The other evening, after getting lost in a two block area of the Marais that I had only left a mere three hours before, I ended up all the way in Republique and had to take a taxi to the restaurant where I was to meet my friends for dinner. I arrived an hour late, embarrassed, flustered and blistered. Setting down my packages, which spilled onto the floor and trapped my chair into a position that wouldn't let me sit down (it was that kind of day), I was introduced to Shania, an acquaintance of one my friends at the table. A young Bangladeshi-American woman in her early twenties, she smiled smugly at me as I fumbled around trying to sit down. I had been warned in advance that she was a little stuck on herself, mainly for being the first female from GA Tech to win a full scholarship to Cambridge in mechanical engineering. I settled in for the show.
For a full two hours, we were treated to an endless string of less than subtle references to her travels around the world (Paris, London, LA, NYC, DC) all which were dropped strategically into the conversation as if she knew them intimately, even to the point of calling Paris her "second home." She mentioned speaking French "with no mistakes" and even added that people from the Southern US speak French so horribly that she often asks them to stop. I stared into my glass and cleared my throat. We learned that she ran several miles a day, was an expert coxwain, and spoke Spanish to her students in an underpriveledged neighborhood of DC. I was half expecting to hear she was a gourmet cook, had published a book, and had a pilot's license, but I suppose she didn't have enough time to get to that. Glaringly absent was anything that would have been a bit too close to what I imagined were some rather raw nerves, such as calling Dhaka her "second home" or being fluent in Hindu, Urdu or Bangla. Much to my amusement, her mother was with her, and often mentioned "the village" and even, to my delight, regaled us with a story in graphic detail of having a large mole on her chin removed that had started to sprout hairs. Thank goodness for mothers.
Shania put McKinsey consultants to shame for knowing and doing it all. Personally, I prefer people who have fucked up a little in life.
I don't think I was alone. As we were leaving, she stopped to buy a ticket for the metro from the distributor. Waiting by the turnstiles, it was obvious she was having trouble, but not one of us moved to help her.