Mike: “I AM NOT BEING DRAMATIC!”
But instead of rolling my eyes and storming away from my adorable sniveling whinesack, we could instead hop in my gold-plated mobile hypochondriac unit and zip away toot-sweet for Ballard Swedish Medical Center. Brings a whole new meaning to “Dickensian life,” right?
Here’s hoping writing about dicks pays off. . .