Lunch date

I wanted to tell you about my, I don't know, lunch date, if you can call it that. I went to lunch today with Sara (Italy). We talked Friday night after class and I asked her if she wanted to go to lunch. She seemed surprised and hesitant as if she thought it was a trick. She wanted to know why I asked her, and I explained it was because she was one of only two people in the class who didn't speak English (the other one being the Chinese girl) and I wanted to be forced to speak French. So this afternoon we met at Saint-Lazare and took a walk looking for a restaurant. We found something reasonable not too far from the station. I ordered a croque monsieur because it was cheap. Communicating was difficult. Neither of us were confident of our French but it was the only language we had in common. I thought often how this scene might have looked for the Parisiens, two foreigners struggling to communicate in a foreign language. We talked about class, we talked about our homes and families, and then we talked our past relationships. Sara had a boyfriend once for a couple of years. But not anymore. I asked her if she was in love with him. She thought that she was, but couldn't sure. I don't know why she thought that. Maybe if I understood Italian she could have explained it to me. I didn't say much about my self... I didn't have much to say I guess. Or maybe it was more that I got the feeling Sara couldn't understand me. Either that or she wasn't really interested in hearing about my ex girlfriends.

We finished eating and asked for the check. Sara wouldn't let me pay for her which I found weird because I had invited her. I really don't know how that works in Italy... or in France for that matter. After leaving the restaurant we walked along the rue Saint Lazare and she brought up relationships again, by asking me if I was the type that always had lots of girlfriends. I think our whole class had the wrong idea about me. I told her that actually I hadn't had many girlfriends. One or two in the past five years... but I guess you could bump that number as high as five if you count the ambiguous or equivocal or otherwise vague. And none of them lasted longer than a few months except for that one. The one that went off and on... and off for a year. She asked if I was looking for a girlfriend in Paris. I told her the truth, I hadn't really thought about it, but that it wasn't really the reason that I came to France. She didn't believe me.

Sara: Moi, je vois beaucoup. Tu pense que je ne te vois pas, mais... je vois beaucoup.

Me: Et quand tu me regarde... qu'est-ce que tu vois?

Sara: Je vois comment tu regarde les filles.

Me: Je ne regarde pas les filles.

Sara: Si si si! Je vois comment tu regarde Sara.

Me: Toi?

Sara: Non, l'autre Sara.

Moi: Hmmm. Je pense que tu pense tu vois quelquechose mais umm.... c'est pas vrai. Pas de tout.

Sara: Je vois beaucoup Willim. Je vois beaucoup.

She was talking crazy of course. The other Sara? Sara Venezuella is the only other Sara we knew.  There is absolutely no time when I would have "looked at" Sara Venazeula in any sort of way that would have justified Sara Italy's remark. I shook my head. She laughed. I assured her that I was not interested in making Sara Venezuala my girlfriend, then I gave her a bisous and bid her aurevoir. Overall it was a frustrating experience. I had been glad for the chance to only speak French, but it was somewhat discouraging that we couldn't really understand each other or express ourselves fully. I don't think I'll ask Sara to lunch again. Not any time soon, anyhow. Maybe when I speak a little better...

I thought today as I listened to Sara that maybe it would have been easier to understand a native born French speaker. But then after lunch I came home to a domestic disturbance erupting between Martin and Martine. They are still fighting an hour later as I write you this letter and though I can hear every word through my paper thin walls, I don't understand most of it. It's weird being in another country, I suddenly become so much more aware of verbal communication. I listen to every word and try to understand every word, where as in English I don't even pay attention. It's like maybe I was so confident that I always understood everyone and everything that I didn't think I needed to really listen... and so I didn't. I'd like to change that if I could. I'm not sure what that would entail really, but I feel I should be putting in the same amount of effort and attention to really understanding what someone is trying to say, regardless of the language they are speaking.

...Maybe it's time I stopped hearing only what I want to hear.



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