by Andrzej Solecki
That was one of those troublesome invitations where acceptance means an evening fulfilled with well-mannered boredom and refusal requires elaborate excuses, to be repeated afterwards fifteen times in varied form and intonation. I chose to go there.
Dinner as dinner. Suitable scraps of conversation in appropriate places: recollections of their friend living now in encyclopedias went with hors d'oeuvre, brilliant linguistic remarks - with main plate, atrocities of Khmer Rouges guerrilla warfare - with dessert. Disinterested in either talk or food I was observing the endless procession of dishes skillfully served by the host's two daughters. Everything went on with a smoothness of classical ballet, accompanied in pertinent moments by side-remarks like ``merci, minette'' or ``c'est excellent''. However, all comments on things displayed on the table referred to their aesthetic aspects only - colour, fragrance, arrangement. The taste might be mentioned in a very detached and delicate way. Any hint of nourishment, feeding or hunger would be impossible, faux pas.
All of it resembled a weird religious ceremony sacrificed to a minor and dull deity. Even grimaces of the daughters meant as a parody of court manners seemed to be designed especially for the play and practiced on countless occasions. So, with a relief I saw a sign of the host that the ritual was over.
On leaving I could not escape a sensation of sadness; the show was so artificial and mechanical that puppet theatre might be a better place for it.
And then one thought let me believe that not all was completely covered with pretences and that after all I had been among people, not puppets. It was the thought of the dishes. The disordered, dirty, unpleasant heap of dishes, removed to the kitchen and left there for a short time to witness that the guests were living beings, the ones equipped with stomachs - and spacious ones, no doubt about that.