Frehel Diaries: Bed, Toilets, and Love
“The human sewage system is the world’s greatest invention. And you invented me and I invented you and that’s why we don’t get along on this bed any longer. you were the world’s greatest invention until you flushed me away.” beds, toilets, you and me by Charles Bukowski **

According to Jill Soloway, one of the writers of Six Feet Under, in her book Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants she claims “According to Hebrew belief, a relationship doesn’t really begin until you think, for the first time, “This is never going to work out.” For me, from the moment a guy says, “Hello” or “Want a drink” or “What’s your bra size” I know that it won’t work out. It’s the simplest math in the world. If I’m a part of the equation, I know in advance that whatever happens from this point on is going to hurt. Luckily, because of the life I’ve lived, my pain tolerance is so high that I’ve never let pain stand in my way.

I’ve also never my knowledge that my relationship was ultimately doomed stop me from pursuing it.

Optimism, in terms of my social life, is simply the hope that it will hurt him as much as it will hurt me.

However, for me the moment that the "relationship" began was our little sidetrip to Mont St. Michel.

By the time we arrived at Mont St. Michel, I was nauseous from the heat and on the verge of a migraine. And this was just the beginning.

For those of you who have wanted to see Mont St Michel, and I know at least one woman for whom it was her life long wish, don't. It should be labeled the world's smallest steepest tourist trap, for literally the entire "town" is dedicated to swindling tourists out of money, whether it is from the crappy souvenir stores, the overpriced biscuteries, or even the little cafes that sell bottles of water as if they had cornered the market. Once you see the thing in the distance, consider your mission accomplished.

But the Sauvage wanted to impress me, so he parked the car and I dutifully trailed him across the marshy sand and baking asphalt to the crowded entrance to confront yet another climb. And yet again I was confronted with the thought "This guy just doesn't get the whole disability thing." On the other hand, my father, who was an orthopedic surgeon, never quite got the whole disability thing either. Rising to impossible demands is a house specialty and so I slowly trudged behind him up the steep spiral walkway making it only as far as the Eglise St Pierre.

And it is at this point that I must remind you that I was on my period. The first day of my period I either become irrationally enraged to the point of murder with household objects or so depressed that I cry hopelessly for hours over a hangnail. I shall leave you to judge which emotional extreme I was experiencing.

Because the Sauvage was not a "tourist" in this place, being very familiar, we didn't stop at any of the cafes or stores even though I was almost on the verge of death from dehydration. I was covered in sweat, but he kept walking up looking back occasionally to make sure I was still making my way behind him. Finally we reached what he wanted to show me-the Eglise St Pierre with a gold statue of St. Michel. After looking at for a minute or two and taking my picture being properly reverential, he walked out. I wanted to kill him. He dragged me up all these stairs for this? Now it's not a nagging thought, it's a definitive fact-he doesn't understand how hard this is for me and seems completely dedicated to ignoring my panting trudging, which I would think MIGHT alert him to my discomfort.

After I walked out, we were indeed returning to the car after this thrilling sweatfest. I stopped at a cafe and bought a bottle of water, since no offers to prevent my imminent death were forthcoming. By this time the migraine was almost fullblown, but I had a Tylenol PM in my purse. I figured if I took half a dose I could at least sleep until we reached the hotel, and I might even be able to prevent my brain from exploding long enough to murder him.

Slicked with a scummy layer of sweat, he looked at me and proclaimed "You are a lucky girl." "Right, lucky me," I thought. "If I am so fucking lucky, I would have a body that works and boyfriend who understands, and I certainly wouldn't be here looking at this grinning moron on the side of one of the most ridiculous tourist traps I've ever been to. However," my inner monologue continued, "I am going to use this man. I’m going to ride him like a mechanical bull and squeeze him for every last drop of material, and when it’s all over, I’m never going to look back.” In a way it’s the perfect solution-I get what I want-sex, material, and experience I don’t even have to feel guilty about it. I mean, really, he’s the lucky one. He gets all the hot sex, and he doesn’t even have to worry about my rapier wit. And he can’t read English so, when I write all this up, I won't have to worry about hurting his feelings.

Once back in the car, I’m dizzy with my migraine, but I still take a moment to be amused that near Mont St. Michel there is another tourist attraction....Alligator Bay. I was so amused I took pictures of the roadside signs, and there is a part of me that was curious what else Alligator Bay offered aside from, you know, alligators. This is why everything in France seems surreal. It's not like the moral schitzophrenia of Las Vegas, but even the roadside attractions have a dream-like logic. I can just imagine telling my therapist "So I'm at this medieval abbey and then suddenly I'm in the middle of an alligator preserve, but I'm still in France." What's the symbolic content there, I wonder.

I want to stay awake, but with the heat I find myself sleepily rousing myself briefly to look at the sights he points out, like Gallo-Roman ruins. I wake soon before we get to the hotel. I can feel the difference in the air. Now instead of hot sluggish air, it’s cool as it rushes in through the window.

The hotel ends up being one star. One. While I'm not a five star hotel girl, usually 3 is the number I am for. 3 means an elevator and a private bath. One is barely better than a hostel. Lucky girl, my ass. He carries my suitcases up two flights of winding stairs. Stairs that I climb with difficulty. The bedroom is exactly that, a bedroom with a sink. The shower, in the hallway, is shared with the other people staying on the floor as is the toilet.

At this point the relationship isn’t dead, the eulogy has ended, the mourners have left, and the gravediggers, having patted the dirt in place are enjoying beers while leaning on their shovels. In a matter of hours, it will be pushing up the daisies.

But the bed is comfortable and private. I can lie down and feel reasonably confident that nothing in my suitcase will be stolen, which makes it better than the hostel I stayed at in Amsterdam. He promises to return, and I fall mercifully asleep unable to find the energy to even wonder how I am going to survive the rest of this now seemingly disastrous trip.

Two hours later, they return with my dinner in a bag-potato salad, apple sauce, a Panache (which the Savage describes beer with sprite) some cheese and 2 bananas. The nap as refreshed me as well as banished my migraine. He takes me to the beach and as the sun sets, I eat the dinner.

Afterwards they take me up to Cap Frehel. This is the first time I have seen Nana since I left May and the first time since I've arrived that he has showed a preference for someone's attention other than mine. While he walks hand in hand with her, I follow at a distance, struggling occasionally in the twilight with the rocky terrain. It makes me sad to be with them, to see their closeness and be outside of it as I clearly am walking unacknowledged behind them. Following in pained silence, I want to grab her and say, “Your father thinks I’m a lucky girl, but you’re the lucky one. A girl with the real love of her parents. Real unconditional love.”

Love. The real nature of love is sacrifice. I sacrificed a familiar world to come here and follow behind a man and his daughter. He’ll sacrifice me in order that she have everything she wants. And her? It’s possible that from his example she’ll become a selfless, loving, supportive woman. And anything in France is possible. More likely, she’ll grow up to be a monstrously manipulative ball of endless needs. And because she’s beautiful, she’ll get away with it.

If I had the choice, I’d rather be lucky, like Nana, as the Sauvage thinks I am, than smart. Unfortunately none of us get that choice. So I follow behind silent and uncomplaining knowing that as soon as I get back to Charles de Gaulle that this relationship is over.

Lucky, lucky me.

** Unfortunately, for unknown reasons, Blogger does not want me to reproduce the original spacing for this poem. Apologies.

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