Jacob Lawrence, "Magic Man," 1958
Jacob Lawrence, Magic Man (1958)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

June 30, 2004:

Our host marches us smartly to an outdoor table where we sit, sweating uncomfortably, breathing rotting fish from the nearby dumpster. Without asking for preferences he orders two pitchers of his favorite local microbrew, which turns out to be pale and nasty. Pouring everyone a round, whether they ask for one or not, he sits back contentedly, surveying his handiwork. The perfect host, he thinks, not because of any particular considerateness but because he's generously shared the things he himself is most enthusiastic about.

I used to behave like him. My enthusiasm overrode others' identities, to the point where mine was really the only identity that counted.

Later in life I became aware of how stifling this particular form of narcissism can be to the people who are victimized by it. So that now I hang back, deliberately, in the more or less conscious attempt to allow people their space.

My good friend says that I'm "quiet", which is true but incomplete. It's more like "exaggeratedly respectful." I suppose that's only a substitute form of narcissism, but I'm happier with it.

Our colleague from Japan silently suffers the blinding sun, too polite to complain. It's time to take charge. Emulating our host I simply pick up the beer and announce in friendly voice that I need some air conditioning. Around the table there's a sigh of relief as they follow me indoors. Fortunately our host remains jovial, sharing story after story of how his company would go to hell in a handbasket but for his quick thinking.