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February 2016

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You Don't Think I Can Hear You

Two women sitting in an airport, waiting for boarding.

One woman talks on her cell phone in French.

The other woman listens.

The other woman stands and speaks while the woman continues her conversation.

Other woman: You don't know me. We've never met or even said Hello - you were talking on the phone when you sat down. So you don't know that I took French in high school and college, but haven't had the chance to speak it in years. It feels dirty eavesdropping on your conversation when you might presume no one can understand it -- unlike someone speaking English on the phone in an airport. But I want to listen because it's a language I haven't heard for so long, and I want to know how much sense I can make of it now. I can pick out little words and phrases. Like "fatiguee," which means you're tired. Me, too. Flying always does that to me, even when the time difference is only an hour. "Je veux" which means you want something, but I am not sure what. "dommage" means you are sorry for something, but I can only get bits and pieces. Is there someone you wanted to see before you left but didn't have the time? Or will your time be short where you are going? Are you from France, or from one of the ex-colonies where you might still learn the language in school. If I try to talk to you I'd probably bring up knowing French. Then you'll know I was listening, or wonder, and I don't know if I want to admit to that. So I guess I'll always wonder about the gaps I couldn't fit in -- let alone the gaps in the other half of the conversation.

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