Believing What We Know
I wrote in yesterday’s column about the day I first spotted my wife in a high school play. I was an enthusiastically romantic boy and so I knew I loved her from the first time I met her and I was not afraid to say as much. Jen, however, was more careful with her words. By the time she was 24 she had still not told a single man that she loved him. While I was living in Los Angeles and she was living Seattle we wrote each other often. In these letters I would often write things like, “I love you and I know you haven’t told me you love me but I don’t care because I already know you love me because I love you.” This was how I wrote letters back then. And I was right, you know. I told Jen I loved her not as an expression of how beautiful or funny or charming she was, but to name that feeling we shared, a feeling I could not have experienced unless we shared it. I knew she loved me and I could not be convinced otherwise.
I thought of this when Garth Stein told me the story of publishing The Art of Racing in the Rain. When Garth, whose first two books had seen underwhelming sales, sent his third novel to his agent, his agent told him she couldn’t sell it. “It’s narrated by a dog,” she told him. “No one will buy it. Write another one.”
Garth was not a wealthy man. He had a wife and two children to support. It was Thanksgiving. His first two books hadn’t sold. His response? “You’re wrong,” he said. And he fired her.
“I knew,” he told me. “I knew like a baseball player knows when he catches a ball on the sweet part of the bat. I just knew I had hit it.” You know how this ends. Garth eventually did find an agent who quickly found a publisher. As of this writing, Racing in the Rain has spent 144 weeks on the paperback bestsellers list.
Jen eventually did tell me she loved me. I know it was hard for her to say, and I know something cracked open in her when she finally said it, but a part of me almost laughed at that moment because I like to be right. Instead, I told her I loved her too—but she already knew that.
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