I took French lessons at the nearby college for years, sometimes repeating a semester if I missed too many classes due to family obligations or work. It was always with the same teacher, Anne, a woman I greatly admire.
Without getting into the reasons I think she’s wonderful, let me just skip to one little detail about her. She always wore a certain brand of perfume sold exclusively on the Champs– Élysées in Paris. I don’t remember the name of it, but can smell it just thinking about it. It’s a nice fragrance, a bit flowery, and it evokes sounds and visuals in my mind.
Visuals as in verb wheels. Sounds as in a bunch of students repeating, “Je vais, vous allez, nous allons…” True, it was rare to smell that on anyone else, but I did come across it a few times, mostly while in France.
It’s been a few years since I finished the courses. About a year ago, I started going to the same school for a writing class with a different teacher.
Upon entering the building, I could smell Anne, only a subtle hint of it, as if I just missed her. Only now, the visuals have changed to a faint trail of flowers where she must have passed. She must be teaching on the same nights.
During quiet times in the new class, I can hear her French class going through verb drills. I’ll look up at the rest of my classmates but they don’t seem to notice. Maybe my ears are just tuned to it.
It’s sort of a ghostly feeling I get not seeing her but knowing her presence that way, by scent and sound. It seems after a year, we might have bumped into each other, but we hadn’t. Not until last night.
While on a short break, I walked past the elevator cove and caught sight of her out the corner of my eye. I was walking so quickly, it was like a blur. When it registered that it was her, I was about three steps past the cove. I stopped in my tracks and took back those three steps, stood there to her side and called her name.
When she saw me, she gave me a warm embrace. I said at that moment, “Wasn’t it an amazing week?”
She knew what I was talking about, pulled me back in, and hugged me again, even longer this time.
I can’t think of a better time to have finally caught up with her. Even if for just a moment.