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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

CHAPTER 12 – A NEW BEGINNING - Excerpt Johnny Oops

Seventeen isn’t too old to start over, is it? I decided not to go back to school for another year. My folks got me on this great International Exchange Student Program in France. I get to live with a French Family and learn how their lives are. They have a sixteen-year-old daughter. Next year she gets to come and live with us in the states. Her name is Danielle. I hope she isn’t big and fat and ugly. I’m searching for some beauty in my life now. I’ve been spending the last few months studying how to speak French non-stop. I’m so fluent in the language I can even philosophize in French. Isn’t life wonderful? I’m beginning to feel good about myself again. I’m still a genius. Geniuses have especially tough lives, but I can take it. This is the way things were meant to be. I have my faith back. I feel almost invincible again. To tell the truth I have had such a full recovery it’s almost scary. Life is great don’t you think?

Danielle’s family, the Gellets, live in a really ancient two-story stone house with a thatched roof in the tiny village of Ez in the south of France. It was a former artist’s colony and the operative description would be quaint. The house sits on a hillside overlooking the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. This is what true beauty is all about. The house itself has maize of small bedrooms on the second floor and one bathroom (This is going to be a problem, it has no lock on the door). The main floor could best be described as one huge family room opening onto a big kitchen with a huge wood-burning fireplace that’s sometimes used for cooking. There is no central air conditioning or heating, none is needed in this moderate climate. It’s charming.

The Gellet’s have a large family. Danielle is the oldest of four siblings. There are twin eleven-year-old girls and a thirteen-year-old boy (This might be a problem, I am to share a room with Peter). Peter it turns out is no problem. He is always off playing with his friends. The family seems to operate in a happy communal fashion: sharing meals, family outings, and above all laughter. Everyone seems to be laughing all the time. They are having fun. So this is what happiness is all about. Oh, I forgot to mention that Danielle’s grandmother lives with them. She is a small frail woman with a mole on her chin. She uses a cane, mostly to shoo people like me who annoy her away, sits in the kitchen near the fire all the time, and never smiles. At least she never smiles at me. I think the old witch sees right through me. I don’t like her, but I am careful to always be polite and respectful. To tell the truth I’m scared of her.

I was welcomed with great warmth and treated just like one of the family. They laugh at my French. I laugh at their English. We get along famously. Danielle takes me all over. It’s summertime and she is out of school. It seems like the whole country is on vacation. Most days we spend at the beach, and then meeting with Danielle’s friends at a local village café for endless espressos, much talk about America, and endless jabbering about what they are going to do with there lives once they grow up. It occurs to me that they have a better handle on things than I do. No one is out to change the world. No one has any deep thoughts. No one has the worries of the world on their minds. It’s delightful. It’s refreshing. It’s a whole new world to me and I like it. I decided to relax and treat the whole thing as one big happy learning experience. By now my eyes are wide open.

Lest I forget to tell you Danielle is really cute. She’s not beautiful, but she has a great smile, a good figure, and big boobs. She is a very happy go lucky kind of kid, never taking anything too seriously. We sort of fell into sex as something you do to pass the time. It’s obvious to me that Danielle is a woman of the world. She taught me about oral sex -- Alice didn’t have a clue. My first blowjob was a hum dinger. I had no idea what I was missing. Danielle taught me how to please a woman. Alice had no idea. The give and take of it really turns me on. I absolutely enjoy giving pleasure. I had no idea. It’s fun. It’s nothing serious. There is no love. It’s painless enjoyment for it’s own sake. It’s just what I needed. It allows me to put my experience with Alice in perspective. It allows me to put Alice behind me. It’s wonderful.

Naturally I told Danielle all about Alice, but not about my breakdown at Harvard.

She just laughed. “Puppy love,” she said. “Pssst, it is yesterdays news, it is over.”

With those few little words of wisdom, all the worries of the world seem to lift from my heart.

“You have got to learn to relax and enjoy yourself Johnny,” she said.”

And so I did. It was wonderful. Life is wonderful again. My eyes are full of the beauty and the joy of life. Doctor O’Hara would be proud of me.

Mr. Gellet is a simple yet profound man. In certain ways he reminds me of my Dad. He is a poet of some local repute, and makes a living serving as the village postman. He is 49 and only six years away from his pension. Then he will retire and write poetry full time and become a national hero he told me. But he said he would never leave his beloved village of Ez. It must be nice to know where you belong. Danielle’s mother, Mariana Gellet is a big fat jolly woman who is constantly laughing and trying to get me to eat more and more. Her cooking is great. I must have gained 10 pounds. If this is the stuff of life I could feed on it forever. I’m still a philosopher in training.

