12.29.2008

Roads Not Taken.

Oscar and I are in the taxi on the way home from Sarah and Justin's (Oscar's beloved host family for the holidays) and the driver puts on a French radio station.

"Vous parlez francais, Monsieur?" I ask. And we're off, chattering away about Haiti and Creole and politics and the whole deal. I ask how long he's been in the U.S.

"25 ans," he says.

"Ah oui, quand-meme."

He laughs. "Do you know a way to say that in English?" I admit that I don't, that some expressions just work better in French. I sit in silence for a few minutes, absorbing this expression, rolling the letters over my tongue silently. I give him directions to my place from the BQE, pausing briefly at the word for "stoplight." It comes to me, but I'm still irritated at myself for the momentary lapse.

Today at work we talked about school loans and in the subway home, I mused over whether it was worth such a financial price for a Master's in French lit. It is rare to be able to quantify a life-changing experience. But, of course, I cannot imagine myself any other way.

How much is a failed relationship worth? Or the risk of a traffic jam? What about an unknown book at the library or even a recommended film? Surely there are more efficient ways to spend your life, corners to cut and mathematical calculations to minimize risk to your head and heart. I'm just not sure how you find those solutions. Or if you're supposed to.

It seems you can do nothing more than stumble around a bit while you try to figure all that stuff out. And if it takes you a little longer to stumble than others, well, what can you do? If you need to go live in rural France or rural Africa or the center of Manhattan for a while to figure something out, you have to follow that so that it never haunts you. I really believe that.

I don't do ghosts of any sort. The what-ifs are the hardest to swallow, in the end.

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