And although my French is shy, awkward and stuttering, Paris is as smooth, soft and sexy as the voice of a French lover whispering in my ear. The problem, really, with my French, is that I know just enough to begin any conversation, but can’t comprehend enough to respond to the answers my questions may have summoned. I’m disappointed but relieved when my question in French is responded to with English. And I fluster up a curious mix of Spanish, English, French, obscene sign language and red-faced silence when the conversation changes into fast lanes of French to which I have been blind-sided.
But these words – fluster, curious, obscene, embarrassed, blind – they are good words, ill-fitting only to show me where I can grow. On the couch in the studio of a friend I have not yet met, my stomach grumbling on something I ate that might have been meat, or cheese, bone marrow or bean paste (only in France, for the richness of all foods, could you not know the difference), I count my Euros, which are all now in coin having distributed only large bills in fear of giving anyone exact change for mistake in comprehending the number owed. Oh how I remember this same storm of struggle with Spanish in Spain! But it’s a storm I seek, and dance in. And as if on cue, outside my window, lightening flashes and thunder snaps with a trailing roar. Rain pummels down onto the metal rooftops outside as French accents, food smells and street songs continue to waft their way up. Childish delight festering at every root end and finger tip, I gather up my day’s successes — navigating the airport, purchasing train tickets, steering my way through the maps and maze of metros, meeting two new friends, asking for help and directions, buying bananas and nectarines at a small fruit stand — like I did the small trophies I earned in dance competitions in 3rd grade. And with a smile that insists on staying the night, I curl up on the couch, and fall asleep with them.