My Casually Indifferent Lover
By Darren Franich
I'm in love with my sprachpartner (speechpartner). It's the purest kind of love, because nobody knows, except everybody but her. It was love at first sight. It was the language partner get-together in January, where Stanford-in-Berliners meet with an array of local students. I could tell she was interested by her profound disinterest. She arrived late and made a point of not noticing me notice her. I played hard-to-get by talking to the girl I'd just fallen in love with five minutes earlier. That one was a high schooler who liked Jennifer Love Hewitt and had a boyfriend who didn't understand her the way I did. Stan and I both fell for her, but since he sat closer, he got to be her partner.
Fortunately She was there. Beautiful, beautifully bored — like a Marlene Dietrich Barbie. She was so intrigued by my awkward manner and awful German that she didn't say a word to me and partnered up with one of my buddies for the quarter.
I was soon in a relationship, so I offered to help the said buddy hook up. I was like Cyrano de Bergerac, except instead of writing love poetry I was just offering helpful advice like: "Dude! Hit that!"
There aren't many options for young men looking for young women here in the Fatherland. When Freud died asking what women want, he was asking specifically what German women want. God answered with an apologetic shake of his head, as if to say, "What have I wrought?" There's abroadcest, but that's a double-edged sword with a nuclear megabomb attached. Hook-ups will happen, what with the all-night-clubs, trains that don't start running until 5:30 a.m. and my place is just down the way, you can crash on my couch! It's bad enough when they're in your I-Hum section and their most awkward move is a Facebook Poke. In a small group of 25, the risk of a whole awkward quarter — the girls whispering in the bathroom while the guys shake their heads and offer a pity beer — can be tough.
That's why I'm lucky She was at the meeting this quarter. I got her number under the guise of becoming her new sprachpartner. She's so cute with her way of hiding her burning passion for me behind a platinum blond mask of casual indifference. But I can tell she's not pouting at me. She's pouting to me.
Last week, I was walking out of a midnight show of Mission Impossible III, meditating on the similarity between Ethan Hunt's love for his hottie nurse fiancee and my unbridled unspoken passion for my sprachpartner. "For her," I mused, "I would bungee jump off a building, fly helicopters through a field of windmills or star in the worst three-quel since 'Guns of the Magnificent Seven.'" And then, like out of an episode of "The OC," I saw this girl Sonja, who's friends with my sprachpartner.
"Hey," I said, projecting a noble air of a gentleman knight who's way into your best friend.
"Hey," she said.
This was getting to close to flirting for me. I didn't want my sprachpartner to think I was cheating on her. We made small talk. She had just seen a film, though I can't be sure which because I wasn't listening.
"Say," I said cunningly, "we should all go out sometime. You, Antonia, me, Antonia." We shared a nod.
I've been in love before, of course. In our first grade musical theater production of "The Three Piggy Opera," I was the big Bad Wolf and Alison was the Mama Pig. Though we shared no scenes, you could pierce the emotional tension with a knife. I loved her so completely that the only time we ever spoke was under the veneer of Dodgeball, where I communicated my incommunicably intense feelings for her by throwing her out every time I got the ball.
"You hit me in the head!" she said.
"I was aiming for your heart," I whispered.
But that was just puppy love, like the girl my mom set me up with for junior prom who laughed awkwardly when I said she was really talkative after she hadn't talked in two hours. Or the girl at debate camp who flirtatiously asked me if the elevator was going up (it wasn't.) Or the girl in my freshman seminar who made her designs on me clear by dating a guy who was exactly like me, except muscular and self-confident. That coy minx!
But what my sprachpartner and I have is different. It's real. I'm not worried about the competition. Sure, some of the other guys in the program are handsomer, better dancers, better German speakers, possess actual real-world skills, know how to flirt and generally put me to shame in every department except "Simpsons" trivia and perfect hair. But whenever I worry that my love — like Romeo and Juliet or Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar — will be forever unrequited, I just think about Colin Farrell. Others can act a lot better than Colin Farrell. But no one can Colin Farrell as well as Colin Farrell. And no one can carry on an unspoken sprachpartner love affair with such desperate yearning (and text messages that take half an hour to type) like this humble, little, All-American award-winning, everyman columnist right here.
Ah, sprachpartner. Ah, humanity.