The process of association

Once I went to a lavish dinner party given by a most particular and most obstinate lady. The maid forgot to serve the beans and my most particular dear friend, rapt in a recollection of her youth that lasted seven courses, overlooked them. I did not nor did the other guests. We were furtive, catching eyes, but we were careful. Was it asparagus or broccoli or brussels sprouts or beans? Was she covering up the maid’s mistake like the coolest actress, as if to make the tipped table and the broken vase a part of every evening’s business? She enjoyed the glory of the long hours of her beauty. The final fork of cake was in her mouth when her jaws snapped. I would have given any sum, then, performed any knavery, to know what it was that led her from gay love and light you to French-cut green beans and the irrevocable breach of order. She had just said: “We were dancing. I was wearing my most daring gown and I was cold.” She went on a word or two before turning grim and silent. By what Proustian process was the thing accomplished? I suppose it was something matter-of-fact. She shivered — and there in her mind were the missing beans. She rose at once and served them herself, cold, in silver, before the coffee. The hollandaise had doubtless separated so we were spared that. But only that. We ate those beans without a word, though some of us were, on most occasions, loquacious, outspoken, ragging types. Our hostess neglected her own portion and rushed sternly back to glory. Of her sins that evening I never forgave the last.

William Gass, In The Heart of The Heart of The Country

    (from here) 


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