I went to Sacramento this weekend, for a reading hosted by Sobha Aunty, aka Dr. Sobha Kollipara. She managed to get a good crowd into her living room--some Aunties, some Uncles and some people I'd never seen before. There was a lot of love, and I'm taking all that I can get. I have a feeling I'll need a good supply of it soon.
So, for those of you who don't know, The Prayer Room takes place in my childhood home in Sacramento--in as much as a fictional novel can take place in a real-world physical space. I hadn't been back there for four years, not since I left it, tearfully, a few days after my wedding. (The tears, by the way, surprised me. My parents' house was always the boring place, the place that kept me from Berkeley, Baltimore, or wherever else I wanted to be.) I was glad to see that the new owners hadn't changed the place much, at least not on the outside. It's a shame to see houses get knocked to the ground upon purchase.
The mission: to get a copy of my book into the hands of the house's new owners. They own the setting of my novel; I think they're entitled to a paperback, at least.
When I arrived, there were probably 20 SUV's parked in the driveway. I rang the doorbell. Within seconds I stood in a throng of guests, at the epicenter of a baby shower for someone I'd never met. I'd brought my own baby, so I didn't stand out too badly, and for a second I toyed with the idea of sitting down in my living room for a glass of sparkling punch and a chat. But I'm terrible at that sort of thing--at sneaking in places, using fake ID's, pretending to belong when I don't--I always get found out.
A few people smiled quizzically at me, trying not to be rude, until I finally got hold of the owner. We had a nice conversation, during which I was almost overwhelmed by his kindness, his ease at having me in his home. The book was handed over, and I got out of there. It seems I didn't want to be in my old house, after all. The place felt smaller than I remembered, like the corridors and the desks do when you go back to your old elementary school. It was bursting with another person's life--and furniture--and there didn't seem to be much room for me anymore.
I still dream in that house, the way you dream in English even after you've moved to France. I guess a part of me will always remain there. I'm sort of a living ghost; I lounge in the window seat of my old bedroom, I sit at the kitchen table, I dip my feet in the pool. Nobody knows I'm there, and if they did, there wouldn't be much they could do about it.