Frehel Diaries: Needful Things
All you people are so scared of me. Most days I'd take that as a compliment. But it ain't me you gotta worry about now. -Riddick (played by Vin Diesil) in Pitch Black

Because I was raised under unusual circumstances by an insane father who was so self centered that the words "Here there be monsters" should have appeared at the tips of his shoes and my enmeshed enabling mother, it's hard for me to know what is normal behavior for children. For example at nine years old, I was wearing a backbrace and two leg braces. I was seeing specialists and once a week went to physical therapy where I had my hip flexors massages. That may sound nice, but anyone with tight hip flexors will tell you that is about as far from relaxing as you can imagine. And I was not to complain and certainly not to cry. In fact my parents wanting to live in the delusional dream that I was a "normal child" didn't want me to talk about what I was going through at all. And so I went through all of this with a stiff upper lip, a tome of Shakespeare tucked under my arm.**

And this was at nine years old.

So Nana's habit of bursting into tears three or four times of day for reasons like she didn't like her father's tone of voice, well, I found it disturbing. But worse, I didn't know if this was because there was something wrong with me or something wrong with her. There were, however, other factors. Like the fact that they walked ahead of me, while I trailed behind, walking as fast as I could. There was also the fact that if she cried or pouted, everything had to stop. While the first time I witnessed this it was touching, now when I saw it, it made me sad. It was what I hadn't had as a child. And because I hadn't had it and couldn't have it, I could feel an instinctive hatred, resentment of it, beginning to develop. And thus I knew my judgement of it was clouded. Was I disturbed because it was disturbing or was I disturbed because I am disturbed and unable to fathom an actual healthy father-daughter relationship? And how much would it cost me to call my therapist from Frehel and ask her these questions?

He dashed off in the morning to take her to her riding lessons. After he returned, we drank coffee at a local cafe and chatted about the only thing we could actually talk about-movies and tv shows where I continued to be amazed how much craptacular TV we had exported and how willing the French were to watch it. About the only decent American movie the Sauvage had ever watched was Young Frankenstein. After coffee, we went and picked Nana up. We all went to the saddest casino I've ever been in, which was located in Sable D'or Les Pins.

While I have one golden rule about gambling-I never bet on ANYTHING unless I know I'm going to win 1 I've been all over Vegas. I've been in some gorgeous huge casinos, and even though I don't like casinos I have to admit the Bellagio is splendid. This casino, by contrast, was sadder than even the saddest casino in Atlantic City. It was basically a big box with a few gambling tables, a few slots, some videogames for the kiddies, and a bar. What was even sadder was the fact that there was a casino here made this little town a tourist attraction. The level of development in Sable D'or, the number of hotels, bars, cafes, and even crappy snack stands clearly indicated that this town was one of the tourist hubs in the immediate area. All because of this pathetic excuse for a casino.

The Sauvage and I ordered coffee while Nana drank water with a green flavored syrup in it.2 After quickly drinking her water, she wanted another. The Sauvage told her no. There was the slow turn, the pout, the silent tears. The Sauvage refused to relent so when the waiter neared our table she took it upon herself to order another one. He said nothing to her. A moment later ,he kissed her head and fluffed her hair. She asked for change to play video games. He gave her a handful. She took her water and bounced a way.

He looked at me and began to struggle with English for a moment. “I llllllllove her,” he finally said. He fought his way through English to tell me, the girl who flew across the ocean and then braved a seven hour car ride and a toilet a la turque, that he loved his daughter. This much I know. If deprived of all my senses and buried in an underground chamber for a year, I would still be able to feel that he loves his daughter. It’s that self evident. That obvious. That overwhelmingly clear. When you leave your girlfriend behind and prefer to walk with your daughter hand in hand on the beach, you don't need language to communicate that love.

There are people who think that I am amazingly needy. An interesting perspective considering how much of my life is spent alone and how much of my life has been dedicated to helping other people. Not just as a teacher. I won't go on about it here, but I'm more generous than I let on and kinder than I am comfortable with. If I'm so needy, than why am the one who is always willing to travel, to inconvenience myself,

I looked at her playing video games, blithely unaware of everything her father is doing for her. His apartment decorated in her picture. She simply takes what she wants. Nine years old and already adepts at manipulation with her long blonde hair and her slightly lopsided smile. Understanding the effect of tears while I couldn't cry in front of a man until I was 20 years old. She will grow up to be beautiful, but demanding. She'll expect to be the center of a man's world-catering to her whims. Yet she'll have no sympathy for the sacrifices for others, having made none herself. In another 10 years, she'll be a monster eating the hearts of French college boys by the fistful. They will twist themselves into double helixes and reverse the laws of physics in order to run their fingers through her hair or get a flash of that ridiculous smile. And instead of being grateful for it, she'll barely even be aware of it.

Me needful? You people have no idea the terror that is awaiting you in another 10 years.

** At nine I was actually reading Shakespeare, and not a special kiddie version. This was because I hated when medical staff condescended to me. I thought if they saw what I was reading, they would talk to me like a normal person befitting my intelligence. Instead they failed to take note of the reading. It is because of this repeated experience, I deeply hate anyone condescending to me or failing to address me as an intellectual equal or, more likely the case, superior.

1 I actually managed to win 2 bets on my virginity, one I knew about and one I didn't. In both cases I won by keeping it. The first bet was that I wouldn't make it to 18 a virgin. I made this bet with my closest and oldest friend. The second was that I wouldn't make it through prom night a virgin. I didn't find out about that bet until the following week. While I won both those bets, by the time I was 19 I was not a virgin, but just barely.

2 The French are very fond of using syrups not just to flavor wine, like kir, but to flavor water as well.

3 While the word "nana" in French is slang for a babe or a "hottie", it is also the title of a Zola novel about a beautiful but heartless courtesan. It is precisely for this reason I chose this name for her. Since the Sauvage met in an Assomoir (L'assomoir, or the Drinking Den, being the title of the novel that details the life of Nana's parents and her birth), I thought this especially appropriate.

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