We joined Ingrid’s mom and a former student of her’s, a French teenager, for a big many-course dinner.

I was asked if I spoke French and I repeated my oft-used response, “I know enough to order one, two, three, or five croissants.” That’s a real crowd-pleaser. (The Spanish version by the way, effective only about fifty percent of the time: “Do you speak Spanish?” “Un poco.” Then wait a moment for those present to absorb your answer, “Actually I don’t know how to say anything except ‘un poco‘.”)

The evening continued. Dinner was excellent. I listened carefully to the French-language conversation, imagining that I might be able to understand every third sentence. At first, besides the occasional mention of cheese, I was getting nothing. But suddenly, right in the middle of a sentence, I heard a word that I’d retained from high school Spanish, “facile“. “Easy”. Something was “easy”. I scrambled for traction, listening for another word, any word, to pair with facile. But they’d moved on. No one wanted to talk about easy anymore.

I got over it. I kept listening, now a little less attentively. But I didn’t expect to pick up on anything, unless they ever wanted to count croissants. If they had, I would’ve be right there with them.

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