Friday, June 24, 2011

It's unsettling to sign someone else's name.

The letters feel foreign, your pen a drunken wanderer, navigating the new bends blindly - "just along for the ride!" your hand would say.
A normally fluid line of loops is halting; the formal curves off by just enough that only you can recognize the forgery.

I usually have, to be perfectly frank with you, pretty lovely handwriting.

Honed in honors classes requiring copious notes, guided by an inherent artist's appreciation for the aesthetically pleasing, this is no accident: it has been as much a deliberately acquired skill as typing fast, or whistling with my fingers.

But I find myself on a hardwood floor at midnight on a Tuesday, relentlessly scribbling someone else's name into the veritable city of books amongst which I am sitting, over and over and over. It is a conscious and exacting task, and I am anxious, because I can't make the slant consistent. I can't coerce the rounds of the letters to be as round as I want them to be. I can't control the pen as well as I'd like to. I can't get the name to cooperate.
It looks forced.

Lindsay Bozanich
Lindsay Bozanich
Lindsay Bozanich

I want each scrawled, constructed inscription to be perfect for her.
For the letters to stand proud, and funny and well-formed and striking, like Linds herself.

Lindsay Bozanich
Lindsay Bozanich

I start in all capital letters- boldly declaring ownership and defying the indoctrined taboo of "writing in books" from which we were discouraged during library class in elementary school. Criss-cross applesauce, seated in rows, quietly reverent of the magic of books.

I knew it would hum like this; that a soothing rhythm would develop: grab a stack of books, crack the cover, tattoo the upper left corner (Lindsay Bozanich, Lindsay Bozanich), appraise the form and figure of it, close the book and place it to the side; repeat.

We punctuate the melody of pen on paper with soft color commentary.
"Oh, have you read the other one by this author? I can't remember the title, but, it was good."
"Gosh, I haven't read this one in a long time."
But mostly, we are silently intent on diminishing the stacks around us, lulled by the music I put on.

When I'd suggested we tackle this, I anticipated it would go this way: two young women, learning to look death in the face and proceed boldly in its imminence. I am as new at this as my hands are at signing a strange permutation of letters. This idea? It was the best I could do, but I am starting to feel the sense of phony marionetting that the pen in my hand probably would if it could feel.
Lindsay Bozanich Lindsay Bozanich Lindsay Bozanich

I booked this trip a few months back, when Linds first started chemotherapy. Despite it being my only trip back home since Christmas, I made it very clear that the visit would be about spending time with her. A young, busy, social, accomplished woman's routine of self-defining activities interrupted indefinitely to pump her body full of toxic poisons would probably welcome a visit from a close friend. I couldn't wait to come and see her in person, try to be there for her and let her know she can count on me. I wanted to, per my friend Mickey's lexicon, "bring the sunshine."

Once with her, somewhat taken aback (surprised in a fully and wholly altruistic, positive way) by how healthy she looks, how resilient she is, how she's still my sasshole of a role model, confidante, and friend - I still felt compelled, or, actually, longed to "make a difference" and "help" her in place of empty platitudes.

Especially after reading a beautiful blog post she penned while sitting with me at a coffee house in northwest Portland, wherein she gently chastised those of us who want to "help" but still aren't willing to dig in where it counts- the hard parts. The "what if I die?" parts. The "if I go, I want this song at my service, but don't call it a funeral, please" parts, anxiously seeking reassurance that no one be allowed to wear black at such an occasion.

So, at her insistence, I step into those shadows.
Surrounded by her books, her most valued tangible manifestation of a legacy, I asked where they would go if she does. And then, to imprint her record of ownership of all these useful, interesting, rich pieces (which she has sought out, owned, loved, bought, received; drawn and learned from), I suggest we write her name in every last one.
(Lindsay Bozanich Linsday Bozanich Lindsay Bozanich)

I want the L to lead the way for the rest of the letters; for the B to convey all the boldness and ambition of the woman it initializes. I want it to be pretty. I want it to last.

In the event that she doesn't make it, but the books do, I want a lonely person thirty years from now to pick up this well-loved copy of a story and feel comforted, knowing they are in good company with "Lindsay Bozanich"- that holding a hand-me-down from such an strong and inspiring woman would somehow impart them with strength and inspiration by simple proximity to her possessions.
I want this person to sense that they have stumbled upon a valuable artifact that is only a singular element of a rich and real history.

Lindsay Bozanich
Lindsay Bozanich
Lindsay Bozanich
Lindsay Bozanich

I am acutely aware that Linds might not be as into this as I am. That she might not be as into the song we are listening to, into this experience I engineered into existence.
It is also now clear that it is not Lindsay who is benefitting fom this book tour- but rather, this is for me.
It's so I don't have to feel so helpless as she loses her hair, and her breasts, and yes, maybe, possibly, even her life.

It's so I can prove to her and to myself that I am a good enough friend that I am willing to confront her mortality with her. To be there for her in a capacity for which she has bluntly and rawly expressed a deep need.

So this isn't about helping Lindsay, I see. This act, specifically, is her way of humoring me - of leading me into a place where we can stand face to face in tears and say, "I might die" and "I know. Are you scared?" and for her to say any and everything she needs to, without me flinching.

I write your name again and again.
Because okay, if we're going to go there, if this vile illness steals away the rest of your years and your books are your progeny, sent off into the world bearing your name and traces of your being, if I know anything about the way this world works, I will run into those books for the rest of my time here. Not haunted by them, but predictably and consistently our paths will cross.
And I want to greet them as old friends in your place, and I will be really, really upset if my handwriting looks bad.

Lindsay Bozanich
Lindsay Bozanich
Lindsay Bozanich