On Saturday nights the whole family goes dancing at a place near the beach that is strung with multi colored paper lanterns. The live band plays everything from French Country music to La Vie En Rose. It’s great fun. Afterwards we go to a café for huge vanilla ice cream sundaes mounded with fresh whipped cream and surrounded by melting bittersweet chocolate sauce. Let me tell you, until you have tasted real French ice cream, you haven’t lived. It is marvelous. I think the Gellets have guessed that Danielle and I are fooling around. They don’t seem upset. They know it is nothing serious, just two kids having fun and enjoying life. This is the way things are supposed to be. I really like the Gellets. They are wonderful enlightened people considering they are totally provincial. Danielle says they are all right. She calls them the ‘rents’. I wondered what she meant by that? I asked her.

She said, ”It indicates I am just passing through on my way to my own life and my own family. It is like I am renting emotional space and time from them until I grow up.”

I never fully understood what she meant, but then for a ditz Danielle is a very complicated woman. You notice I say woman not girl. Danielle taught me the distinction.

We drifted down the tepid, tranquil stream of summer as we languished in our own feckless ritual of youth. Time seems to have no meaning. How irritating it must be to older people not to have the opportunity to do nothing but enjoy themselves. For the first time I’m really glad I’m young. For the first time I think I am truly happy. I love the nothingness of it all. My only obligation is to enjoy myself. I think I’m doing a good job.

I was sitting alone on the beach feeling a little melancholy. The summer was coming to a close. Danielle was shopping with her mother for dinner. We are going to have Langoustine. They are a cross between big shrimp and small lobsters. I love the way they taste. Danielle’s mother serves them with a saffron butter sauce. Believe me that’s heaven. Where has the time gone I wondered? I will miss all this. Why does this have to end? Suddenly appearing from nowhere Danielle jumped on my stomach and rubbed sand on my chest.

“Why so sad,” she asked?

“The summer is almost over. I go home in less than a week.”

“A week can be like a lifetime if you know what to do with it. Be happy, I have a surprise for you.” With that she grabbed my hand and half dragged me across the crescent shaped beach up a sharp promontory to the top of a rocky hill.

“What’s this,” I said.

“Look down,” she replied.

And I did. What I saw about forty feet below was a frothing pool of dark water interspersed with jagged rocks: formed I guess by centuries of waves pounding against the granite rock cliffs that surround a good part of this area of beach to form a forbidding inlet.

“What’s so special about this Danielle?”

“Jump,” she said. “You have to jump”

I hesitated, looked again, those rocks looked frightening. “I can’t. I’m scared I shouted. I value my life too much to risk it on a whim. I’m having too much fun.”

Danielle embraced me, squeezed me hard, and kissed me on both checks. “Now you understand. Your life is too valuable to waste it being sad. This is my going away present to you Johnny. I give it to you from my heart. Live a long and worthwhile life and be happy. You owe it to yourself.”

The summer ended 4 days later. We enjoyed every moment of it. I cannot promise you that I don’t still have my dark moments. But when I do I think back to that dark foaming inlet of despair with the jagged rocks, I remember Danielle’s words and how much I have to live for. I cannot promise you that my version of life is perfect. I cannot promise you that struggle will bring me redemption or joy. But confronted with the alternative of death and despair, there has always got to be a better way. I search for it constantly. I have hope I will find it. I have faith that one day I will. My summer of fleeting euphoria has brought me the possibility of a lifetime of freedom and contentment. I intent to enjoy it thoroughly. I plan to live life to the fullest. I’m on a roll. Nothing can stop me now.

“Oops Stewardess, I’m sorry, I didn’t plan to spill the orange juice all over your blouse. I must have been day- dreaming. I do that a lot lately. Here, let me help you clean that up.”

“Okay, I’ll just stay in my seat and let you handle the mess I’ve made. I’m used to having other people clean up my messes, but all that is going to change.”

“Yes, it’s a good thing no one was sitting next to me. You might have had to clean up their mess too. One clumsy joker on the plane is enough.”

“Okay, I will try and relax and enjoy the flight back to Connecticut, but I wish I was still in France.”

1 comment:

  1. You are a great writer. I only read a little bit of your blog,but it struck a chord in me. You know, I'm not a conservative as I presume you to be, but I have to agree with how important it is to not change just for novelty's sake.