le cœur

by jemma margaret

In America (although it feels absurd writing anything general about the country as a whole), we use the word rendezvous to signify a casual sort of meeting, something to be anticipated with pleasure.

Here the only rendezvous I have experienced have been very formal appointments with the post office bank (who lead me on and then rejected my money) and with the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) for a medical screening as the final step in my infinite process toward obtaining the necessary paperwork to stay here for 10 months.

In both cases I had a slip of paper with a time on it. A time that, as an American, I believed had some significance for when I was supposed to conduct the rendezvous. In French reality, this time means something entirely different as, in this case, I learned upon leaving the OFII three hours after arriving there.

Oddly, the experience was remarkably not souring because despite the inefficiency of the overall system, everyone there seemed to be working very hard and they were all exceptionally nice.

Nice, was the woman who asked me if I was pregnant and told me to take off my top, lock the door and wait.

Nice, was the technician who also asked me if I was pregnant, complimented my scarf, and positioned me smashed against a papered wall so that my lungs could be x-rayed for tuberculosis.

(I will show you the picture of my lungs tomorrow when I can photograph it in better light)

Nice, was the nurse who weighed me, checked my height (both with shoes on and so giving the impression of a larger person), and asked me to stumble through a few french letters and words to check my eyesight.

Nicest of all was the doctor. You know you have scoliosis, he said. Yes, I said. He also pointed out (nicely) that it appears one of my legs is longer than the other–no one has ever told you that before? he asked with incredulity. He then recommended (nicely) that I suck in my stomach in order to correct my posture. He even lied on my form to say my blood pressure was 96 instead of 95, since 95 might cause some people alarm (this seemed unnecessary, I’m sorry Mlle, we must ask you to leave France because your blood pressure is too low). But best of all, in this strange world of unpleasant niceties, was when the doctor checked my heart beat. “Incroyable” he murmured. Then he checked it again. What sport do you do? he asked.

It appears that my heart beats at a regularly lethargic rate of 42 times each minute. The doctor explained that the slowest heart rate he had seen before this was 50. So after three hours of waiting and then a rushed and somewhat humiliating examination, I earned one of the nicest compliments I have ever received.

“Your heart,” he said, “is perfect.”

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