While my telling blows aimed off at illusory skies you made tea, today’s not at all imaginary Earl Grey. Which is the most magical thing of all, my today friend. Not making a big to-do, making tea.
Hélène Cixous The Book of Promethea
I’ve forgotten most of the French I knew, but I remember French class in high school with Miss Wub. I made a lot of chamomile tea and drank it from a plastic yellow mug with Emma. We had to choose “French names” and I remember happily slashing the accents over my chosen Thérèse on grammar quizzes. The next year I wanted to switch to Mona but it wasn’t a French-enough name, so I became Monique Thérèse.
Now I find myself reading translated French and wishing I could remember enough to read the original text. I also wonder what happened to Monique Thérèse. She was so young then, sipping her tea and juggling her bags and books, pink Doc Martens and an old army coat thrown over the chair, hair chopped and dyed, makeup too bright.
I’m reading the submissions for Moravian’s Lebensfeld Upper Writing competition, and so far they are all beautiful. The work might need editing, but they are so full of vulnerability and insecurity I can’t help but find them beautiful. I tried to explain it to a coworker, the pages strewn about me in the break room, but I ended up rambling about burnt sugar coatings. What I meant to describe with my metaphor: the golden sugar cage I made once for a cake. I dripped the candy over a bowl and let it harden, and the cage sat above a white lilly cake I made. At least, it was supposed to. I don’t think it worked as intended. But that’s what these stories are: latticed words that hover close above, touching down in places. Easily shattered.
I know that I’m not that far away from these students. Their work is beautiful to me because I can see all of the steps I took along the same paths, the ways I was terrified and self-delusional and egotistical and shy; the ways I still am all of those things.
Oh Monique Thérèse. If I could go back and tell you anything, I don’t know that I would. You have to make your mistakes, you have to write your terrible but heartfelt poems, you have to hurt and love and dance and laugh. And you have to forget French. I’m sorry, but I’m not at all. Enjoy your tea.