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By Amy Friedman

I stopped listening altogether and contemplated my options. Then I slowly half-stood, cleared my throat and said, "Excuse me…" I began to gather my bags, "…I'm sorry but I have to leave." I nodded toward the window hoping they would understand. "The snow…" I said, "it's coming down so fast …"

Conversation stopped. Everyone stared. How could I leave a moment early only to return to my quotidian life? What was I thinking? Let the damn car disappear. Take a taxi. But I didn't have the money for that. Still. How could I compare the cost of taxi rides with the incalculable worth of Godard's time? "I'm sorry, but my car…"

Godard's neck poked out of his collar. "You have a car?"

"Yes," I nodded, "and it'll be buried soon, so I apologize but I have to say goodnight. And thank you for coming, Monsieur Godard."

"But, Mademoiselle, you have a car?"

"For only awhile longer," I pointed outside.

"You could drive me to my hotel perhaps?"

The class held its collective breath.

"Hampshire House?" Godard rose. "Could you drive me to there, please?"

I smiled at my colleagues, at their cheeks rosy from alcohol and excitement, their eyes, rimmed in dark circles, suddenly opened wide with wonder and envy.

"Of course," I said.

Once outside I fumbled with my keys and reached to unlock the passenger door. Godard stood beside me. He smelled like Gauloises, and he seemed sad, and very small.

"Sorry," I said, as the door creaked halfway open. "It only opens this far." He slithered in sideways while I ran to the driver's side. I climbed in, rammed the keys into the ignition and turned. Nothing. I cracked my knuckles, prayed silently to my car that had, from day one, been a finicky beast. "Please, car." I tried again. "Damn," slipped out before I could stop, and then "Sorry." I glanced at him. He was staring ahead, watching the tumbling snow. "Once more," I held my breath and turned the key. "Damn, damn, damn, damn." I slapped the steering wheel. "Damn you, car."

"No." His voice surprised me. Among our raucous group he had seemed soft-spoken, romantically foreign, but here in this cramped, humid space he sounded like a great director. "You must not be upset with her. She knows."

I looked at him. "Sorry?"

"They are sensitive, the cars. Like animals."

I nodded and stared at him.

"She is what, a Volkswagen?" he asked.

I nodded. "A Karmann Ghia."

He bowed his head, then touched a gloved hand to the cold dashboard. "Please," he whispered, "Karmann Ghia, you will start for us now. We must to go home." The tone was firm.

Then he peered over his steamy eyeglasses at me. "Try her again," he prompted me. I hesitated. Maybe he was mad? Perhaps all those rejections and ringing phones had undone him. I loved my car but I'd long understood it was a certified, if pretty, lemon. Still, who was I to resist direction from Jean-Luc Godard? "Go on," he commanded.

I turned the key.

And this is true: My car purred.

I turned to peer at him and whispered, "No one will believe this."

He nodded. "What others believe does not matter."

And then I turned so that the front wheels nudged aside a drift, and out of the space we trundled. We talked only a little. He mentioned a pair of Labradors friends of his owned; they were vicious, he said. What did I make of that? Did I like dogs? He did, but not these two, and he wondered what created viciousness.

We skidded across 23rd Street, buffeted by the relentless wind and snow. Usually the Ghia's windshield wipers worked only sporadically, but that night they swished across the front window, silently, effortlessly.

"These writing schools," he said, "what are they for?"

I turned north on 6th Avenue. "Probably so we nobodies can meet somebodies," I said, only half-joking.

"Oh, who?" he asked.

"Um, you for instance."


"Sure." I wished I could say something wise, something profound, but the only thing I could think of saying was: "Monsieur Godard, I hope you'll call your girlfriend tonight. I think tonight you'll get through."

He smiled. And then we were quiet, listening to the tires hiss as they skimmed slippery roads.

I pulled to the curb outside his hotel. He leapt out. "Bonsoir Mademoiselle, merci beaucoup." And he was gone.

I've always wondered if he reached her that night. Whether he did not not, he has not only survived all these years, he has grown still more inquisitive and brave, still more determined to push his audiences to look hard at our world, and Notre Musique, his symphonic treatise on war, reminded me that Heaven exists, still, despite Hell and Purgatory, and reminded me, too, that I should try to keep the cynicism that has crept in since those heady and perhaps more hopeful days, a little at bay.

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