I had a feeling that my young fellow classmate from Germany, Axel, knew his way around a camera, so I asked him to handle the ticklish job of photographing Jean and me for DIVIDE, the literary magazine at the University of Colorado-Boulder. We practiced with our Japanese classmate, Nami, sitting in for Jean. When all was ready, I knocked on the door of the faculty lounge, a room not much bigger than a closet, and reminded Jean of his photo session. He growled a wolfish growl and followed me out to the garden behind the Institute. I distracted him with real work, a final proofing of my printout of his translation of my poem. In a couple of minutes, Axel tore through 20 shots like a professional paparazzi. I e-mailed five of them to Ginger Knowlton, the DIVIDE editor, and she found one that she likes for the autumn issue. I am relieved to have this little project completed for now. I can’t wait to see the page proofs when they arrive sometime this summer.
Tonight after doing our homework we began packing for Cannes. We have too much stuff to haul in one trip in Françoise’s Honda, so our plan is to make the hour-long drive to Cannes tomorrow after school with a first installment of luggage. The rest will come with us after the graduation ceremony Friday afternoon. It feels disorienting to begin tossing our belongings into suitcases and plastic bags. All of a sudden our solid, homey apartment feels like a motel room just before checkout. I’m worried that I will drive some vital item to Cannes tomorrow and be bereft Thursday and Friday without it here in Villefranche.
This would be a plausible time to begin reviewing these past two months, but it’s not going to happen tonight. I’m too tired, too fried, too spent. My mind is a tangle of French verb tenses and pronoun placements. I have a sense that the sustained effort of living in a foreign language has taxed us in ways we can’t yet detect. Living together as two students is something we’ve never experienced in 21 years of marriage, and it hasn’t all been a walk on the Champs-Élysée. Moments of bliss have alternated with doubts as to whether this was worth the struggle, especially for Darlene. For now, I’m willing not to know. I have two full days of classes left, and I am of a mind to take in every last nuance of language that Jean can dance into my brain. He is a master teacher, a literate seer in wolf’s clothing, and as of today, my official French translator.