Étienne

In high school, I wasn’t the best of students. I’d just discovered sh1t-disturbing and being rebellious and a general pain in the a$$.

Around this time, I had the same French teacher for a few semesters in a row. Let’s call her Mrs. Ingrid. We didn’t especially get along but it hadn’t become a shooting war or anything. She’d taken to calling me Étienne. I didn’t know what Étienne meant but I assumed that it wasn’t flattering.

After a couple of years, I wound up in her office for one reason or another. It was one of those cheapo communal offices shared by 6 or 8 of the other teachers. One of these other teachers heard Mrs. Ingrid call me Étienne and said “Oh! You call the students by their French names!”

Mrs. Ingrid replied “I do when I know them, like with Stephen. I don’t know what to do with names like Jasmine.” The school was in a high-immigration area with 47 nationalities represented. I was one of the immigrants.

I asked “Étienne is French for Stephen?”

“Yes. what did you think I was calling you?”

“I wasn’t sure. You never sounded happy when you said it.”

“I usually wasn’t.”

We got along better after that.

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