Do you have any charactaristics you’re a bit embarrassed about? I do. I am a groupie–a huge fan!–of a big writer. Now, some of you might not understand. But just compare it to being a fan of a major rock star. How would you feel spending time with him in person?
I worked for an organization and had the glorious task of inviting the great worldwide admired writer to speak to us. He would be given an award from us. Writing the invitation (signed by someone else) was a challenge all by itself. But he answered yes!
It has been two years since this all happened–when I met him, the great writer, at the Brussels airport at 7 am on a sunny Monday morning, still cold for the middle of March.
I had read all his books by then, trying to get an idea of the man behind the words. This vision didn’t coincide with the high or rather weird demands his assistant required for his stay in our country and the very stringent specifications for the speech he had to give as acknowledgement for his award. He wanted to stay in a boat. No filming during his speech. He preferred not to see the audience while speeching. I had to send a picture of myself a few weeks before his visit, with the clothes I would wear then, so he would certainly recognize me.
But I had seen his picture, so with sleepy eyes I was staring at the sliding doors, scanning every human being as they arrived. I was wearing a black leather jacket, jeans and sneakers and a long woolen scarf–the same outfit in the picture. No way I was going to stand there with a banner with his name on it. I was leaning on the railing, a brown bag with a granola bar in my hand. That was what he preferred, should he be hungry.
All of a sudden I felt eyes gazing at my back. I turned around and saw him looking at me, in the middle of the big hall, one small suitcase in his hand, a bag over his shoulder and a baseball cap almost covering his eyes. I walked over to him (almost ran into his arms, I admit) and called his name, as if to check it were really him. And I started my nervous, over concerned babbling:
- How are you?
- Were you able to sleep on the plane?
- Are you hungry?
- Do you need to use the bathroom before we leave?
He answered calmly and without mocking me.
As we walked to the car, I became more nervous by the minute. When we stepped into the black Volvo I thought: how the hell am I going to drive to Ghent, with him sitting next to me? I had prepared everything to make it run smoothly. I had already put the address into the navigation system, and I had made a nice playlist on my phone, some not too commercial background music. But after alt-J’s edgy’s voice ‘triangles are my favorite shape, three points and two lines’, the connection broke off, and a noisy Radio station spoiled the atmosphere. So much for preparation.