Frehel Diaries: Fat Black Pussycat
As I walk back to the hotel, I recognize the Sauvage's car parked outside. I can see him in our room from the street. For the first time this vacation, HE is waiting for ME. I open the door to find him sitting on the bed dressed all in black. I'm wearing a black shirt and jeans, with my black cat rhinestone panties underneath. The ones that lined dried in his parents backyard.

He can’t get my clothes off quickly enough. The door is barely closed, and he has pulled me to the bed, burying his face in my chest. “I left Nana home” he manages to say between desperate kisses. This is what it is to be a parent, I think. Passionate embraces stolen during the afternoon. I should feel honored I suppose that he took this much time off, and yet I think we should have had every afternoon together. She’ll have him for the rest of vacation and, most likely, for the rest of his life. I had 13 days. Now down to one. In fact, by this time the following day I’ll be at the airport. My trip will soon enough be counted in hours and then minutes.

My mind keeps straying to my departure, even as he takes off my clothes. He has returned to being the lover he was in the beginning, more concerned with my pleasure than with his own. His attention to my body is slow and teasing. He kisses the sensitive points of hips and stomach. And now time is at a stand still, there is no vacation, no return trip, no suspicion about his sudden attention to my desire, there is just this suspended instance-my head thrown back feeling how slow time can become as his hand leisurely separates my legs and moves up my inner thigh. There's no one on the floor of the hotel now, so there is no need to be quite, no need to stifle a gasp or the cry of my orgasm.

We fall asleep entwined-him still in his black shirt and me in my black bra and black satin panties. Black on Black.


Frehel Diaries: Past Perfect

Now playing: The Bravery - Time Won't Let Me Go
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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.


Frehel Diaries: Chez Nous
That night, the Sauvage explained that all of us, Nana included, would be going to dinner with extended family. The nature of that extension, because of the language barrier, was typically obscure. I think it was the family of his grandmother's sister or great aunt, on the other hand they might just as well be the people who accidentally killed his aunt's dog and thus became friends of family somehow. Who can tell? This is the fun of not understanding your boyfriend clearly.

Still, from the beginning the reception was warm. Our host, the Patriarch was a bit older than the Sauvage with a bit of graying hair. He had two teenage children-a daughter about 16 and a soon closer to 13. There was his wife, a housewife-y looking woman with short blonde hair, glasses, and no make up, and then his mother, a woman with a penchant for dark clothes and make up. After a brief conversation in the living room, we headed to the long dining table.

This dinner reconfirmed my belief that you don't really need to understand language to understand what is going on. Or more accurately, language is only what happens on the surface, particularly at a family dinner, what you really need to know is disclosed in seemingly secret looks-the subtly of a lifted eyebrow, a curl of the lip, an involuntary flinch. Nana was seated next the host's mother, La Mamie, much to Nana's displeasure. While Mamie fussed over Nana, Nana was extremely rude-smacking her hand away, blatantly ignoring repeated questions about what she wanted to drink. Instead, Nana remained focused on her gameboy with a serial killer like intensity I hadn't witness before. The brother and sister exchanged looks. I could tell, with relief, that Nana's spoiled ways were known and acknowledged by this family. I caught their look with half a smile. Nothing had been spoken, so I couldn't let them know that I agreed with their assessment of her character. They looked at the Sauvage with something like pity and disdain. Clearly, they thought he was at fault for indulging her. Meanwhile, the Sauvage was too deeply engaged in conversation with our host to realize this silent exchange was going on.

Then, of course, the attention shifted to me. The Sauvage hadn't quite cottoned onto the fact that in these circumstances I just want to disappear and observe, I don't want to be the center of attention. Mainly because the center of attention has to speak. He told them all what I did and that I lived in NYC. I could feel the interest in me exponentially increase. One of the strange things that the French ask me when they find out that I am NYer is about TV. I suppose it's the one thing they know about the US, so they ask me about their favorite shows: do I know CSI (known as les professionels)? the Simpsons? the Dukes of Hazzard? The X-files? NYPD Blue? (Police procedurals seems to be as popular there as they are here, an interesting issue.) In this case, I was asked about Desperate Housewives, a show that I am unfamiliar with. After that the Sauvage wanted them to know where I had traveled, so I had to rattle off the short list of countries I had been to in French. While I know L'Angleterre and L'Italie, I wasn't too sure about Jamaica and Belize in French so I abbreviated the list.

What became clear to me during this exchange was to the Sauvage I was a bit of trophy. A girl who had traveled so much of the world AND was an intellectual. I was a bit of "Look see what kind of woman I got on MY arm" swagger, which made me uncomfortable. Taking pride in my accomplishments is one thing, using my accomplishments to boost your own ego-not so much. The response of the brother and sister was palpable as they exchanged, "What the fuck is this chick DOING here?" looks. And our host, although polite, was a bit curious himself. The host tried to speak to me, but I had difficulty understanding and the Sauvage explained that I could read French better than I could write French. Immediately a tablet of writing paper was produced and our host began writing me messages (the first being about how Sarkozy is good for the young), and an almost immediately inviting me back to stay with them "Vous reviendriez chez nous lorsque vous revienriez en Brentagne. Nous vous recevions avec plaisir." (In retrospect his use of "vous" is interesting as it was clearly a very informal environment. It again reinforces that etiquette is still a very elaborate and challenging issue for visitors. See: the kissing problem)

Dinner moved on-conversation ranged to their friends, stories were exchanged, more notes were written to me including one telling me that next time I needed to demand a translator from the Sauvage. As dinner wore on, and more and more dishes were exchanged (even informal dinner parties are more decadent than the average Roman picnic) more butter was consumed, more wine poured, the language barrier seemed to melt away. There was laughter, although I can't remember any specific points of discussion.

The only issue was that Nana continued to be amazingly rude to Mamie who did nothing but dote on her. I was struck by this. If I had manifested this kind of behavior, I would have been summarily executed. I caught the brother and sister looking and giggling, I joined them. They seemed delighted to include me in their "joke." The hosts looked over their faces and then onto mine, realizing that I understood what was going on. He smiled at me with one eyebrow raised, and I felt like I was one of the family, a part of these people, despite everything.

Eventually, though, the night had to come to a close. Nana was tired and being particularly cranky as being rude had not gotten La Mamie to lay off the fussing at all. After another flurry of kisses were exchanged, we walked out to the car. I genuinely thanked the Sauvage because it was one of my favorite nights, and the good feeling carried over into another night of lovemaking;As I fell into happily exhausted slumber, I remembered why is it I had come to Frehel.


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