In college, you have your favorite places to study that you can undoubtedly be found at at particular moments of certain days. Maybe it’s a tiny nook hidden deep within the library’s bookshelves of pages published before your parents’ parents’ parents were born, that you emerge from after countless hours have passed indicated to you by the stiffness in your ass and, when you finally emerge, by the remembrance that other people existence, an aversion to light, and what fresh air feels like in your lungs.
In my case, there was a rounded table for three that I would sit at before classes to study and observe the herds of students going by. One of those students was a girl named Casey who transferred in with me to Concordia College. We got along well from the beginning, and as the year went by and that rounded table became a place of frequency, so did our meetings. I was an English and French major, she, involved in the sciences. Our inability to fathom the work the other one did was something that drew us to one another.
Her science classes were awful, she would tell me, and she was often unsure of whether she would pass them and, if not, have to retake them at one of the other two colleges in the Fargo-Moorhead area. I remember trying to discuss anything interesting I was learning in literature, Stephen Dedalus in the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for example, or some concept in American Philosophy that, to this day, I’ve never really grasped. We also had some really good life talks, you know, where you get all deep and stuff.
More than a year after graduating, we’ve just begun to rekindle our conversations and what she recently said to me is the point of this seemingly directionless tangent: ”18-year-old me would have laughed at the thought of me now,” she wrote. Currently living in Nova Scotia, on her way to grad school in a year’s time, and involved in a good relationship, it goes to show what can transpire in say, four years.
This is the thought that I had last night at a full moon party dancing to music in French and English from the 80s and 90s played by my physics professor who’s also a DJ, talking to a French girl with an Australian accent because she “fucking loves Australians and they don’t give a shit about anything!” and drinking glass after glass of wine and champagne from a jovial, floral-shirted Frenchman’s wine cave who bore an uncanny resemblance to Austin Powers.
It all went down in a town called Saline les Hauts way up in the mountains. “Have you got any food?” Anne asked me. “Could you just bring a pizza or something?”
“Well, yes I have food, but no pizza. I have a pineapple…” I replied uncertainly. Party, pineapple, pineapple, party? Pineapple party?
“Okay, sure sure, fine! No problem!” she said. “So, you’ll cut the pineapple or something and then we’ll pick you up at your place!”
She honked twice. I ran down the staircase with my pineapple and a bar of high-quality dark chocolate from U Express that came in a packet of three, and hopped in the car. Anne, iPod (Isabel Podzinsky), two of my English professors from the collège (middle school) and Anne’s daughter, Rosalie, holding a Royale pizza (white sauce and ham), were waiting for me in the car.
As I said before, a bunch of people (professors, students’ parents, people from the community) get together to make party every 29.5 days beneath the full moon.
“Monsieur Basil (his name isn’t actually basil, but it sounds like Basil which makes me like him more) is the best DJ. He’s really fun! Whenever I have a party and I want someone good, I always call him,” Anne said.
Basil’s table was old school, equipped with what looked like the world’s first turntable, stacks of CDs, and one of those revolving, multi-colored disco balls. His body was pulsing to the music, his eyes closed with one hand on his headphones. As I was admiring his table, particularly the disco ball, the floral-printed, French wine shop owner strutted out of his cave to faire la bise, the traditional French greeting of kissing on each cheek, with everyone. All of it was so weird, but in the best of ways.
Where am I? This must be a dream…
The place quickly filled, bottles of wine and champagne flowing as if the full moon was a benevolent god whose presence we were honoring. The small circles of conversation eventually disbanded giving way to an energetic mass on the dance floor, my professor, Anne, easily the best dancer and the most fun of the bunch.
That early stage when no one’s dancing you always have that one fearless soul who understands what the night will eventually progress to when everyone’s assez bourré (drunk enough). They’re the one to make things happen. I admire these people. They’re living manifestations of the phrase let’s skip the pleasantries/formalities and cut to the chase, you know? They have their cake first, aren’t afraid to break with convention, and make fools of themselves with grace.
“I need to find someone who can dance rock n’ roll!” she told me with an urgent look in her eyes.
I watched her search through the crowd until Monsieur Basil vacated his post and heeded the call. When I was in Tours I came to the conclusion that French people are awful dancers because at the clubs I would go to no one would be dancing, or if they were, they were just monotonously swinging their hips from side to side with their arms bent at 90-degree angles. When I went to Cubana Club with some other assistants on Réunion, I noticed the same thing happening and the addition of some creepy dudes eyeing the female assistants as they revolved around our circle. I felt like a sheep surrounded by teenage-boy wolves. If you’re looking for a good time, I found out, go to a full moon party.
“So do you like this, Matthew? This is really an example of French community!” Anne said embracing me in a hug.
“Yeah, this is isn’t it?” I replied.
It’s the sort of thing I read about in the culture books for our pre-study abroad course before Tours, but indescribably better because it was the real thing.
I talked to a 6-foot tall bearded man who took off his shirt and showed me the tattoos he’d gotten all over the world. He told me about his job renting out vans, where he wanted to travel to next, places that he’s surfed at, and also made sure my glass was never empty.
Apart from him, I listened to a French girl speak with an Australian accent which left me completely speechless. I wish I could program my car’s GPS to her voice or have a program to convert audiobooks to a French girl with an Australian accent. Perhaps it was all the fucking’s that she threw in, or the way she said just shit in a punk-anarchist way that made everything she said so fucking cool! I don’t know what she does for a living, but she should consider doing voice work.
Where am I? I thought to myself as the wine continued to flow, surprised that I found myself air-bassing and tossing my head to French rock songs. And then Where am I? changed from being all deep and stuff to “Where the hell am I?!” as I woke up pants-less this morning on a beach with Voulez-vous coucher aver moi? inked onto my forehead.
Just kidding. But honestly, Reunion. Where am I? It all felt like a dream, Mr. Basil, Anne, iPod, the bearded dude, floral-shirt guy, and that cool Fraustralian representing different aspects of my subconscious.
18-year-old me would certainly be laughing right now as well. He thought he would be a doctor or something.