How do you say “tongue in cheek” in French?
Must I ask again?
“I don’t know how to translate that,” he says, looking at me like I’m a bit of a pain, with a touch of admiration in his eye. He likes my persistence. Even in the morning. Even before coffee.
Oh come on. If I wake up to a French professor, can’t I expect the occasional correction, or a translation?
He smiles at me.
I’m a dog with a bone.
Tongue in cheek, please?
“You see? French is a poor language after all. I told you. But what are you doing anyway – writing in French?”
He takes my hand. He strokes my baby finger, gently. I want to purr, and I breathe deeply, all the while recalling the night which transported me… transported me… hmmm. Must I say where? Do I even know?
I forget why I’ve asked for a translation. I’m distracted. It’s the morning. But his mischief-making persona is already aroused; he has other things in mind beyond translations. Coffee, perhaps?
I don’t feel like much of a morning person these days, but I jump out of bed (or more precisely, I drag myself out of bed) – I direct myself to Mr. Coffee, beginning my day as usual. And I admit, it’s Mr. Coffee who has played the primary role in my romantic life. Consistent. Dynamic. And loyal, for decades.
“Coffee won’t be sufficient,” he says. “You need wild cuisine to retain your vivacious and lively behavior.”
I roll my eyes, taking note of the coffee’s aroma filling the kitchen and igniting my nonverbal instincts, yet I’m in haste to proceed with the interview. He is, after all, an expert in his field… in the field of… well, whatever it may be.
And so we begin:
Tell me, Sir – the secret to your vivaciousness?
“It takes a mischievous spirit. An obstinate rejection of old age.”
But everyone will grow old, I say.
“That’s not the issue. You refuse old age without deluding yourself, but it’s a refusal nonetheless. And an appetite for sensations which keep life suspenseful and avoid too much routine. Too much predictability, which is what causes boredom.”
Really? I say. Suspense. Swedish films, for example?
“Talking foolishness, are you?”
He smiles again.
“It’s about appreciating life’s surprises. A bit of fun. You know – whatever keeps us on our toes. Especially if it has to do with unexpected encounters.”
I pause. Reflect. He’s quite right.
And what else?
“Everything and anything that awakens our curiosity in the world. And each other. Curiosity stimulates, don’t you think?”
Well, I muse. At last, a subject that intrigues me.
I shoot him an amused and amorous look. French men are indeed irresistible.
And tongue in cheek?
“You’re so serious this morning. We’re back to that again? It’s a rare moment with the kids at school and you’re asking me questions as if I were Buddha. Any other way we could explore the concept of vivaciousness?”
“Interview over?” he asks.
He takes my hand. I inhale the French Roast. I close my eyes. Or are they still closed?