Frehel Diaries: Lumière D'Étoile, Lumineux D'Étoile **
"Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars." Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

We stop at a supermarchette on the way home. I don't bother to ask what will be for dinner, I won't understand the answer. Once home the Sauvage cooks, and I take advantage of the time to use his computer and email my mother that I haven't yet been eaten by marauding French jackals. He takes breaks while cooking to come in and see what I'm doing.

The Sauvage loves music and so he takes his cooking breaks to show me some videos of French music. He introduced me to Fatal Bazooka, which is kind of like if there was a French Wierd Al who only makes fun of rap. He played for me "J'aime trop ton boule" (translation: I love/like your ass too much). There is really no description of this video that can do it justice, but it gives you a pretty clear idea what the French think of our booty shake obsessed culture. Sure it's blatantly homophobic, but how often do you get to see a French guy in gold tights jazzercizing? I was also introduced to the French rap internet sensation Kamini rapping about his home town "Marly Gomont" or as one You Tuber called it a song about growing up Black amongst White froggy rednecks in a shithole somewhere in the French outback. You never knew that cows could figure so prominently in a rap video with a singer who looks like he got his hairstyle from watching Eddie Murphy perform "Buckwheat Sings." My favorite was Les Wampas singing Manu Chao. Don't ask me what that one is about because I really haven't a clue, but I liked the song anyway. This is how the French pretty much feel about American music. They listen to it, they like it, but they don't really understand it. It is, most likely, better that way and so I've never attempted to really translate or understand any one of these songs.

The Sauvage has invited two of his friends, both with muslim names, to dinner. Apparently what he hasn't told them is that his new girlfriend doesn't understand French very well. At first they ask me if I own a car, if I know how to drive. I explain that in NY a car is really unnecessary and too expensive. That one could have a fabulous apartment for the cost of a car. After some questions about the subway, the friends and I settle into an uncomfortable silence knowing that my vocabulary is pretty much exhausted. Dinner comes soon and with it they fall easily into French conversation. And with this I am lost. It is not only that the conversation is in French, it's a conversation amongst good friends. The odds are even if I understood I would have still been lost, having no reference to both personal and cultural events that would be of interest.

As an only child, whenever I am uncomfortable, I retreat. This separation is not necessarily always physical, but that is one way of retreating. Generally, I retreat into books or writing. A favorite hiding place. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. So as the friends joined the Sauvage in the kitchen while he made coffee chatting away, I sat in the living room forgotten for a bit, and then went into the computer room to chat away with my old cyber pals. I cruised by Joe Flirt's and struggled with the French keyboard to leave him an apparently cryptic comment.

The friends perhaps sensing that the Sauavge would like to spend most of the evening alone with me, or perhaps thinking I was shy around company, depart. We sit at the table with coffee. He asks me if I'm middle class. And me, being ambitious, try to explain to the Sauvage that in the US the middle class is so large that it has been divided into three segments Lower, Middle, and Upper Middle Class. I belong, or at least used to, Upper Middle Class. He responds that I must be middle class because I'm an intellectual.

I wish.

And this is when I tell him for the first time I'm Jewish. I explain that I'm not an intellectual because I'm middle class, but rather because I'm descended of European Jewry.

And his response?

"I've never known a Jew." And if I spoke French well enough I would have said to him "Honey, you've known a Jew pretty damn well for the last 24 hours so you best revise that statement." Unfortunately I simply said I was one. He shifts the focus of the conversation. "I like smart women" he says to me.

"If I'm so damn smart," I think to myself," why can't I explain anything about myself?" And there is a moment of foreboding, if I can't explain myself how can this man really know me? And if he can't know me, how can he love me? I banish these thoughts by finishing my coffee. I can't be having these doubts on the eve before our trip to Frehel, a roadtrip involving an unknown number of hours and obstacles not to mention 13 more days.

Still, as he clears the table, I look out at the night sky and see a star. I quickly make my wish, “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might have my wish come true tonight....Please let him not turn out to be an asshole.” And then I immediately begin to wonder if French stars honor wishes made in English by little American girls.

