Rendered Fat Content


Gustave Caillebotte:
Les raboteurs de parquet [The Floor Planers] (1875)

"I just live here."

When The Muse holds a gathering, I prefer to work the Periphery. I'll busy myself with some self-appointed responsibility perhaps only distantly related to the proceedings. I'll flit in and back out again and very likely spend the bulk of my time offline, on the back deck, perhaps, grilling something intended for the table later. I might greet a few people at the front door, but rather quickly disappear, only to reappear to lead a brief guided tour of recent home improvements. I'll suggest a beverage and see that it's delivered, stay for a brief conversation, then evaporate again. I'll contribute, but on my own terms.

I found it curious whenever I took to a stage as either a performer or a teacher that I never seriously intended to become anything like the center of anyone's attention.
I preferred my bounded solitude, there more as witness than as prosecutor or defender. I did not aspire to be in charge, but to become, rather, a trusted lieutenant, an absolutely dependable sidekick, a reliable contributor. I could hold an edge or watch a room. I didn't need to be in charge. They say that a leader must really want to lead or his ambivalence tends to bleed through to undermine his position. I could always successfully pretend to be invisible, even when positioned center stage, never knowing for certain what to do if I sat in the center.

I might quietly monitor our guests' consumption, offering more of whatever they've been swallowing, encouraging another appetizer. I will ask after their perspective more than I'll offer mine, for I'm trying to stay down and slightly behind the focus, the purpose. I want to be a bit player, an atmosphere person, at most, a colorful character. I don't want to set policy or create grand strategy. I want to see that the food's served in some semblance of an orderly fashion. The Muse can hold forth for hours without seeming to need to take a breath. I need to escape for a breather every few minutes, to take the proceedings in tiny pieces; I otherwise feel overwhelmed.

No one need know that I chose the wine, that I grilled that side, that I slipped out to buy more ice. I was supposed to remain invisible. I have no ego involved in recognition. I'll be just as happy if nobody even notices me slipping in and out, making the odd wry comment, invisibly present. I'm reasonably confident that you're more important than I'll ever be, that your story will very likely prove more interesting. I'm there to ask after, not to question; to offer reflection, not to assert anything, maybe, at most, to give permission. I'll feel satisfied if you leave feeling satisfied. That will perfectly serve my purpose. I'll leave the rest up to The Muse, who enjoys taking center stage and knows what to do with herself up there. This is her place. I just live here.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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