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The armpits of my shirt 0

Dear Bradshaw,

Luca, one of my private students, is ten years old. I know his parents but rarely see them because they’re always at work when I come and go so the nanny lets me in. For this reason I was surprised last week when his father entered the room with two friends from the United States. His friends had never met Luca, so he introduced them briefly then left us to our lesson. At the end of the hour, while passing through the living room, I stopped to chat with the father and his guests but, having another lesson, I soon excused myself. While continuing toward the front door, I said to the father (who used to be overweight but had trimmed down considerably), “You look great! You’ve lost weight.” But I was distracted and had confused verbs, using ingrassare instead of dimagrire. So actually I had said, “You’ve gained weight.” Though it didn’t occur to me until later that evening when I remembered how he had glanced at his friends, then covered his stomach and said, “Oh, yeah, well, maybe I have.”

When I told Francesca during dinner she laughed hysterically, and minutes after I’d sent an apologetic text message, the father wrote back saying, “The important thing is that you thought I looked good because I’d gained weight.”

As if that’s not enough, I had my first lesson with a new student last week. When we met at her office, I smelled poop, and wondered if it was her breath, her clothes, or . . . ? I was glad to get out of there after the hour was up but when I got off the metro and started walking home, I smelled poop again. I stopped and checked the bottom of my sandals, inspecting them thoroughly but found nothing. Arriving home, again, I could have sworn that maybe, possibly, a hint of… I took off my pants, pressed them to my face and sniffed. Nothing. Then I did the same with the armpits of my shirt. Clean. But even now, as I sit here writing you, I keep thinking I smell something. Now though, for instance, if I take a big whiff = nothing. Is it in my head, Shaw, or is my student in her office right now convinced that her new English teacher stinks?

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