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Monday, Jun 24, 2019
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What I mean to say is....
A mouthful of oranges
by Beau Burriola - SGN Contributing Writer

"I suck at French," I said in frustration, evoking an uncomfortable silence from Josette, my French teacher. I knew this silence meant that she wouldn't respond so long as I was complaining in English, so I began again in French. "Mon Francais est atroce."

"Tout cela accélèrait votre formation avant votre départ en Belgique," she responded patiently. All this will accelerate your formation before you leave for Belgium.

Étude, étude, étude. Study, study, study.

"Belgique" is the word lately that reminds me that I've only got so much time. Knowing that in eight short months I'll be moving to Belgium is a thought that really lights the fire under me and gets my face back into the French book. Speaking French is no longer simply a skill I need to travel. It's a matter of survival, and all this I'm doing now - moving to Raleigh to live undistracted near my sister, saving as much money as I can, and throwing myself into learning how to properly speak - is part of a whole year of preparation for that move.

It isn't easy. When I play a French movie or listen to French radio on the Internet, it can feel as if I'll never get my ear around the sounds. The gymnastics required of my lips and tongue to speak convincingly can feel like trying to fill my mouth with oranges. The immensity of imagining how well I'll speak in just eight months can feel daunting. But for all the unknowns, the constant loving reassurance and inspiration I get from Julien and the realization that finally - after all these years of hopping across the pond every few weeks - we'll get a chance to live together in the same place, makes all of this worth it. Knowing that the idiot immigration laws of our respective countries finally won't be able to keep us apart means I've got to throw myself into it. If the U.S. and French governments won't let two Gay men live together, we'll find a place that will. Like tens of thousands of intercontinental partners before us, we'll find a way to go somewhere, laws be damned.

Of course, learning French isn't easy. When Rilke said that, "for one human being to love another is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation," surely he must have been talking about learning to speak French. It seems like most of the words in the French language are made up of letters you don't pronounce, and then they are thrown together and spoken at such speed that they look nothing like they are spelled. It feels a bit like learning two separate languages and making them work together. I've been improving slowly with time, but now it's time for the biggest step forward.

Étude, étude, étude. Study, study, study. So much depends on me.

"'Le' rideau?" I asked Julien in frustration after I called the curtain "la" rideau. "WHY is the curtain masculine? Why is the table feminine? Why is dirt feminine?" Why does everything in the universe have a gender that I have to learn in order to speak properly? Who made that stupid rule?!

"Because it is," he says patiently. "You'll learn it with time." And so back to memorizing. I have to learn it. I will learn it. Étude, étude, étude. In my life, I've faced my share of challenges and I've been fortunate enough not to be beat by any of them. I've made my choices, drawn that line in the sand, and carried them through with all I can. I've surprised myself by doing things I never thought I could. This challenge will be no different. If I start to feel overwhelmed (and sometimes I sure do), I only have to look at what I've done and the support I have around me to know it will work out. Julien and I will finally be together in the same space and I'm going to help that happen.

Étude, étude, étude. Study, study, study.

Now time to get back to my lessons.

Beau Burriola has a mouthful of oranges. beaubrent@gmail.com
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com

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