You Have to Go Next Year

December 2000

The class was French. It seemed appropriate enough – French is the language of love, the name for the fun variety of kissing, the class in which I’d met my last two crushes. Why did I always end up falling for my French partner? Perhaps it was the language and all the practice we got in class. Or perhaps it was all the free time we had just to converse, theoretically in French but often in English, where everything supposedly became more clear. Or perhaps it was my partners themselves – I happened to sit by the one woman in each class who would interest me. Regardless, I had fallen for her, but the final was today.

Her name was Sarah. Ordinarily she sat on my left, but today she was sitting in the chair closest to the door. Green eyes. Blonde hair, although I knew from our one date two months ago that she’s naturally a brunette. Great body – curvaceous, trim, but not so thin that she couldn’t enjoy our one meal together. And unlike some of my previous girlfriends, she didn’t run to the bathroom after she finished eating. I never looked at her as a potential date at first. But the more we talked in class, the more I liked her. Our date had been wonderful. We had talked the entire night over dinner and Marble Slab. I was slightly disappointed she wasn’t sitting beside me for the final. But I wasn’t planning on giving her one more shot until after the test.

In the front of the class stood Dr. Valahu. I’d taken three of my four French courses from him. Nice man, bright, not too tough. He loved to joke around with different members of the class. He would go off on these bizarre tangents about how Philip was raised a Communist or Leslie had a drug problem. Sometimes he was really funny. You had to be there.

Dr. Valahu passed out the tests. I signed my name “André.” He called everyone else in the class by their given name, but in our second class together he had changed my name to André. I’d finally started using it myself. Signing that name for the last time made me a bit sad; I knew I would probably never study French again. Not the language, anyway.

I didn’t feel prepared, but the test was pretty easy. I completely forgot one of the answers, but it didn’t really matter. He probably would have given me an A even if I hadn’t shown up that day. Once I finished, I began checking over my answers because Sarah hadn’t finished yet. I continued checking them. Finally she stood up and took her test to the professor. I did the same. They shook hands. So did we.

“C’était un plaisir, monsieur. Bonnes vacances.”

“Bonnes vacances á vous, André.”

I followed French Girl out. (my sister had christened her French Girl to give her a context when we talked. I used them interchangeably) I left my last French class ever. In five months, I would be graduating and leaving the school forever. I might never even enter that building again. But I wasn’t really thinking that far ahead at the time. I was listening to her say that the final wasn’t too bad.

We chatted on the way down the stairs. I felt a tremendous sense of urgency because I knew this could be our last conversation. Ever. But I stayed calm and just kept talking with her. We left the building and began walking across campus.

We kept talking about different things. I told her about the upcoming exit interview for my writing internship. She told me she’d done great on the chemistry test that she thought she had bombed. My heart beat more quickly as we neared the library. Unless I was planning on walking her to her apartment, I’d have to turn around soon.

After our first date I’d asked her out twice – once for tennis, once for a play on campus. The first time she’d already promised to go to the movies with some friends, the second, she had a huge project and a chemistry test the Monday after, right before she packed up and flew home for Thanksgiving. Were they legit reasons or simply great excuses that she could pull up at will? I didn’t know. Based on her reactions and our in-class relationship, I thought the former. But you couldn’t read her.

I’d come to class prepared for one more shot. I was far more nervous about the asking than the final.

We began to cross Fountain Mall. I took a breath.

“Hey, I figure I may never see you again, so I’m going to give it one more try. Have you ever heard of the Chamber Singers?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Okay, they’re pretty much the top choir at Baylor. Small ensemble, 20 voices or so. They’re wonderful. They’re doing a Christmas concert tomorrow night in Armstrong Browning Library, and I have an extra ticket. Would you like to go?”

She smiled a little. Or I think she did. It’s hard to remember.

“My mom’s been telling me, ‘Go see a concert in Armstrong Browning’ forever. Now when did you say it was?”

“It sounds incredible in there. Tomorrow night, eight o’clock.”

“What day is this?”

“Monday, the concert is Tuesday.”

She smiled again. I think.

“I feel bad. Tomorrow night I’m supposed to do this Christmas thing with my roommates – a gift exchange, all that. It was the only night we could all do it.”

I smiled. I’m sure I did.

“All right. Then you have to go next year. They’re incredible.”

You have to go next year with someone else.

“Yeah, I will.”

“I’ve got to go get ready for my interview. I wish you a very merry Christmas.”

“You too. Good luck. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Take care.”

I turned toward the student center. She kept walking toward her apartment. She had another party to get ready for that night.

I walked away.

I decided that this truly was the last time I would try. Did she want to go with me? I think so. But I had no way to know. But if she wanted another shot at me, she would have to call me. She even had my number now, so she had no excuse. And neither did I.

I turned back to watch her. Man, she had a nice butt.

I ended up taking my sister instead. Even made dinner for her beforehand, complete with champagne and real champagne flutes. It was a wonderful evening – the food was good, the singers were fabulous. We had a great conversation about her love life and how much she loved her boyfriend. The night was cold. I felt defeated but strong, like I’d come out a hero on the losing side of a battle. Once she went home, I played on my computer for a while and finally went to bed. I could have begun studying for my next-to-last set of finals, but it just wasn’t a good night for studying.