**Title Translation: Star Light, Star Bright

Frehel Diaries: Because in France, Everything is Possible
Now if you make love to me in the morning, I’m useless for the rest of the day. I walk around in a sensual haze like an opium addict. You worship every nerve ending in my pelvis for three and a half hours and you best plug in the Frito IV and put on Scott Baio is 45...and Still Single because although my eyes may occasionally track you are going to have better luck getting sentient conversation from a banana. And translating a language in which I demonstrate a basic proficiency at best? No fucking way.

He chats brightly in French, and I smile and nod for as long as I can, until he finally starts asking me questions that I must answer. Nothing deep or profound-he talks about police radar and so forth as he drives me to St. Denis.

He doesn’t quite understand what it is to be with a scholar in such a place.

Constructed between 1137 and 1281, the Basilica of St Denis is the site of the tomb of the first bishop of Paris, beheaded in 250 A.D. Except for three, members of the royal family ruling France since 496 all are buried in the Saint Denis Basilica. In short, I could spend hours in this place, pondering why Marie Antionette's statue is touching her breast, why so many of these tombs are topped with naked statues of their royal inhabitants. I could stand for hours slowly walking through the place. The Sauvage, however, quickly walks through. There a few things he wishes to point out, namely Anne of Bretagne, who, for the Bretons, has an almost God-like status.

Instead of pondering the statues and stained glass windows, he lies in wait, in the ossuary, behind statues, every chance he can get to grab me and kiss me, to run his hand over my breasts, down my back, to bury his face in my skin in the midst of the bones of French royalty. And me, although I love it, I resist, I push him away. I fear getting caught or some how offending the spirits of royalty here. How would Marie Antionette or Louis XIV feel about me being felt up next to their revered bones? So I giggle and push him away.

There is a part of me that wants to stay longer at St. Denis. To really be able to look at the place instead of being hurried onto to the next activity. Yet, the truth is I wouldn't have ever the seen the place without him. It is easier when one is without language to silently agree rather than try to explain that you want more time to look and understand. I simply follow him back out into the August sun for a coffee before the next leg of our trip.

The next place is "the surprise." While driving we pass a sign for the Ranch of Davy Crockett. The Sauvage points it out to me. "You didn't expect that, did you?" Well, no, although I rarely contemplate Davy Crockett, France isn't exactly where I expected to find his ranch. Turns out "the Ranch" is part of Euro-Disney, part of the typical French schitzophrenia towards America. They hate Americans, but they love our "culture"-music, television shows, movies even Starbucks and MacDonalds have taken a strong hold here. Turn on French TV and you're more likely to find an American television show or movie dubbed into French than an original French program. Why exactly the French would want to go to an erstatz Davy Crockett Ranch, I have no idea. "You see that" as he points to the sign, "Everything in France is possible." Typical French conceit, I think.

On the way there, we stop at a road side fruit stand and buy a large mellon. The French countryside is peppered with roadside stops with picnic tables. We sit at one of the table and eat pieces of fresh mellon.

The surprise turns out to be Provins , a Medieval town, and specifically Caesar's Tower (AKA Tour Caesar). The tower was built between 1152 and 1181 under the rule of Henry "the Liberal." The building signified the count's authority over the town rather than any military purpose. By the 13th century, the tower served as a prison and became known as the "Prisoner's Tower." Between 1417 and 1433, Provins was occupied by the English. During this time the tower became known as "Pate aux Anglais" (English sandcastle). In 1998, the tower, known as Caesar's Tower (although absolutely none of the research I've read can explain why).

Walking through the town was amazing. It's one thing to go and visit a place like the Shaker village, a historical site that is empty and preserved. Here people were living in houses that were built in the 1100s. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to live in a house that was over six hundred years old. All the slanted wood I saw made it seem sure that it would be a life without a lot of straight edges. But then again, symmetry and flatness are overrated.

We walked through the town up to the Tower. Once inside the tower, while the first two levels of stairs were easy to climb, the last level of stairs were the original rough hewn stone stairs from the 1100s. One look at them, asymetric and huge, and I knew I couldn't walk up them. Furthermore the stairwell, such as it was, was narrow and without a railing complicating the issue even more. The Sauvage started up them without even thinking. Then came back when he noticed I wasn't following him. I explained to him it wasn't possible for me to climb these stairs.

