I shall wait

  1. I shall wait

I will forget past hurts,
My love, when you cradle
My sad heart and my thoughts
In the loving calm of your arms.

You will take my head,
Someday! Place it in your lap,
And sing me a ballad,
A ballad which will seem to speak of us. . .

Such is my translation of the French lyrics of “Chanson Triste” by Henri Duparc, my solo festival piece for senior year. I had picked the song for obvious reasons, and, by the end of the school year, after many hours rehearsing it, I found myself putting my faith in those lyrics, hoping against hope that someday, maybe soon, my French teacher and I would reconcile. She would love me again, and things would be as they once were.

These days, I avoided the hallways she used, and if I did spot her on occasion, I managed to avoid being seen. I had been keeping my distance for months not only because I was hurt, but because I was trying to demonstrate that I was mature and not a total stalker, not completely childish; I could survive without her.

Ever the optimist, though, or perhaps compelled by morbid curiosity, I thought it would be a shame to leave high school without attempting to reach out to her one last time. If we could just talk like we had before, I knew we could get back to being good friends.

One day, I decided to do it, to seek her out after school. Her classroom was locked, so I knocked on the door to her office. The office was empty, and the door locked as well, but seeing her personal affairs though the window let me know she hadn't left school yet. I decided to wait for her.

I paced back and forth in front of the office door, wondering what the heck I was going to say to her when I saw her. Would I be able to play it cool? Would it look creepy that I had been waiting here for so long?

I wait.
Though I hate to wait,
‘Tis my
To go, to stay,
‘Tis the heart’s
I shall wait.

I jotted that down when I wasn’t pacing. All in all, I probably waited about 20 minutes.

Finally, she came strolling, long-legged and easy-going into view; she was looking backward over her shoulder, calling and laughing to someone down the hall, before she rounded the corner and saw me standing there.

Who knows what she was really thinking, but she managed to play it cool and say hi with a smile. I was a little more dramatic and gun-shy when I said hi. How could she be so casual? I had spent months imagining this moment. She was ruining it for me.

“Can we talk, just for a few minutes?”

“Sure!” she said as she unlocked the office door. “Come on in.”

I made my way gingerly past a few opening formalities—"How’s it going? You ready for summer?"—biding my time until I could launch into what was really on my mind. She kept responding in the same easy-breezy tone, as if to say, "Let’s keep it light. After all, I’m a professional educator, and you’re just one of my many students, and we have a normal student-teacher relationship."

It was disarming, and brilliant. Of course, it made me feel all the more like the weirdo I knew I was.

We caught each other up on our lives for a little bit. It was pleasant enough. Maybe I had imagined that she didn’t like me anymore.

“Would you ever want to, like, get together? At a coffee shop or something, and talk more? Maybe talk about what happened?”

“Sure,” she said, again in that facile way.

Really? Wow. Yay! Maybe we were on the mend.

We arranged to meet at a coffee shop on a Saturday morning. We even chose a specific date and time to meet; I could hardly believe it.

As I opened the door to leave, I held her eye contact a little longer than a normal person would, just to see how she really felt about this coffee date. Was she serious about meeting me? Maybe she was. It wasn't that strange of a request; we had met at coffee shops before, for French club. Maybe, like me, she felt enough time had passed and that it was time to get back to being friends. Maybe not as fantastic of friends as we had been, but something. Something more normal.

But her eyes were inscrutable. They didn’t have the affection they used to, but they weren’t giving anything else away either. In the midst of all this, I heard her trying to wrap up our conversation. I got the message and left.

I walked to my car, still not sure what to feel. But at the very least, I was thankful she wanted to meet up and give me another chance.

A few weeks later, the Thursday before we were supposed to meet, one of my other teachers, who shared an office with her, called me up to his podium before class started. He handed me a note. I recognized my French teacher’s handwriting.

“She asked me to give this to you.”

With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I sat down at my desk and read the note discreetly.

“Sarah, I can’t meet this weekend. My sister’s in town for the marathon. I’m sorry.”

She had signed her name at the bottom, and that was it.

I sat there. While the lights were dimmed, and everyone took out their notebooks and started copying from the overhead projector, I just sat there.

I knew it. I knew it had been too good to be true. Just like that, she had excused herself from our coffee date, in a note, which she had someone else deliver to me. The message was pretty clear. If she had really wanted to meet up, she would have suggested we reschedule, and she hadn’t.

I finished out the rest of my senior year in a daze, going through enough of the motions to pass my finals and write a speech for graduation day.

The senior class voted for two people to speak at graduation, and I was one of them. To this day, it remains one of my highest honors—followed closely by the fact that they also voted me “Most Opinionated” in the yearbook.

While I was speaking in front of all those people, I saw my French teacher in the crowd, way in the back with the other teachers. She was just a blurred out face surrounded by lots of hair. I was cheered to know she was at the ceremony. Maybe she’d come find me afterward.

The masses poured out into the sunny courtyard after the ceremony—students, their families, and educators all jumbled together, hugging, crying, and congratulating. I hung around for a long time in a central location, surrounded by my own friends and family, being thankful for them but always scanning the crowd over their shoulders as they hugged me.

I never saw her.

Sarah Weik

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