One of my favorite stories from the first year of knowing Arnaud was when he and my youngest brother Collin first spent some time together. Collin had flown to Seattle from Southeast Texas to visit me and to check out this strange new man-boy with whom I had fallen madly in love. Collin was 15 years old at the time, and Arnaud the ripe young age of 23.
What transpired between them is so clear in my memory that it is as though I watched it happen. I can imagine perfectly the rough, thickly accented English of Arnaud as he asked Collin question after question (unending questions are a normal response of Arnaud to stress/social encounters -- he once asked my Mom from the backseat of a car the age of each of my adult cousins one by one... I have 13 cousins), and I can imagine Collin perfectly accommodating the potentally awkward interactions, both of them deeply kind, truly patient, and accommodating nearly to a fault.
Arnaud had recently downloaded an application that attempted to determine statistics about the cause of personal happiness. The application determined these statistics by asking questions about the user's level of happiness and activities thoughtout different moments of the day. After a week or two of answering these questions, the user would be able to see a graph of when they were most/least happy and what factors had contributed. It was an application that was made for Arnaud and his engineering mind and private emotions. Arnaud would that told that application anything; it was fascinating to him that something like happiness could be tracked. He set the application to "most frequent" and spoke with it often. Here's the story:
During their afternoon together Arnaud introduced my brother to his new application. He explained the purpose and suggested that Collin also download it, as it had already been helpful to Arnaud.
Collin might have been interested ("Ooohhh, how neat!" he probably said, regardless), except that because of Arnaud's thick, French accent the word "happiness" sounded almost exactly like "uh...penis". The "h" sound is silent in French, and it is a sound that is often left out of English words pronounced by native French speakers. The result is a little gap, an almost "uhh" sound - as if the speaker is trying to remember the right word and then, once remembering, saying it very clearly. For example the word "happiness" sounds like, "uuhhh... PENIS." The effect is profoundly French, as if he is stoking his chin and thinking, "What is this word, this thing, uhh, mmm, uuhhh, PENIS, oui, c'est ça."
Now imagine Arnaud's afternoon of describing his new application to my brother. "OH yes, this helps me to discover more and more about my uhhhhh... PENIS. I must record many, many details about my uh, PENIS, because then I will know about it even more. When is my, uuhh, PENIS good? When is it bad? When is my uhh... PENIS the MOST strong? What time of day is it difficult to feel my uhh... PENIS? It's cool, yes? Interesting, yes? When is it hard for you to feel uhh... PENIS?"
On and on and on the descriptions and questions must have gone, descriptions most certainly given in great details, and most certainly listened to by Collin with growing horror but perfect politeness and feigned interest. Questions most certainly asked in complete sincerity and without humor by Arnaud and answered by Collin with shoulder shrugs and phrases like "HMm, never really thought about it before I guess."
I imagine the subject changing during the afternoon, to my brother's relief, only to be interrupted a few minutes later by the alarm on Arnaud's phone, again bringing the attention back to his genitals. "Oh yes, my uh... PENIS is VERY good right now because I am spending time with you Collin," he might have said. "I always have a lot of uh, PENIS when I drink coffee, do you, Collin?" I can hear Collin's uncomfortable laugh as he wondered if all Europeans were indeed perverts. This went on for the entire afternoon until I joined them, at which point I saw what was happening (or "uh... PENNing") and laughed until I cried... as did poor Collin.
For me it was another confirmation that my, uh... PENIS grows immensely when I am with Arnaud, and that I am incredibly lucky to have a brother who would walk around Seattle for an afternoon with a man he knew I loved, trying with all his might to understand why this man was so obsessed with tracking his penis and asking him about his own penis, and who on earth created an app for that.