Because of the language difficulty, I had not explained my disability. I thought it had been fairly evident, my last trip me being hardly able to hobble across the living room, that there were mobility issues. I was nervous about how well he would understand and accept my disability before the trip, and now it was pretty clear that he didn't understand the extent of my difficulty.

He grabs my hand. "No, my love, everything is possible." Once I got past the first two huge stairs, with his help, the rest of the stairs were manageable, and I was indeed able to make it to the top. Although the whole exchange did make me a little nervous about what else might be expected of me, I did make it to the top. On the way down, it was the same as at St. Denis, pulling me into dark medieval corners to kiss me.
On the drive home, after driving for an hour, he pulls over the car, and we sleep in a field for two hours in the sun amidst the queen anne’s lace and grass. I lie down next to him not thinking I'll be able to sleep and wake later, unaware of how long I have slept. He checks his watch, and after a bit of kissing ,it's time for us to go so we can be home in time for him to prepare for dinner with friends.

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Frehel Diaries: As You Wish

He wakes me in the morning by putting my hand on his fat cock. After an hour and a half, he takes a moment to breathe. He’s lying on top of me, and he looks into my eyes as he says in French, “I’m not taking you back to the airport in two weeks. Two years maybe.” He pauses. “Your whole life... if you wish.” He looks into my eyes and there isn’t a trace of “I’m just kidding” anywhere in his face. I should know because I’m searching it for any evidence of a joke.

There are certain phrases that you don’t ever count on hearing. They are different for each person because, of course, it depends on your circumstances. Being asked to spend my life with someone, that was one of those phrases for me. I never thought a man would ever say it to me again, not even in jest. My French is not so bad that I don’t understand what he is saying, but I remain silent because I’m terrified. I’m terrified of believing in this moment even though he’s been as good as word. And what terrifies me about this moment is that I wish, more than anything, I wish to spend the rest of my life this bed, in this life, in this oh so different world where men meet you at the airport and wishes are fulfilled and expectations are met and exceeded with this man. I’m terrified by how much I wish. Oh how I wish.

But I say nothing. Because I want to believe even if he doesn’t mean it, and the price of belief is silence. And so, he returns to an act for which language is not necessary.

Two hours later, after coffee in bed, he finally allows me to get up. There are places he wants to take me, surprises he says.

Surprises. Of course, everything here is a surprise. I have no idea what to expect.

And I love it.

Frehel Diaries: Promise

“Il est une countree qui te ressemble, ou tout est beau. Riche, tranquille et honnete, ou la fantaisie a bati et decore une Chine occidentale, ou la vie est douce a respierer, ou le bonheur est marie au silence. C'est la qu’il faut aller vivre, c’est la qu’il faut aller mourir!”

“There is a land that ressembles you, where all is beautiful, rich, restful and decorous, where fantasy has built and furnished a China of the West, where life is sweet to the senses, where happiness is wedded to silence. It is there that we must go to live, it is there that we must go to die!” Invitation to the Voyage by Charles Baudelaire (translated by Michael Hamburger)

I only slept for two hours before the Sauvage returned. He kneeled by the bedside and even though both of us were hungry, the light shift I was wearing to sleep in was quickly shed.

I have noticed in my passionate anthropological research of how French men make love that when performing oral sex they have a tendency to kneel beside the bed and pull my body to the edge. It is a position of complete and utter submission to my pleasure. Of worship. I had expected that he would be more interested in the satiation of his own desires, but as always the Sauvage was surprising in giving me pleasure without seeming interest in his own. And with the jetlag, if he wanted to drown himself in the indulgence of my pleasure (as really every straight man should), I didn't have the energy to argue.

