Just a Crush (a la Provencale)

April 15, 2007 at 12:42 PM (Assumptions) (, )

And my crushes were a bit more dumb and inexplicable than most.

He was older, not at all handsome, but educated, kind, sweet and funny and obviously married. (and *happily* married too. I *liked* her. So there was *another* level of stupid.)

He was my freshman advisor, and the first touchstone I had to navigate the maze of college….

During a quarter of study abroad he was conscientions about my limitations withought being smothering.

When we had to walk five miles in a blizzard with insufficient winter gear, I rigged what I had to cover most of me, and he did not betray concern, merely a smile and a particularly French turn of phrase or two praising both my own inventiveness (elle n’est pas bete!) and the work of the rest of the students to integrate my manuall chair into transport plans (a shrug and “On s’debrouiller…”)

He did belong to me for one afternoon. No impropriety.

The rest of his students had fled for more inaccessible venues, happy to have an afternoon away from his gentle persistence that an advanced understanding of future anterieur ( an entire verb list for, basically “I will have done that evenutally, but haven’t done it yet) , or past imperfect, a tense that *without* it’s murky romantic subtext (“I used to [in the good old days which were better and more defined] do something,”) was absolutely vital…. Past Imperfect in particular meant very little to the small group of American students, hanging out in various cities on the edge of the Mediteranean Sea.)

First, the late morning and early afternoon when he had a goal of something he and I must see, and do it all while evading a group of people attempting to sell us things.

The thing he thought it important I see was a representative battleship of the US Navy…Offshore and solid as stone. I’d never seen a battleship, and in those days before Iraq and after Vietnam, many of us had not seen hard physical evidence of US military might.

It wasn’t as satisfying to this history major as the Greek and Roman ruins, Versailles, tombs of the French (or Frankish) kings, or the monastery, or Napoleon’s Obelisk that I had seen up to that point.

But it meant something. “It’s throwing it’s weight around while still,” I thought. I didn’t like that thought, but I recognized that I liked it better than active war.

Then (it was France after all…) We dined on some dish that had diced tomatoes, oregano, cheeses and grilled chicken…marvelous, and so well remembered (execpt for the name) that fresh diced tomatoes and chicken remain something I’m always trying to mix into my week of foods.

I did recognize that men liked to have a woman listen to them…so I wrenched my high verbal tendency out of the way and listened to his goals for his students.

One (perhaps two?) of the group of students that was part of that quarter abroad became an excellent teacher of English as a second language…He’s more French than American now, I’d imagine…he’s spent more time in Europe than in the US at this point.

And that’s what my professor hoped for. That at least one student out of each group he brought there would be permanently struck by a love for the language and the people and make a career of it.

The sellers had persuaded him to buy something small and useless…a purely plastic string of beads cream colored, tiny, and unimaginative.

I still have it. I’ve lost so many other things (even the black wool cape I made it a point to buy on that trip.)

I stood in my room watching the sunset over water that night and realized how amazingly lucky I’d been to be part of the trip, and to have time with the professor that no one could tease me about or make me blush over.

When we got back to the hostel, we were packing up to begin the first rail leg of our journey back to the States, and I wasn’t used to walking in my big wintry boots, since I hadn’t had to do it for three months….and fell down a flight of stairs, the first large injury to my back made worse by an incompetent masseuse in 1995, and never tended to because, well, if my back hurts, it’s only because I’m fat and lazy, right doctor?

The professor said that he never knew if the cry went up in French or English… (I think I did a French shriek first and then switched to English) *everybody* ran down to see me, himself at the front of the line, not covering, not afraid the student would sue him, but genuinely afraid for what had happened to me.

It never did get fixed, but why it didn’t had nothing to do with him.

He may not have been Monsieur Sait-Tout.

But I was lucky to have him as instructor and friend.

Merci Bien Monsieur.

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