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The first Anna hailed from an industrial town outside of Warsaw and had front teeth the size of tombstones. I thought that everyone loved the mosquito, but here, in front of all the world, you claim to detest him.She worked as a seamstress, enjoyed quiet times with friends, and hated the mosquito. How is it that we've been blessed with someone as unique and original as you?
She hadn't yet punched anyone, but it seemed wise to prepare ourselves against the inevitable. "I really, really hate you." Call me sensitive, but I couldn't help taking it personally.
Though we were forbidden to speak anything but French, the teacher would occasionally use us to practice any of her five fluent languages. Learning French is a lot like joining a gang in that it involves a long and intensive period of hazing.
At the age of forty-one, I am returning to school and having to think of myself as what my French textbook calls "a true debutant." After paying my tuition, I was issued a student ID, which allows me a discounted entry fee at movie theaters, puppet shows, and Festyland, a far-flung amusement park that advertises with billboards picturing a cartoon stegosaurus sitting in a canoe and eating what appears to be a ham sandwich.
I've moved to Paris in order to learn the language.
My school is the Alliance Française, and on the first day of class, I arrived early, watching as the returning students greeted one another in the school lobby.
Vacations were recounted, and questions were raised concerning mutual friends with names like Kang and Vlatnya.The teacher proceeded to belittle everyone from German Eva, who hated laziness, to Japanese Yukari, who loved paintbrushes and soap.Italian, Thai, Dutch, Korean, Chinese--we all left class foolishly believing that the worst was over.The second Anna learned from the first and claimed to love sunshine and detest lies.It sounded like a translation of one of those Playmate of the Month data sheets, the answers always written in the same loopy handwriting: "Turn-ons: Mom's famous five-alarm chili!As an added discomfort, they were all young, attractive, and well dressed, causing me to feel not unlike Pa Kettle trapped backstage after a fashion show. No one will ever again card me for a drink or demand that I weave a floor mat out of newspapers.At my age, a reasonable person should have completed his sentence in the prison of the nervous and the insecure--isn't that the great promise of adulthood?"Do we have anyone in the room whose first name commences with an ahh?" Two Polish Annas raised their hands, and the teacher instructed them to present themselves, giving their names, nationalities, occupations, and a list of things they liked and disliked in this world.We didn't know it then, but the coming months would teach us what it is like to spend time in the presence of a wild animal.We soon learned to dodge chalk and to cover our heads and stomachs whenever she approached us with a question.