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Archive for the ‘Rachel's Past Indiscretions’ Category

dirtypeter-001For some reason Rachel is telling me about Peter from Switzerland, a teenage crush of hers who worked as a counselor at her YMCA camp. She apparently thinks that because the encounter occurred twenty-two years before our marriage, and she never actually kissed him, it’s not adultery.

“He was older,” Rachel says. She’s mixing Aunt Jemima waffle mix in a bowl on kitchen counter.

I translate “older” to mean sophisticated. European. Perverted.

I am jealous of every man in her life before me. This includes Andy Haberman, the fourteen-year-old who kissed her in the woods after school, and Robert, the urbane wine connoisseur she dated just before me. I find something to ridicule about all of them – Andy’s pitiful eighth-grade moustache, for example, and that the wine  connoisseur insisted on being called “Robert”, instead of “Bob” – but I save special venom for the exotic Europeans, Francois from Paris and Peter from Switzerland,

“He spoke five languages,” Rachel says casually of Peter. She gets the Log Cabin syrup out of the pantry.

I am immediately suspicious. He probably faked multilingualism to take advantage of an impressionable American teenager. “Really?” I say. “How do you know?”

“Well,” Rachel says, “He spoke English at camp, and he ordered in French at a restaurant….”

That’s only two languages, I think to myself, and: What were they doing in a French restaurant?

“….and he’s from a German-speaking province in Switzerland,” Rachel continues. “In Switzerland they have. . .”

“I’m familiar with the Swiss Canton system” I say coolly.

Rachel senses my ire. She pours batter onto the hot waffle iron and tells me that there was nothing between her and Peter from Switzerland.

“I was in tenth grade,” she says, thinking this is reassuring.

“Were you past puberty?” I ask.

It’s meant to be rhetorical question, but she answers, confirming that yes, she was past puberty when she and Peter from Switzerland shared those star-lit nights in front of the YMCA campfire.

She tries to reassure me again. “Half the time I didn’t even know what he was talking about.”

I ask her what she means. She says that Peter from Switzerland confided to her that he was a Christian, and struggled with the conflict between sexual desire and his vow of chastity till marriage.

“Oh,” I say knowingly, “That’s the oldest line in the book – ‘I’m too principled to have sex with you.’ Women eat that one up.”

“No, no,” Rachel says. “He never made a move on me.”

I snort. “That was his move.”

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francoise 001Rachel, sipping coffee in bed, says she’d like to go to Paris. This weekend. “I just want to have one of those baguettes,” she says, “made by a fat French lady.” She lived in Paris for a summer in college, and loved it.

“The French,” I say with disdain. I’m in the closet, searching for a clean shirt.

“Why is it, again, that you hate the French?” Rachel asks.

I tell her it’s because when I was in Paris twenty years ago, on the way home from Spain, I stopped at a cafe near the train station, not realizing it was a tourist trap, had a coffee and a croissant, and the waiter charged me, like, forty bucks.

I pull a blue shirt off the hanger. “That, and the whole collaboration thing with the Nazis.”

“But why,” Rachel asks, “do people hate the French more than, say, the Germans, who actually were Nazis?”

It’s a good point, and I have to think for a moment. I examine the blue shirt for food stains on the front, a frequent problem for me.

“Because,” I say, “The German’s said ‘we’re sooooo sorry’, and built a bunch of Holocaust memorials, but the French just said…” – here I attempt a haughty French accent – “…shut up, you stupid Americans.”

This has always been my complaint about the French – that they rolled over for the Wehrmacht in World War II, and then, after the war, all claimed to have been in the Resistance. I also don’t like it that Rachel sometimes mentions Francois, a boy she met in France who later came to visit her in Michigan.

“Really?” Rachel says. “What about the French man who told me how grateful he was when the American soldiers liberated Paris?” She’d told me this story before, and it was moving. Her parents came to visit in Paris, and the man, with tears in his eyes, told them how emotional it had been to see the twenty-year old American GI’s marching in to rescue his beloved city from the ugliness of German occupation. He spoke no English. His son translated. “He tried to thank my parents,” Rachel says.

I find a grease stain on the pocket of the shirt. I toss it on a chair.

“Not all the French are bad,” I concede. “I like Corporal LeBeau.”

“Who?”

“From Hogan’s Heroes.”

“Honey,” Rachel says. “He’s not real.”

I rummage in the closet for another shirt.

“And honey?” Rachel says. “You don’t have to worry about Francois. He was just a boy.” She reaches for a book on the bedstand. “If you want to worry about somebody, you should worry about Peter, from Switzerland.”

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