Frehel Diaries: Low Tide
After our time at the casino, the obligatory three course silent and uncomfortable lunch with the parents, we took Nana, picked up Chunk, and went to the beach for the afternoon.
In many ways I am the living personification of the Holocaust survivor mantra “Never forget.”Oh sure details about things I have to do, phone calls I need to make, meetings I scheduled, checks I need to mail, slip my mind all the time. But my memory of experience doesn’t fade. I can describe to you the shoes I was wearing when I walked across the stage at my graduation from my master’s program at Radio City. I can tell you that the jacket I was wearing the first night I met Eric Kinsman, the red jacket with the silk lining, had a broken zipper. I can close my eyes and describe the morning after my prom down to the weather conditions-down to the conversation about I had with my date about the proper way to eat bagels.
Much of my life has been in pursuit of forgetfulness because. Despite what the Scientologists tell you, we are not meant to remember our lives in such detail. We are meant to forget, not live life in a continuous haze of recollection.
Yet for me, the past isn’t the past. It’s still alive.
Sitting on that beach with the Sauvage, Nana and Chunk, I was reminded of all the summer vacations my family took to Martha’s Vineyard (an island, interestingly, that once used to have such a high population of deaf people that everyone, hearing and non, spoke in sign). There were lots of bad things about those vacations-the sailing lessons, for example, which my father forced me to take for years. But there were good things too. In the mornings, we would bike to Edgartown for breakfast-a raisin bagel toasted with cream cheese on the pier, then on the way back select a fairly empty beach. My father would go out and swim in the ocean. I would swim some, and spend some of the day combing the beach for pretty rocks and shells. My mother would spend all day slathered in the heaviest sunblock she could find hiding under a large sunhat she bought in Chinatown. There was also a pool at the hotel, and I spent hundreds of hours in that pool perfecting my handstands, finding out exactly how many somersaults I could do in a row, diving for change my father threw and trying to catch it before it hit the bottom. One of my father’s favorite stories was that the son of the owner, as a thank you for housing the crew of Jaws, was cast in the movie as one of the victims. It was that same son who taught me how to swim.
At night, we would go to the Black Dog for dinner, which was right on the beach. Afterwards, we would walk through the town. We would go to the bookstore and peruse books, always buying a stack that would we would ravenously devour on rainy afternoons. We would go to the local ice cream store for which there always a long line. Other nights, we would go to La Grange where there was a huge black Haitian chef who made the best frog leg’s I’ve ever had. Allegedly it was one night at La Grange where Philip Roth, on his way out, saw me reading at the table and patted my head on his way by. When I was very young walking along the beach, my parents would grab each hand and swing me in the air.
How I loved to feel weightless.
Sitting on the beach all of those memories come flooding back, and I realize the one ring I’ve brought with me is a ring my father bought me for me there. Although I want to say I was 13 (one of the other strange qualities about my memory is that although I have vivid recall of details, my sense of temporal reality, even in memory, is distorted and unreliable), but I know I had to be closer to nine or ten. There was a new jewelry store across from the Black Dog. There was a silver ring. Very simple, a flat silver two headed snake that entwined itself around the finger.
I looked down and realized that I was wearing it on my ring finger.
It was, of course, the perfect symbol-married to an overthinking, but sinful lifestyle-too much head, but still awfully tempting and deceptive for all of that.
He must have saw the look on my face and asked me what I was thinking. I told him, in my hobbling pidgin French, that I was thinking of my father and vacations I used to take with him as a child.
I can’t explain it to him, not in any more detail than that, too many words I don’t know, too many concepts I can’t explain. Is it better or worse that he doesn’t know? That I can’t explain? “You miss him?” It’s almost a statement, but not quite. Something about the inflection demands a response.
Most of the time, saying I miss my father is like a person saying, “I miss syphilis.” But, on rare occasion, I do have a moment where I miss him.
But this was not that moment. No, it was a simple sadness about the little good from my childhood I can remember. A moment in which the past flickered in front of me like a mirage only to be dissipated by the voice of another. But I know what is expected of me. I’m supposed to be a good girl even now. Say yes, I miss him. Even though it isn’t true. Not even now. Because the truth is, if he was alive, he would absolutely hate how I’m living my life. Traveling over the ocean for a french lover? It’s at moments like this I ponder the fact that I’ve almost made a second career out of collecting lovers my father would have hated. Living a life he would have never approved of.
“From time to time” I say. It’s not exactly a lie, if it isn’t exactly the truth either. “He would have hated you.” I remark by way of explaining why it’s a good thing he is dead. “Hated me? Why?” “Because you’re French. World War Two.” He seems disturbed by this revelation, although I don’t know why. I mean if one of his parents can hate me because I’m American, it seems only fair that my dead father hate him because he’s French. Still, I decide to reassure him. “ Don’t worry about it. He hated the Russians, the Swiss, the Germans.” He paused. “He liked other Americans.” I start to laugh. Of course, he’s still thinking my father was sane. “No, he hated them too.” I can see the confusion on his face. “Because they were Christian. He thought they were anti-semitic.” If I had language, I would be able to explain that my father, really, hated everyone including me. Including himself. Instead I just look at the Savage and say in English, “Yep, he would have killed you.”
He pauses for a moment-looking at me hesitantly.
“Oh, don’t worry,” I continue, “He would have killed me first.”
Bad Bunni posted at 2/02/2008 08:09:00 PM