mal à l'aise (mal ah lez) locution
: être mal à l'aise = to be or to feel ill at ease
A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse
Driving our young visitor home, I chatted non-stop as the two of us advanced under the starlit night, direction Saint Cécile, le centre-ville. Being talkative while chauffeuring my children's friends home puts us both, I figure, into the comfort zone. Heaven forbid that the silence between us would win out, giving the mismatched travelers something to feel self-conscious about.
"Would you look at that? It's so dark out at 5:30..." I begin, checking my passenger's seat-belt.
"Mmm hmmm..." my daughter's friend agrees, quietly.
"So, do you have any homework left to do this weekend?" I inquire, stirring up the sound barrier.
I am used to such barely audible answers and notice that my passenger's responses—when I can hear them—range from one-syllabled to mumbled. But that doesn't stop me from shooting the speech-stifling brise.
"Ah, that's good!..." I agree, if only with myself. The direction of our conversation is like a handmade sign held by an auto-stoppeur; it reads One-Way, or bust!
Regarding such one-way conversation, one must feel mal à l'aise while being driven home by a motor-mouth mama. I don't want my passenger to suffer the silence, and so I continue my running commentary.
"Oh, my headlights!" I declare as we pass another car with blinking phares. "Yipes! My blinding high-beams were on! Je roulais pleins phares!"
(Not a squeak from the passenger seat... the silence is so loud you can slice it).
"I have a hard time seeing at night, and you?"
Realizing that my latest comment was overly casual—it might have inspired doubt about one's driver—I happily add "Thank goodness for glasses!" and pat the bridge of my nose, where my lunettes rest, there above my motor mouth.
The twelve-year-old to my right keeps her eyes glued to the window and her vocal chords stitched shut. I am running out of things to say when, suddenly, the fuel in my verbal spout runs out. From this point on there'll be no more self-conscious conversation, just an awkward, audible drought.
Once an awkward adolescent always an awkward adolescent. When I stop imagining how others are feeling—uncomfortable, afraid, upset or, conversely, satisfied, secure...—and take the time to examine my own current mood, I realize just how often I project my humeur....
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le centre-ville = town center; la brise (f) = breeze; un auto-stoppeur, une autostoppeuse = hitchhiker; être mal a l'aise = to feel uncomfortable; les phares (m) = headlights; je roulais pleins phares = I was driving with my full headlights on; oui = yes; les lunettes (nfpl) = eyeglasses; l'humeur (f) = mood
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