The class stands up and yells in harmony “Good evening Teacher!” These are my most enthusiastic students. They have not been tainted by ideas of casualness and indifference. They still find the world fascinating and speaking English exhilarating.
When I look into these students’ faces the questions of a young adult, searching traveler tend to disappear. I know.
The students watch me silently with big smiles on their faces as I cross the room to the desk. As I begin setting up my computer I am desperate to end this silence. Silence has always made me feel a touch uncomfortable. I begin asking questions in a futile attempt to provoke some conversation. When I am finished inquiring I await their response. Their smiles have turned to open mouths of awe. Their eyes have turned from excited to confused. There is a moment of clarity but before I could correct my mistake a bold young girl began speaking to me in Thai just as quickly as I was asking them in English. It motivates the retrieval of a memory.
The kitchen was small. There were 4 of us crowded around a wooden table that would comfortably fit one or two. It had a rustic feeling to it that matched the rest of the apartment. The building stood across from a church a couple blocks away from a bay. When you walked in you could feel the past in the stone walls. As you walked up the creaky stairs you could hear the history. I was in a fit of laughter. The kind where you cannot stop even if it is 4 in the morning and there are people who are asleep. It is a variety of laughter that is revitalizing for every part of you. Maxime was looking at me with a broad smile on his face. When he stood up his height made his beauty even more exaggerated. His amiable eyes peered over his shoulders from the sink when he heard silence. On his way back to his seat his fingers discreetly traced the tops of my shoulders still relaxing from the intensity of my joy. This would be the beginning and the end of our affection. He said something more in his lovely French, this time not directed at me but towards his brother across the table.
Five minutes earlier I was gabbing at him as though he was fluent in English. He is not. His native language is French and his Spanish is far superior to his English. Our conversations were generally composed of all three. By the end of my thought he merely stared at me. A couple seconds after recognizing what had just happened he began spewing French in my direction. While I could not understand the words coming from his graceful lips, I knew what this discourse meant. And so the laughter ensued.
I ask the same questions of the students, in a much more deliberate manner, hoping the response I hear I can recognize.
A movie to watch if you want to feel: Milk