Juste une fable n° 51
i was assigned a task that was next to impossible, and it came to me through melanie. i was to find a backdrop, a canvas, or scrim, a material curtain, but to put at the front of the stage for a production to be performed that very day by this french director i’d been appointed to assist, vinaver.
at first, we thought – you, paul, were with me – that we could take care of what he wanted with a sheet, but when we held it up to the space, it was way too small. he wanted painted bricks also on this textile, so he wanted it to look like a wall that would be a backdrop for the whole stage, but he wanted it hung toward the front.
none of this would have been a problem if i had been told in advance, but it was just a whim that vinaver had come up with, when he ripped one of the curtains off the hotel room where we were meeting and threw up this material (in the air). he had an eye for space, so the dimensions of that material were just right, and somehow a hem had been thrown together too. so i had to admit we had the model. accordingly, rémy or one of vinaver’s other assistants said to me, we’re in arizona, so just call one of your friends who is a painter. they’ll know where to get the material and the paint.
the problem was, i didn’t know any painters there anymore and i couldn’t even reach anyone from the ballet. the only person i remembered at all was dan hunter, who i saw behind his beard at mother’s funeral service, eyes a’twinkling, just like they used to be. but dan was way too old to help us now. i was distraught, really distraught. i saw there was no way to get that backdrop together before the beginning of the performance. so i let it go, and just started wandering around.
i’d run into melanie on an exercise bike. she still had good ideas for me, but they were always the same: exercise and nutrition were going to do the trick. and she was also into
knowing people, knowing the right people,
and that was something i was never comfortable with, whereas
you don’t seem to care who i know or who knows me.
but this still didn’t stop me from wandering around people’s hotel rooms, and looking for something to save me, as i used to do when i was young. and i remember that for once i decided to follow the directions of a woman, a poor woman, whose hotel was near the airport. her idea about saving was that something could be cooked up. so i took my movie camera and i followed her to her place, where she rode on a wobbly bicycle after having visited a shabby grocery store, and bought a recipe for some kind of cake.
she said she was glad to make this documentary with me. she stirred up her recipe and pointed out that she’d been able to rent all the kitchen gear. this was her way of having fun while traveling, and keeping everything low budget. it was a trip she could really afford. and i was at the same time convinced and not convinced by her approach, because i wasn’t having fun.
everything had that deodorant-clean toxic smell that fills all cheap motels, and there was nothing that could redeem the look of the linoleum. but worst of all, the cake itself never took form. it turned into some kind of plastic goop that was only half-cooked. so i saw this was no solution, i had yet to be saved, and i wondered if there was any way possible for me to retrieve my previous search, my position
assisting the director of that theater, vinaver.
Mary Shaw est professeure de littérature française des dix-neuvième et vingtième siècles à l'Université de Rutgers (New Jersey). Outre ses travaux universitaires, elle a publié deux livres pour enfants ainsi qu'un recueil de poésie intitulé Album Without Pictures (Halifax, N. S., Editions VVV, 2008).