Frehel Diaries: Past Perfect

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The next morning he dashes out to drive his daughter to horseback riding, and I begin what has become my morning routine. I go the boulangerie next door to buy a croissant and a can of orangina and head down to the bluffs. My initial plan is that I’ll sit for a while and think, then take a walk and head back early to have lunch at the moulerie on the way back to the hotel. But those plans are quickly abandoned. I sit on the edge of the cliff, simply looking out at the Ocean. I'll be crossing that Ocean soon enough. I sit and look and remember.

For me, the past is never really gone. One of the little side effects from my childhood experiences. I grew up having flashbacks. At any moment, unbidden, I could find myself in some past event. Not a memory, but really in that moment. Like I was Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five. I am unhinged in time, but only briefly.

When friends tell me to “Get over it” or “Move on” I don’t bother to explain to them that for me that isn’t possible. People tend to think that Post Traumatic Shock is something only Vietnam vets have, and trying to tell them that repeated trauma through my childhood has made it so that the past is more alive for me in some cases in the present wouldn't help. The one time I tried to explain it to my most understanding friend a brief look of fleeting terror quickly replaced by sympathy was all it took. I never spoke of it again. It isn’t a question of dwelling; it is a fact of my neurochemistry that my memories don’t fade. I can close my eyes and be back in a moment, not a memory, but the reality of that moment-the smells, the tastes, the emotions-that moment in its totality regained.

I close my eyes and let my memories of the vacation wash over me. The airport, the Eiffel Tower, swimming in the ocean, lunch with his family, the taste of Kouing-Aman, make up sex, exhanging looks with the teen twins at dinner, watching the horses swim, playing "cache-cache" with Chunk, swaying to bootleg Abba, dancing under the Breton sky before fireworks, sitting on this cliff eating a criossant. I'm trying to stay where I am, be here while here still lasts, but I’m already beginning to think about going back. When will I call the Doberman and Bakerina? How many voicemail messages will I have? How is my cat? But that life will come crashing back to me soon enough. The bills, the unringing cellphone, the lonely empty bed, the predictable conversations, the foreseen disappointments, the long nights in the bar, the longer days with my students. No, that will come in enough time. No need to bring it on early.

The bird that I saw on my first night here comes winging by. He’s no longer staying in place, because I have replaced him. Now I am trying to manipulate the elements so I can stay suspended. Because soon it will be gone. Still I take it as a good sign he came to say good-bye.

As do the butterflies.


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