Yesterday, with the absurd ease of the internet age, I bought Tig Notaro’s book, having learned of its existence less than five minutes prior to buying. It will be on my doorstep tomorrow. I know exactly where it’s going — we have a cube in our giant wall of cubed shelves devoted to female comics — but I don’t know when I will read it.
Maybe this year, maybe not.
The fact is, I’m hording it for a rainier day. I did the same thing with her legendary set, the recorded version of which which I own but have yet to listen to. I’ve watched other bits of hers, yes. I’ve heard her interviewed, and heard others interviewed about her. But I haven’t listened to the set. Because I might need it more later. When things get worse.
I’m well aware that it’s not a fool-proof plan. What do I expect her to do, make everything better? I’d hate for someone to tell me that they were so sure something I’d written would move them that they were putting off reading it until they really, really needed something moving in their life. Way to oversell something, right?
But it’s like with authors. How I deliberately saved Guy Gavriel Kay’s Children of Earth and Sky for the week I had to go down and move my mother into a dementia facility (and bathe her and lift her up and down and — and leave here there, amid a clot of vicious screaming octo- and nonagenarians decades her senior). Or how I put off reading Patrick Rothfuss’s second book for years, because based on the way people talked about him I thought I might need an ace up my sleeve when sorrow came knocking. I understand that I am asking a lot, probably too much, of these books. These authors.
What, though, is the proper thing to do? To become addicted to some substance instead? To become addicted to a religion — which, while comforting, would offer me only someone else’s answers; some hackneyed phrases passed down a hierarchy inevitably employed, at some level, to oppress people? It’s not even six one, half dozen the other here. I risk no outraged or sheepish follow-ups; no one is going to contact me and say “hey, it’s just a story lady; find your good feels somewhere else.” Because, after all, they did want to move people. They wouldn’t be doing what they do, whether it’s stand-up or writing, if they weren’t trying to affect people in some way. My treating their creative efforts as a precious commodity that must be horded — a tincture of the possibility of feeling better, to be carefully stockpiled — doesn’t change that. My writing about their writing doesn’t change that, either. I’m invisible. I’m invisible, but that’s not my problem.
My problem is that my mother is gone.
None of these people can fix that, I know. But they might at least be able to make me laugh. Mom was never dour. Even last month, when she thought I was her own mother, washing her hair and toweling her dry and lowering her down onto a bed and dressing her, I could make her laugh. When even her laughter is gone, I will need someone else’s. Stockpiling the hope of more is the best that I can do right now.