* * *Back in the late Sixties, I, Marcel Nassim, was a second-class French citizen and impoverished university student. My pals, Algerian like myself, lived for the summer when foreign students, especially Americans came to study. The fun-loving Americans matched our desperation for smiles and laughter. We were especially fond of the pretty, long-legged American girls.
It was a warm summer afternoon as I walked to my friend’s table on the outdoor patio of my Résidence, when I noticed they had cornered four pretty American girls. The drill was always the same: strike up a flirty conversation and promise to teach them French in exchange for allowing us to sharpen our English skills. The game was on.
When I first set eyes on her, I was smitten. I think she liked me, but she gently rejected every overture I made. One day I cornered her and insisted she accompany me into town the next day. Finally, she relented. That was my first mistake—thinking I had finally worn her down and the rest would be easy. She never showed for our date.
The next time I saw her, she was on the patio with my friends and hers enjoying an early evening supper. I joined them for a glass of wine. I was annoyed with her, but still I couldn’t resist reaching over and touching her cheek. “Que tu es belle.” That was my second mistake. My friends were mortified that I was so love sick. I was not playing the game right.
Ah, rejection after rejection, until one day I exploded in anger and told her she was the rudest person I had ever met and I never wanted to see her face again. I kept my promise for two weeks. The next time I saw her on the patio she was with her friends and pretended she didn’t see me. I walked up to her and kissed her full on the mouth. She blushed as I laughed and walked away. That was no mistake.
No, the real mistake was when it came time for her to return home. I went to her dorm room to tell her good-bye and that I was sorry I didn’t have enough time to win her heart. I could not stop the tears as I kissed her on each cheek, never to see her again. If only I had not thrown away those two precious weeks.