Friday, February 19, 2010

Fictional Laura, Meet Real-Life Laura

When I walked upstairs a few days ago, my co-worker Bethany grinned at me from behind the circulation desk in the conspiratorial way that almost always means someone crazy has just walked in or left, and that she has a good story for me.

This time, I was the story.

Apparently, among the many books on our library shelves, Bethany had found one that reminded her of me. In fact, she went so far as to proclaim that she had found me in fiction-form, and that she thought I should take the book the second she was finished to see how similar I was to the narrator.

Whose name happens to be Lauren--Laurie for short.

I was skeptical. I mean, It's easy to think a person is similar to another person (real or fake) when they share almost the same name.

Then one of our student assistants came around the corner. She saw me and her eyes widened, "We found you in book form!" She announced, smiling.

Bethany pulled out the book, Miss Match by Erynn Magnum.

Chick lit. I'm chick lit. I was starting to worry a little. I mean chick lit? Then it occurred to me...it was Christian chick lit.

After that, I got this sinking feeling in my stomach.

Did I come across as (to borrow a phrase from my grandmother) a goody-two-shoes? Did my co-workers see me as Miss Perfect, as a walking advertisement for living biblically? Was I a walking, talking scripture-quoting freak of nature, doomed to live in my happy little zone of impossibility until such a time as I was brought to earth by, like, death?

This was bad.

My brain imminently lept to the lunch line in high school, when Abra (not pronounced like the magic trick, put the stress on the first "a") came up to me with a sneer and said, "Do you know why I hate you, Laura?"

My response was, of course, no. But I didn't say it out loud. Because, clearly, the question was rhetorical. No one walks up to you in the lunch line in the seventh grade to announce their distaste for you unless they're willing to go the extra mile and tell you why you're such a freak of nature.

They assume you don't already know.

"It's because you're such a prep," she said. After that day, which I spent going from friend to friend in order to get myself an accurate definition of the word "prep" and the reason why a person described as such might be considered hate-worthy, I suffered silently through the remainder of seventh grade, until her parents moved or something, causing her to leave our school. For a little while.

Incidentally, did you ever wonder why I wasn't in choir after the first semester in seventh grade? That would be the reason.

Had she been right? Was I a monster? A freak?

Deep breath. Deep breath...now, try to keep that burning in your stomach from leaving it for greener pastures, you don't need stomach-acid burns on your liver, I cautioned myself. Wait until she explains. Just because you were traumatized beyond compare during your formative years by many varied and horrible people does not mean that others will join their ranks during adulthood. Remember: Bethany introduced you to Gilmore Girls. Bethany is a Kindred Spirit. In fact, I'm betting she knows what a Kindred Spirit is, because she's probably read Anne of Green Gables. Oh, and if she hasn't, I bet she would love it...I'll have to check.

See what just happened there? The brain thing, where you start with one idea and end up at another, seemingly totally unrelated idea?

Sometimes I'll be walking up the stairs at work, thinking about the conversation I plan on having whomsoever happens to be working the circulation desk when I get to the top, and my brain will say, "Gee, Laura, you'd better tell so-and-so about that thing with the barcode on that patron's card. It's freaking out, but you can't change it downstairs. But they'll need to know which patron. It's a new card, so I bet that patron was just up here getting it. Oh, and they look like Amy Adams from Julie and Julia, only I liked her better in that Disney movie. What was that called? Oh, right. Enchanted. I loved that movie, and it came out the same year as that Neil Gaiman one I loved."

Then I will get to the top of the stairs and announce, "Stardustwas a good movie. Especially parts with the dead princes."

And the person working the desk will say, "What?"

This is because the person working the desk does not live inside my head and was therefore not party to all the stuff going on in there. It's too bad, because my thinking seems kind of linear in here, it just doesn't seem that way from the outside.

I think my friends and relations must either be used to it by now or else know me well enough to understand how my brain skips around, because they don't seem all that confused very often. Rachael does sometimes give me a look like she wonders where certain things I say have come from, but she doesn't stop me talking to ask...

Bethany dropped the book off downstairs for me yesterday and I started reading it. Laurie does the same freakish conversational thing. She also lives at home with no immediate plans to leave, she wears her singleness like a badge, she has a guy best-friend who would qualify as a brother (I have a brother instead), she has a thing for food, she carries a giant backpack because she loathes purses on principle (me too, although having space for my knitting is the real reason I've got a messenger bag instead of a clutch--also for the walking pharmacy), she eats chocolate like there's about to be a shortage of some kind, she skips instead of walking, hops, dances, and although she hasn't gotten there yet, I'm betting she walks around talking to herself in the grocery store aisles.

The only real difference between us would be her rampant desire to hook her friends up with each other. This is because the author of the book clearly based this story on Jane Austen's novel Emma. Which I love. Did I mention I visited Jane Austen's house? And the other one, in Winchester? And the one in Bath? Oh--and her memorial in Winchester Cathedral? And that I have a loner copy of Pride and Prejudice which I hand out to unsuspecting friends so that they are forced to read it?

This brings me to two possible conclusions:

1. The author is as neurotic as her main character, and the book is semi-autobiographical in that it contains heavy amounts of self-mockery for humorous purposes. If this is the case, I think Erynn Magnum (which incidentally would make a fantastic name for an action heroine of some kind, if she was willing to wear black leather) and I, if ever placed into the same room, would laugh so hard that either one or both of us would die. I, of course, would go first due to the asthma that flares up every single time I laugh so hard I cry, which happens more and more now due to my unrestricted access to fast internet and the existence of Fail Blog.

2. The author has, Stranger than Fiction-style, written me. If this option is more accurate than the former, she'd better start writing me a love interest of some kind, or cause me to become wildly famous due to her ability to control my life using only her laptop. She could make me dance by writing it, although it wouldn't take all that much to make the dancing happen, I spent all last night dancing through my house when I found out I could download lectures on Old English (that's Anglo Saxon, for you non-English lit folks) from Oxford University for free, then play them on my iPod in waiting rooms. Of course, whenever I dance, I open my mouth, so I ended up hopping, skipping and twirling around the house looking like a large-mouth bass at Indiana Beach, out looking for the end of an ice cream cone or popcorn dropped in by bored Hoosiers who have, through the course of an afternoon, realized that if there is more than corn in Indiana, it's corn and soybeans, not entertainment.

Either option is freakish enough to compliment my abnormal lifestyle.

You know, the funny thing about the book, which I was so determined to disprove when I got my hands on it, is that now I find myself deeply emotionally invested in the Laurie character, as I have now replaced her with me. Because it's that close. So if she does something stupid or if she gets hurt, I am concerned that I will have a breakdown of some kind, and I was planning on putting the breakdown off until I have better health insurance.

As an added bonus, when Bethany brought the book downstairs, I wasn't at work yet, since it was my later day, and she gave it to the ladies in the Children's Room, telling them "This book is Laura in Fiction form," they responded with this:

"Laura is fiction."

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