I was a child raised by fear. Fear in God, an invaded America, sharks at the beach, and my mother coming back from the dead to haunt me. I was afraid because I was a child and I believed everything an adult told me. My capacity of judgment wasn’t clear or levelheaded as it is now, I was gullible.
I studied abroad in France the summer of my freshman year. They taught us during the day while we stayed at host homes throughout France. Our host was this French widow with arms as fat as rolled dough and whenever she spoke her mouth was hoarse and dry. Years of smoking she said. She had strict rules about her household. We were told to wake up at 6 AM everyday and lights out by 10PM, Since her husband died a few years ago she offered her home to foreign students, and six neutered cats. Louis stayed with
She offered to take us out once to a nearby beach called Valras Palge, South of France. The beach was clean and family friendly with the occasional old topless tanner nearby, but other than the signs in French and the gypsies, it began to look a little like home, back in Wildwood, New Jersey.
I laid back against the hot sand and let my toes sink in. The widow took out a beach chair and fell asleep after making camp. “Check it out,” Louis said sitting next to me.”Come on Samir. Look over there.” He was a novice at this sort of thing so of course he pointed over to three white girls a hundred meters away from us. They let down their hair and laid on with curly hair laying down for the rays to touch their skin.
“We should go over there. See if we can get wit some French chicks?” He grinned side to side like a carnival clown. I agreed with him only so he would shut up but he suprirsed me that day, he actually did what he said he was going to do. In only our swim trunks we walked over and the girls shifted their sides to face us, two of them were giggling except for one of them with the curly hair. Her eyes met mine with a hard glare.
“Hello,” Louis said. He attempted to make his voice sound deeper, mysterious, and I was the only who noticed. The girls ate it up and smiled in return. “I mean bonjour.”
I said hello as well, in English.
He sat next to the group and talked half in broken French. The girls didn’t speak alot, whether because they were annoyed or shy I couldn’t tell. They just laughed at everything he said. I sat next to the girl with curly hair. Her face was lightly touched with dimples like small flakes of snow on a cold morning, and her ears were small like fresh grapes. I was staring for too long, she stuck her hand out to greet me.
“Um, hello. I. Am. Samir,” I said.
“Deni,” she replied.
“Ah, cool. Like the restaurant.” I said. She moved her head to the side and raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t, um, eh, understand.”
Louis must have been doing something right but I didn’t speak a word of French. I sat and blocked out Louis words. I was busy staring at Deni.
The dimples on her face that complemented the vanilla of her skin tone. The way her hands slowly pulled back the mass apart like Moses to the ocean and how her blue eyes reflected the ocean. I knew these were words I wanted to say. But she wouldn’t understand any of it. Even if she did, it would have been creepy. At least, I had thought so.
It ended abruptly with Louis gestured for the girls to come with us. He pointed to where the widow slept, a book rested on her massive bosom. “Come over,” he said in English. One of the girls was offended and looked at her friend in disgust. Deni turned over and smiled, shrugging her shoulders. She waved her hand to me and said in English, “bye now.”
“Whatever. Forget you.” Louis said to them.
“What the hell was that all about dude?” I said on the walk back.
“Whatever. French girls man. Bunch of skanks.”
We walked back to the widow spread out on the chair. I thought about what I could’ve said or not said to Deni then, and why I listened to Louis’ every word. Why couldn’t I be my own self, my own? I asked myself questions because I couldn’t face the truth, I was weak. When we reached our hostess she had a sunburn that stretched down to her fat toes. and a sun burn was already in progress. She fell asleep for another hour while I looked out into the sea and Louis looked for other girls.