Thursday, January 24, 2008

C'est pas grave

That's how it is with the Army too - the European army? We talk first. The American army - just - pow!

It was at this point in the conversation where I began to wonder exactly if this man was a doctor. I was at the place that you go to when you need to have your lungs x-rayed to get your carte de sejour, the place you go to when you have everything: 275 euros in small fiscal stamps that you lick and adhere to a xeroxed paper, a US passport, Version II of a paper carte de sejour, and now, soon, x-ray of my lungs the size of an artist's canvas.

As I'm floundering for words that I don't know in French: breast, breast lump, lumpectomy, self-exam, needle aspiration, benign, two things are happening simultaneously - the doctor is getting incredibly animated and I'm slowly sinking into my seat remembering too late that another friend said to just answer straight up yes/no to these questions.

This doctor, or so I hoped, then began his theories for me.

The French? They would never take out a breast lump of an 18 year old. The Americans? Ready to cut and charge money.

The French? They would go in through ... (small circular motion here, over, you know ... my American prudishness is taking over but if you, dear reader, were in front of me, this would be a very entertaining part of the re-telling). The Americans? They leave a scar!

The French? Ready to talk on a battlefield. The Americans? Pow.

His ability to create a metaphor for each country's approach to war based on my story of a breast lumpectomy was slightly amazing.

I leave this lecturer ready to pick up my laminated carte de sejour, the item that will let me know I'm legit, only to stand there, talking to a guy 10 years younger than me wearing a soccer jersey that looks like he accidentally bleached over his heart while cleaning his socks. Only to listen to this guy tell me, in four more French sentences than I can understand, c'est pas grave ... and then something about the fabrication. It's not ready. Come back in two weeks. Or three. Well, just two. C'est pas grave (=not a big deal)

So here I am, thinking, c'est TRES grave! and hoping that next week they let me in and out of the US when I fly to NY and then leave to find at the fromager this teeny tiny chevre covered in rose and I thought, c'est pas grave, I'm here. I'm eating cheese. It will be fabricated. Until it is, it's a darn good story in person. I swear.

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