Wassup Rockers

In Which Your Heroine Se Topa With Her Favorite Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author.

Have I mentioned that post-graduation, I’ve been working at a bookstore? I don’t remember if I have. But yeah. I’ve been selling books.

Around noon, this kid came up to me at the registers and asked me if I could look up a book for him. He wanted Song of the Water Saints. I was like, “Oh yeah, by Nelly Rosario,” and he expressed surprise that I knew. I think he asked me if I’d read it. I told him no, but that I’d met Nelly Rosario once so I was aware of her existence and the existence of this book. Then I told him to go upstairs where our literature section is. So he went upstairs.

There was a lull at the registers and there were a lot of people working today, so I decided to go munch on my lunch even though it was ealier than my usual lunch hour. (Our lunch hours are 45-minute hours, by the way.) So I go upstairs to get my stuff and I see the following: (1) the kid who asked me for Song of the Water Saints, and (2) JUNOT DIAZ BROWSING BOOKS AS IF HE WAS SOME SORT OF AVERAGE CIVILIAN. Okay, I’m not sure why I capitalized that entire sentence. Anyway, I saw him and you wouldn’t believe the huge knot that I got in my stomach. Like, I really really wanted to talk to him but I really really didn’t wanna bother him.

Well I kinda tried to play it cool by talking to the kid about Song of the Water Saints. Apparently a shitload of people went looking for it cos it was temporarily lost in some literary black hole that exists in our store, but they finally found it, and so he saw me and thanked me for the help, and asked me how I’d met Nelly. I told him that I took a class with one of her friends, Angie Cruz. He recognized her name, telling me, “I just bought Soledad,” and I went off on how much I fucking loved Soledad and how I wanted to just move to Washington Heights and hang out with all the cool Dominican kids. Honestly, this was five years ago and I had no idea that the gentrification was already going on full force. So of course as I go on my little monologue, I have Junot right in my line of vision so the whole situation was a little literary Quisqueya-fest, you know? The kid and I finally exchanged goodbyes and he went on his way.

So for like 20 minutes after this, I’m pacing around trying to decide whether to bother Junot, and all I know is that I cannot fucking eat my lunch or I’m just gonna hurl from the nerves. Which is fucking bizarre, I never ever expected I’d get that sort of reaction out of just seeing an author I really dig. Embarrassing, to be honest. But there I was, just bugging out.

Finally, I was like, WTF, let’s just go for it. Because if I didn’t bother him, I’d hate myself forever. Also, I’d already been meaning to email him about something he said (I really felt that he would answer), so I was like, “Why the fuck am I gonna email him if he’s right there and he can just give me an answer.” So I walked up to him and asked if I could bother him for a sec and he says sure, so I tell him, “Oh so I went to see you recently–” and it kinda hits him that he’s been recognized so he’s like, “Oh, nice to meet you, I’m Junot,” which is kinda silly because it was clear to both of us his name was Junot so why did he feel the need to say it? Some sort of courtesy? But I followed his lead and I was like, “I’m Elizabeth, nice to meet you,” and I stretched out my hand and remembered my hands were still a little wet from having just washed them (since I’d been about to lunch), and of course I was mentally kicking myself for not having dried them completely.

Anyway, so I launched into my question which was this: I went to see Junot at this event that was actually held in Spanish, and he’d mentioned that he’d been reading a lot of Colombian books, which piqued my interest because I’ve been all about Colombian books, too. I asked him who he’d recommended because I hadn’t quite caught all the names he mentioned. I told him I’ve already read Vallejo and Franco, who else should I read. So he tells me Efraín Medina Reyes. I asked him what kind of stuff Medina wrote and Junot’s telling me that it’s all this crazy shit and that he’s the sort of mofo to put a naked picture of himself on the cover of his books which sounds like the sort of classy shit I’d be into.

Well you can’t imagine the regret I’ve been feeling from asking him cos I’ve been on Google for hours now just trying to figure out how to get my hands on a copy of this dude’s books. All I’ve figured out is that Medina Reyes is supposed to be some kind of punkass dickwad (I say this with much respect, good sire) in the literary scene. Also, apparently his name is Efraim, not Efraín. Qué sé yo.

Honestly, he warned me it would be hard for me to find, and I was like, “You think I could find it at the library?” And of course, he could only answer with a maybe. Sigh. Even when I can find a website that sells the books, I’m always hesitant because I’m not sure how reputable the site is, and then I’m also bummed that I can’t just check out the books and feel them in my hands and just see what they’re like before I send my dinero to these people. No 30 second samples? Pffft.

Anyway, I asked Junot if he had read any Andrés Caicedo, since Caicedo was Colombian too, and he had no idea who I was talking about, so I told him how I’d been reading ¡Que viva la música! and he actually started to like make note of it. Shit, if he finds it and hates Caicedo, he’ll remember me as that girl who gave him a shitty book recommendation. So let’s hope he forgets about me completely. So yeah, I was so busy talking to him about this stuff I didn’t even see what sort of shit he bought from our store.

I hope I didn’t scare Junot away from returning to our store. The owner of the store would be pretty mad if he heard that I scared away a customer…


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