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By Amy Friedman

We all adored Godard. He was one of our heroes, and though we had many, he was somewhere near the top of our lists. I wanted to say something too, but I felt suddenly shy.

"Tell me," Godard said as he slipped still lower and the collar of his overcoat crawled up around his ears; he looked like a turtle burrowing into his shell.

"What could we possibly tell you, Monsieur Godard?" the Visiting Writer gushed. "Does anyone know the phone system?" Godard asked.

Heads swiveled. Eyes blinked. "Sure, what do you want to know?" asked our professor, and he nodded toward Juvane whose father worked for Bell, the lucky brute.

"So," Godard said, "I call my girlfriend on the telephone, every night, five nights. The phone she rings but she gets no answer. So tell me this," he leaned toward Juvane, "is thees the telephone or ees thees my girlfriend?"

Juvane shook his head and his Afro quivered. "Don't know for sure, Monsieur."

"I must know why the phone she is not answering. Every night for five," he repeated, "I ring the telephone and she is not answering. My girlfriend. The phone she rings."

We all shook our heads.

"Hard to say. You may be getting interference somewhere between New York and -- Paris, is it? Is your girlfriend in Paris, Monsieur Godard?"

"Thees is what I want to know."

"Is that where you're telephoning, Monsieur?" Juvane gently persisted.

"Yes, ees my apartment. She ees there, no?"

"Well…" Juvane struggled to find comforting words. "Sometimes the line will ring and connect, so the New York operator thinks you've gotten through, but the Paris operator might be deluged with calls and lose the line, and in New York you hear a click, but in Paris your girlfriend's waiting and the phone doesn't ring there…"

The Visiting Writer whispered, "Monsieur Godard, is this the sort of thing you might consider doing visually? Girlfriend in Paris, endless ringing phone, man in New York calling her. A metaphor for miscommunication. The breakdown of society. Severed connections. Technology's curse."

"Of course," Liz gasped. "You're a genius, Monsieur Godard."

He looked up. "I thank you, yes, but do you know, is thees system working?"

He wasn't a madman. His girlfriend wasn't answering his calls; the studios didn't comprehend his work. No one was offering support, and here he was on a snowy night in Manhattan, surrounded by fawning strangers when he longed only for the comfort of his apartment, his girlfriend, a glass of Loire Valley red.

"Any red wine?" he asked shyly.

"So sorry, Jean-Luc, the red's all gone. We have bourbon. Scotch. Rum."

Poor man.

Everyone bowed their heads and sighed, and I sneaked a look out the window. The night sky had turned flesh-colored, reflecting snow. Tompkins Square Park was empty, a fierce wind howled, and my Karmann Ghia was slowly drowning under snowdrifts.

"Monsieur Godard, tell us about Belmondo, please," somebody begged.

My classmates flung questions at him, but distracted, I only half-listened. Someone asked for an autograph; embarrassed by that, someone else began to talk about why Breathless was a classic, and the Visiting Writer offered a lecture on genius.

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