Soon we were both starving and so I quickly showered and got dressed and we went out Much like Chinese food, I had never had pizza in Paris. I was a bit curious about what pizza would be like here, although I would have guilty about ordering pizza here on my own rather than opting for trying something...well, French. We each ordered a "personal" pizza, his an "everything vegetable" pizza including artichokes and capers, and mine a safe margherita pizza. The pizza arrived with a thin crust and no cut slices. I sat and watched the Sauvage as he began to cut pieces and eat them with a knife and fork. I asked him if he knew how New Yorkers ate pizza. He didn't, but the look of horror on his face, when he thought I would actually eat the slice with my hands was priceless. Had he not seen NYers in countless films and movies enjoying a slice? It seemed inconceivable, but then as he would later teach me "Everything in Paris is possible." I put the slice down and ate it like a proper Parisian woman, with my knife and fork. It was delicious particularly with the chili oil on the table.

As we sat there he chatted with me asking me at one point about my racial heritage. To make things easier for me translation wise I simplified my answer, "Irish, English, and German," his eyes widened. He couldn't seem to believe that a person could be a mix of all three. In reality, I am Irish, English and Native American on my mother's side (Italians have since married into that side of the family for added fun), on my father's I am Polish, Czech, and German. Luckily, I didn't explain all of my heritage or his brain might have fallen out onto the floor and flopped about for a bit before coming to stunned stop.

Going away is not really about learning about other cultures. It is more about learning about your own courtesy of the Hegelian dialectic (the more you know what something is not, the closer you come to learning what it is). The Sauvage was simply Breton, not French, but something even more narrow, more specific. He could not conceptualize an identity fractured even three times by different cultural heritages, nevermind an identity based on numerous complicated, and even contentious, cultural backgrounds. I am as a person about complexity on more levels than I usually meditate upon. Take, for example, the issue of my Judaism-the result of my mother's conversion, which means that while the goyim accept me as a jew without question, not all Jews do despite all that time I wasted in Sunday school learning to read Hebrew phonetically and singing the Dreidel Song. And even this is further complicated by my own avowed atheism. Even this single aspect of my identity is difficult, so it comes as no surprise that my racial background should be about as simple to understand as Lacanian literary theory translated into Esperanto.

Dinner was over quickly and in the elevator on the way back to his apartment, he picked me up, my legs wrapped around him as he sat me on the guide bar. If I openned my eyes, I could see our reflection in full length mirror which formed the back wall of the elevator. He never stopped kissing me, and I thought when we got back to the apartment I would be thrown on the bed and ravaged.

But he insisted that I get my camera and grabbed his own. Soon we were on the way down to the parking garage to his car.

On my last trip to Paris, the Sauvage learned that I had never actually seen the Champs Elysees. First he drove around one of my favorite places, Place de la Concorde, then the Louvre. He cruised all the way down the Champs Elysees pointing out famous old cafes and driving around the L’arc de Triomphe at Charles de Gaulle Etoile. We continued until we stopped on a quiet small side street. He dragged me by the hand down a short side street until I found myself on the grass. I looked up to find I was standing besides the Eiffel Tower. I had never seen it at night, lit up. I sat on the grass looking up at it. "Wait," he said. He had his camera at the ready, although I had no idea why. And then the lights began to twinkle and glitter. As if the stars had come alive. He took pictures of me giggling in delight and surprise. After a few pictures, I lay against him on the grass watching the Tower sparkle.

Nine years ago I was promised this night. I was promised the experience of Paris in Love. And here I was-with my French lover sitting on the grass looking at La Tour Eiffel glittering in the night. The Universe had owed me that moment for so long that I had given up hope that it would ever happen. Given up hope that I could ever be amazed. That my trust in a man could be justified, even rewarded. That were things in this world still full of wonder and delight and most importantly surprise.

But sitting there, I had one of those brief moments where I felt as if some genius hand had sculpted every moment, every decision, every catastrophe even, to bring me to here, to this unforeseen, unexpected complete and utter perfection of experience. As Dante wrote in the Inferno, “and so I thought that the universe experienced love.”

Most of the time, my life sucks beyond the telling of it, but for all that pain, for all that I have lost, I am repaid with the most unusual pleasures. No one can know the delicious joy of that night for me-the universe recast in colours of hope, surprise, and most importantly faith well rewarded.

After the blinking lights went off, he took me home and made love to me. An expected pleasure to be sure, but no less sweet for the predictability of it.

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