Sitting outside the local post office with his dog, a man places his cup out and waits.
I walk past him.
Inside the post office, I wait in line, and then have a confusing interaction with the lady behind the counter.
“No, those stamps don’t work internationally,” she says.
“Oh, okay, I will take the other stamps then,” I reply.
“Okay that will be ten more Euros.”
“I already gave you that much.”
“No it’s 10 more Euros.”
“But I just want the international stamps.”
It’s hard being a traveler. Things take a while to make sense.
After dumping postcards to Oregon, California, and Alaska in the mailbox, I walk past the man and his dog for the second time. Realizing I am going the wrong way, I turn around. This time, I go to the other side of the road so I do not have to walk directly past the man again.
That’s bad, I tell myself, so I change my mind.
Being a traveler with only a little money in a small town, I decide I might as well go talk with him. I need to learn French, so I offer to give him some money in exchange for a language lesson. He declines, but we still talked for a while.
“What do you want,” I hear him say. I don’t know what I want, I think, but I’d like to practice French with you.
Dominique leads me to a shady area, where we both sit down by the road. Together we set down our backpacks and lean against the cool, stone wall.
“My name is Dominique, but some call me (insert some word I can’t spell in French that indicates his hometown).”
“You are from Marseille?”
He explains to me that he is originally from Marseille but has travelled and lived throughout much of France. He now lives in this town of Rumilly in a one-room apartment. He has a wife, who has two children. He does not call them his own.
“Rumilly is boring. There is nothing,” he tells me. “Chambery is good. If you want women, go to Chambery,” As Dominique speaks, he motions his hands around his chest, shaping breasts.
“No thanks, I have a girlfriend,” I respond.
He continues to talk. I understand some of what he is saying.
Repeatedly, I hear Dominique say, “I don’t judge you,”
That’s nice to hear, I think, but also kind of strange. What would he have to judge me about—being in a relationship where I don’t see other women?
He says it to me again.
“I don’t judge you.”
Confused, I accept his kindness. Later, I hear him say “homosexuelle.” That’s why he would say, I don’t judge you; we live in a world where we have to clearly state that we don’t judge someone for them to fell safe, because they are in a people group known for being judged.
“Oh, I am not homosexual,” I say. “I have a girlfriend.”
“But that’s not what you said,” he replies.
“No, I said I had a girlfriend.” I respond.
Though in my mind I had said une petite-amie (girlfriend), I had actually said, “un petit-ami (boyfriend).”
After clarifying my sexual orientation, Dominique tells me a little more about his life. Pointing to scars all over his body, he tells me he is in bad health because of all the drugs he’s done. Pulling up his shirt, he shows me a scar above his hip, and talks about some problems with his pancreas. He says that he con’t wear shorts like me, even in the hot sun, because he is ashamed of all of the scars on his legs.
He opens his wallet and shows me some pharmaceutical drugs he’s taking to help.
I sympathize with him and affirm the difficulty of his situation, but I don’t have much more to give.
That is, nothing to give besides a few important words. “I don’t judge you, Dominique.”