As the sun sets, or rather moves, from above my six-month stint in the heart of Brittany, France, my mind bounces back to my first weeks here. Everything touched with that light sting of newness and unfamiliarity has now become cradled into the buzz of homey comfort, like a hug hovering just around my limbs. When I first arrived, Fall had just begun its early September entrance, and my world was enchanted with words that had once infrequently grazed my teenage tongue.
Now these same combinations of letters fall easily, if not wholly correct, and they have woven themselves into the creases of my mind.
My first weekend in Rennes, after I had completed my premiere week with my English-hating charge, I landed at O’Connells Pub, hoping for a breezy reprieve from my French headache. There, I met Meg, who would quickly become my closest friend.
She, along with her girlfriend Margot, has been such a comfort to me. Blooming our friendship over soire dinners and weekend trips to her parent’s countryside home; passing the time between laughs with our favorite Swift songs, and swimming in the myriad mishaps of English to French translations.
At the same time, I found a true friend in Noor, another foreigner in France, with whom I bonded over the necessary iced cups of coffee she showed me where to find. Between Rennes’ Mokka coffee shop and her beautiful home in Vitre, we became fast friends. Sharing everything from French first impressions, bad experiences with the opposite sex, card games, and the waves in our mental health as we encroached on comfort in a country that hasn’t always been ours.
Seemingly unavoidably, I’ve been on my fair share of bad first dates and a few good ones that only soured by the fourth or fifth throughout my time here. Though I am not leaving with a French beau, I am grateful to all of them for showing me their side of Rennes and allowing me to become increasingly comfortable expressing myself in a foreign language. I owe my slang to them, one in particular, who I will always think of in back-lit walks down the streets of Rennes where I stopped and asked him constantly- comment tu dis…[whatever was on my mind]?
By the last few first dates, I have been able to speak only in French, which though imperfect, has become a source of pride for me.
Besides missing the friends I have grown undeniably attached to and feeling like Victoire, my little girl, is an innate part of me, I will wholeheartedly miss the language I fear losing.
I speak French every day, and thinking of my return, my mind edges blown by the notion of using English in the simple exchanges I use to go about my day. Ordering coffee, complimenting someone’s outfit, asking for extra water at a restaurant, passing people on the street- all these things can and must, be done in English now. Can you believe it?
These small French words in my world have crept into my subconscious and attached themselves to intimate parts of my brain. I don’t know where they will go once I return to my all-English life, but I beg them to stay.
I don’t want to lose them, because I know in my heart, I’ll be back.