by Laila Simon

Without my permission, my mother signed me up to take the AP French test. I took three years of French class with Madame at Wilson High School but at this point I could say all of five sentences in correct French. I could say that I would like something, specifically steak and French fries, an assortment of clothing pieces, and who I was in a basic way: age,  dix-sept; name, Je m’appelle Laila; country of origin, USA. A typical class period included repetition, verb conjugation, and mass amounts of free study time. Madame liked to keep us on our toes and decided one afternoon that we were watching Not Without My Daughter, starring Sally Field. Then comes the morning of the test. I saw three girls standing outside the outdated library. They were all discussing French home-stays and a fourth girl soon joined in. Oh my god. Before I turned I could see them all wearing black turtlenecks and berets, eating baguettes and talking about how stupid Americans are. I stayed in the bathroom until there were only four minutes left until the test began. When I returned to the library the other girls had taken their seats in desks complete with thick booklets and to my horror, bulky machines that looked like tape recorders. Five of us total in the room, and all of them except for me had lived in France. I doodled a giant wolf’s head on my page until it was time to move onto the third and final task which was the speaking portion. Somehow I got through, speaking low into my tape recorder so that there was no chance that the other girls nor the proctor would be able to hear me making up words and cursing my mother.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me at 17 in Norway for the summer. July 2010. Twirling Selfie.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I adapted this piece from a series I am working on where I write on small moments from my life at different ages. This is the second one I wrote as I am jumping around in my own timeline.


Laila Simon
is a writer based out of Portland, Oregon. She works promoting Scandinavian culture and is looking for her next adventure. Previously published in St. Olaf’s The Quarry, on the Rain Taxi: Review of Books website, and on the Thank You for Swallowing website. Visit her online.

PHOTO: The author at the Portland State book wall, downtown Portland (Fall 2016).