Je suis désolée, Paris…

Sheila and I got up at our usual 7:30 today. I didn’t quite sleep through the night this time, but I figured I’d be able to sleep a bit on the train to Toulouse tonight if I had to, so I wasn’t too extraordinarily worried. I threw a few of my usual “morning routine” things into the carry on that Sheila let me borrow (mine had been effectively “Russian-dolled” into my other suitcases, which were in Madame’s storage, and I didn’t want to bother her with getting them out for me) as I went along. We lucked out and managed to get seats on both ligne 3 and ligne 12 on our way to Sweet Briar this morning, but we were nearly late for class, and we didn’t have time to cool down from our mountain climbing… I mean stair climbing… and we had to walk straight into the classroom while trying to catch our breath. I’m starting to build up a bit more stamina, I get out of breath on the fifth floor, and I’d get out of breath on the third floor when this whole ordeal started. We’re now pretty sure that the elevator won’t be repaired before we leave the country. I have yet to decide if France is not handicap-friendly, or if they’re telling people that they shouldn’t “give up” and resort to getting things like handicap placards and wheelchairs (or to using elevators) so quickly. I know that my mother (who has hardware holding together one of her ankles as well as a faulty knee replacement) wouldn’t ever be visiting Sweet Briar’s Parisian offices with the elevator en panne (out of commission/broken down), but that’s not to say that she’s lazy by any means… There are, however, plenty of people in America (for example) that have things like handicap placards and “Jazzies” as we so lovingly call them (those electric wheelchairs that look like they’re more fun than they ought to be) for disorders that are absolutely avoidable… like… I’ll freaking say it, morbid MacDo-driven obesity… I digress… or as Kyle would say it, I digest…

