It’s the first French class of Grade 11. I’m sitting in a small beige room with about 18 other students. Since it’s high school no one feels cool but we’re all trying to impress each other with our Beaver Canoe sweatshirts and high-end binders. Heck, even intelligence counted a little bit.
Madam L.W. asks us, in English, if we know what the word for brain is in French. Oh! I know! My hand goes up. It’s the only hand up. Not only is my hand the only one towering over a sea of heads, I’m the only one who thinks she’s pretty smart knowing this word, the French word for brain.
“Cervix,” I say with pride.
A strange look comes over Madam L.W.’s face. She twists and turns her mouth as if she’s hoping to keep in a laugh. Her eyes narrow as if she’s trying to think of something not to tell me. As I’m wondering why she’s not saying, “bonne travail” I slowly realize the reason why.
Oh. I know.
“Non, Lea,” says Madam L.W. “The cervix is part of a woman’s body.”
The class laughs and laughs. Laughs some more.
Right. That’s it. Brain is cerveau and I certainly was not using mine. I want to bolt from the room or at least hide under the table. Instead, I sit through the class wondering how many coolness points I lost. Probably didn’t have many to start with. But for the rest of life I will never forget what brain is in French.