Rendered Fat Content


Johannes Vermeer - Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window (circa 1657–59)


I'm hiding, I'm hiding
And no one knows where;
For all they can see is my
Toes and my hair

And I just heard my father
Say to my mother -
"But, darling, he must be
Somewhere or other;

Have you looked in the inkwell?"
And Mother said, "Where?"
"In the INKWELL?"said Father. But
I was not there.

Then "Wait!" cried my mother —
"I think that I see
Him under the carpet." But
It was not me.

"Inside the mirror's
A pretty good place."
Said Father and looked, but saw
Only his face.

"We've hunted," sighed Mother,
"As hard as we could
And I am so afraid that we've
Lost him for good."

Then I laughed out aloud
And I wiggled my toes
And Father said —"Look, dear,
I wonder if those

Toes could be Benny's?
There are ten of them, see?"
And they WERE so surprised to find
Out it was me!

Dorothy Keeley Aldis

"They mostly don't seem to notice, anyhow."

By the time I graduated from Junior High, I had become a near master at HidingOut. The normal social pressures there had easily convinced me that I was eminently vulnerable, and I quickly learned the costs of too prominently standing out. My identity had been emerging through my tenure there, and I'd tried on innumerable different personas, quickly discovering which I could get away with and which I could not. Mistakes would receive quick and shockingly viscous peckings back into place, as if angry ducks ruled that roost. I learned to go slightly unconscious, to simply not notice much of the brutality surrounding me, for I could not imagine surviving otherwise. Each morning I performed another act of rather sublime courage, arriving on time and taking my seat just as if I was not entering a grand inquisition. I worked hard to remain unsuspicious, since suspicion alone usually served as adequate evidence that some punishment should resume. Teachers were no less unforgiving than the least of the students, for they were charged with creating future citizens from such continually unpromising material. The principal daily announced another threat over the Stalag-quality PA system, insisting that his was "a promise, not a threat." Everyone knew a threat when they heard one.

I went on to do post-graduate work in high school and beyond, and by the time I'd finished high school (or it had finished with me), I had attained a depth of transparency such that I could see right through myself, the ego had been pretty much beaten out of me.
I graduated with a degree in HidingOut, with a prominent minor in Slinking About. I plotted courses intended to avoid crossing the Vice Principal's path between classes, since he definitely had it out for me. You see, when I'd stopped by the office two weeks before school started that first year there, he'd noticed me and that my hair was long-ish after a summer spent out in sunshine and fresh air, and he'd scolded me for my slovenly comportment. Forever after, he kept his more jaded eye on me, suspecting me, probably, of potentially becoming a hippy, an outcome that might reflect negatively upon his abilities to positively influence kids like me. His reputation seemed endlessly on the line, with me cast as a perpetual enemy. I countered by mastering invisibility.

Over the intervening years, my translucency has both well and poorly served me. I knew how to fade into even foreground and often struggled to promote myself. I mastered the Aw Shucks, and honestly never really thought that much of my talents, such as they were. I became, shockingly, a performer, taking stages in acts of outrageous dissent against who I'd been convinced I should be. I might have even overplayed my response, feeling as though I belonged far outside the straight and narrow. I mostly kept to shadows and grew my hair outrageously long, a tell to any wondering anyone, that I probably didn't belong anywhere, except, perhaps, up on that stage performing my quiet outrage. I could even become invisible there!

Even today, more than a half-century after Junior High, I still sometimes catch myself disappearing on myself. Especially when under stress or when encountering conflict, I can become like James Whitcomb Riley's "
Squidgicum-Squees 'at swallers the'rselves." I lose a dimension and fade into some adjacent shadow, utterly invisible even to myself. This renders me easy to get along with, never any trouble. I won't very quickly complain or even think of standing up for myself, as if there were even a self there to stand up for in those moments. I some days feel as if I've become a failed social experiment, having become some near opposite of my teachers' intentions. I can keep my head down, but still feel moved to make some noise, joyful or awful, broadcast from some undisclosed HidingOut place. I most days feel as though I'm launching broadsides which float up and over my target's bow. They mostly don't seem to notice, anyhow.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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