Despite only having looked up the summary of Les enfants terribles by Jean Cocteau, I got a pretty good feel for the roman (novel) before class, and I felt good about it by the time class was over. Notice how I said roman and not piece. We’re not just seeing a piece on Saturday. We’re seeing an opera that’s been inspired by, and roughly based off of the freaking novel. I’m… moderately terrified. This has been done before. Apparently, the music has been composed by Philip Glass. We got a chance to listen to some of his music (including some that he’d composed for the piece) in class today, and I think I’ve magically developed a taste for classical music. Someone get me a massive iTunes gift card for Christmas, I’m not kidding. I’m arguably going to buy almost everything this guy has released… I love it that much. He’s apparently composed a number of operas that have been created from Cocteau’s romans. Speaking of Cocteau… why do we still call it a “jack of all trades?” After learning about this guy, I think that term is a little antiquated. I’m going to start walking around calling people “Cocteau” whenever the term “jack of all trades” would be applicable. It has a certain ring to it. “Well aren’t you just a real Cocteau?” Why am I saying this? Go google the guy, for crying out loud. When I went to go look up a summary for the piece I was supposed to read for class today, I wanted to make sure I found a summary in English, so I googled “Jean Cocteau” instead of the name of the piece, and I hit the Wikipedia article for the Cocteau, intending to scroll down to his works and click on the link for Les enfants terribles. Mr. Cocteau made my job a little difficult… he’s written poetry, plays, novels, and directed films. That was just in the small list that I was looking at so I could “cheat” for the class discussion today. When I got to class, I came to find out that he was renowned for his drawings, he painted ceramics… the list goes on. I thought being a writer/director/actor was a good combination. Ban non. New life goal: Be a Cocteau. For real, though.
Joan and I headed off to lunch after class today. She had decided to sit in on my session of Atelier d’Écriture, so we took the break between my two classes to grab a bite. She wanted Chinese, so off we went. There are a couple Traiteurs Asiatiques near Sweet Briar, so we went into the nearest one, and we decided to eat there since we had the time, and there were empty tables. I had chicken with black mushrooms and some hot green tea, and it was pretty good. Nothing seems to top the place over by Louise Michel, though, and I can’t help but be a little proud. Joan and I chatted about how excited we were about Toulouse. Because of our schedule conflicts, we were going to end up passing each other on the train tracks… she’ll be headed to Toulouse when I’ll be heading back to Paris. She told me about her new internship, and about her babysitting job, so that’s always nice to hear. I’m going to miss her so much when I go home… since I have to… not that I want to…
No matter how much you think you can avoid it… there are going to be times that you’ll have to say you’re sorry when you’re speaking French, so you better know how to do it correctly. How would you say “I’m sorry that you couldn’t come?” Je suis désolé(e) que- STOP RIGHT THERE. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 euros. What does that look like to you? A sentiment? Very good. What do we do with sentiments? We put them in subjunctive. Aren’t you glad you were paying attention and you didn’t finish that phrase by tacking tu ne peut pas venir onto it comme un plouc (like an idiot)? If you did that, then we’d have to take you to French Grammar Jail, and that’s not a place you want to go. The correct way to say “I’m sorry that you couldn’t come” with the subjunctive is Je suis désolé(e) que tue ne puisses pas venir. Relax, guys. There’s a reason why anglophones make that mistake, and there’s a reason why Mme. Mellado picked pouvoir for that example. For most verbs (like parler for example), the subjunctive sounds exactly like the present tense, so we may say the present tense, but a French person hears the subjunctive, and we’ve “gotten away with murder.” With a verb like pouvoir, we get caught red-handed. How do you put that in past tense (I’m sorry that you couldn’t come)? Je suis désolé(e) que tu n’aies pas pu venir. Confused? Wondering what in the world I just did? That’s subjonctif passé. When you have the subjunctive and you need to put it in the past tense, that’s what you do. You put your auxiliary verb, whichever one you would normally use with whatever participle you have in the sentence (avoir ou être) in the subjunctive, and you put your main verb in its past participle form. That example’s really good since you even have the negative to deal with, so you know exactly where the ne and the pas will have to go. Moving on… how do you say “I’m sorry I’m late?” Je suis désolé(e) que je sois en retard…? …cette salade… Not even close. This one may be a sentiment, which is a good rule to follow, and that would mean the subjunctive… right? Not quite… With this example, you’re sorry that you’re late. There’s only one subject. With the first example, you’re sorry that someone else couldn’t come. There were two subjects. That’s when you use the subjunctive. No subjunctive here. That fixes one mistake… “to be late” is d’être en retard. If you’re early, that’s en avance, and if you’re on time, that’s à l’heure. The form you want to use here for “I’m sorry I’m ____” is Je suis désolé(e) + de + infinitif. That being said, our correct phrase (all put together) is Je suis désolé(e) d’être en retard. What does that look like in past tense (I’m sorry I was late)? This one’s really important. Mme. Mellado flat out said she wants to go shoot herself whenever one of us is late for class. Not because we’re late, but because we apologize, and we apologize the wrong way. Most of us wrote something to the effect of Je suis désolé(e) j’étais en retard. Again, Mme. Mellado’s reaching for her revolver… Since the structure we needed to use in the present tense was with the infinitive, the past tense structure we need to use is infinitif passé… so how do we figure that one out? Infinitif passé is constructed by using the infinitive form of avoir or être (whichever one you would normally need to use with the participle you’re working with), and putting it in front of the past participle of the verb that was already in your sentence… so in this case, our correct sentence (that would make Mme. Mellado NOT suicidal) is Je suis désolé(e) d’avoir été en retard. Quick note, since you’re dealing with infinitives here, if you ever have to put this in the negative form… it’s written ne pas + infinitive in that order. We had one smaller lesson before class ended today… how would you say “thank you for your help?” This one actually has two acceptable answers. You can say Merci pour ton aide or Merci de ton aide. The first one (with pour) is a bit more informal, and the second (with de) is a bit more elegant. What about “It was great, thank you for coming?” This one only has ONE acceptable answer: C’était super, merci d’être venu. The structure here is merci de + verbe (infinitif ou infinitif passé). Mme. Mellado made the distinction with the “it was great” at the beginning of the phrase because we say “thanks for coming” both before and after the event in question has happened, but the French make a distinction. You can tell in the phrase itself, it’s in the infinitif passé form, not in just the infinitif form. The event clearly just happened…
Sheila took care of some things while I was in class, so she ended up staying at Sweet Briar while I was in class. I picked up a couple letters from Mme. Grée to “ask” for my grades from Professor Bruhnes and Professor Clavier that I’ll give to them next week, then Sheila and I booked it back home so I could respond to some last minute emails that I saw this morning, but didn’t have time to reply to, then pack up my computer, and head to Gare Montparnasse. It’s really close to Sweet Briar, but I didn’t want to have to deal with an extra piece of baggage going up those dang stairs, so I left it at home. Dealing with the metro at 17h (5PM) is not my favorite thing in the world… especially not when I’ve got my purse (thankfully not my school bag), my laptop strapped to my torso, and a carry on dragging behind me. I got there via ligne 3 with a transfer to ligne 13 at Saint Lazare and all of those bags slowed me down… and made me one of those metro passengers that everyone seems to love to hate. Peu importe, I got where I needed to go in 45 minutes, and I got to the gare (train station) 45 minutes before my train to Toulouse was set to depart… which was too early. How in the world was I too early? The train was posted on the charts, but the voie (track/rail) that the train was supposed to depart from wasn’t posted at the time. I wandered around for a few minutes looking for something to pick up to eat for dinner. I’d realized that I hadn’t taken my aspirin yet today, and I’d need to take my Topamax at some point, so I’d need to eat something anyway. There was a Quick nearby (it’s apparently the Belgian equivalent to MacDo), so I took a look at the menu to see if there was actually anything I could eat… and much to my surprise, there was. They had a salad on the menu for 6,30 that had two different kinds of salmon, tartar sauce, carrots, and some kind of goat cheese on it. I grabbed that à emporter (to go). By the time I got out of the restaurant (the lines were a little long), the voie for my train had been posted, so I went there, and boarded my train right away. I sat next to a young woman for half of the trip, since we made one stop. Most of the passengers left the train and not many got on… so I got to spread out and take up two seats for the last half of the five and a half hour ride. I definitely wasn’t complaining…
The train arrived at Toulouse Matabiau about ten minutes earlier than I had expected, but Rouge and Nico were already outside in their car waiting for me, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. We went straight to Nico’s place, and he shares his apartment with two other guys. One of them came home while we were hanging out in the kitchen since I wanted a glass of water. Nico had me sleep in their HUGE living room, there are four couches, and one of them is a futon (though that’s not what Nico will call it since a futon in Japanese is the bed that’s completely on the floor), so that’s where I slept. Nico gave me a pillow from his room… but there’s a running joke with that… as a joke, he’d asked Rouge if I needed a pillow that was sans gluten, so I asked if it was when he gave it to me. He laughed. If nothing else, we know the pillow is safe for me to eat! There were a couple blankets on the now-converted futon… and since it’s easy for Nico and his roommates to have parties where people can sleep over (and they do), my first reaction when I got into the bed was “…it smells like man…” but I resisted my urge to Febreze the living daylights out of the blankets for the night, mainly because I was too tired… I’ll save that for the morning.

Chaque instant de la vie est un pas vers la mort. -Corneille. Tite et Bérénice

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