Star Crossed Paths
There are certain people, I am sure of, that cross your path for a reason. Whatever that reason may be, it matters not. But these people come into your life for a moment and change it indefinitely. Some call this fate, but fate is not what I am talking about. Fate has a preorchestrated conotation to it that leaves us little control over our destinies. What I am talking about is something different. It is being awake. Awake enough to see these persons when they come, embrace every moment when they are there, and then let them go as you both carry on your ways.
Julie and Dial were such people. And I felt it before I even met them, and knew it beyond doubt once I did.
Julie was an outrageous and incongruent burst of energy. No sooner had I walked through the door, she was greeting me with hugs and kisses and a smile that engulfed you. Welcoming me much like a great aunt, twice removed, whom you hadn't seen since you were 18 months old and had no memories of, would. But somehow, instantly you felt she had known you her whole life. She wore a bright red polka dot dress and her dark auburn, tightly wound curls sprung fron a short bob behind wide, cat eye glasses. I had no idea how old she was, but she was hilarious.
We had Bastille (a Mersaille drink) at the bar below her apartment right on the beach and talked with the locals for hours. And by locals, I mean local drunks. Four old men crowded around me at the table, competing in French for my attention. Najib was a self- proclaimed wine conniesueur with a beautiful Indian wife, who schooled me the entire night about Bandol wine and all the wines of the world he had tried. There was a crazy skinny old man with a bad comb over that he had long since given up on and missing teeth. His hair fell stringy and long and he had a lazy eye that would scatter and twinkle after he made a joke. None of which I understood, of course. He seemed to re-forget that I didn’t know French in between drinks. The bartender, who did not look French at all, was a straight up Italian looking Guido from the Jersey Shore. Except without the muscles or the tan. He wore sunglasses the entire night inside the bar and despite the bulging pudge of his stomach under his tight shirt, he was the king of the house.
Julie and I shared her son’s room that night because she had other guests in her room. We ordered pizza, drank wine, and danced all night to all kinds of music. We did all sorts of things that week like exploring the town, hiking mountains to find beautiful hidden coves of crystal blue water, picnicked with jamon and melon, stayed up into the late hours of the night, attended house warming parties for friends which were conducted entirely in French, went salsa dancing with locals and shared stories from all walks of life.
One particular night, over two bottles of wine, Julie told me all about her life and family in Senegal, Africa. When she first arrived, she had all of her money stolen, which she expresses as a divine blessing. She lived in poverty with African families where they didn’t know where their next meal would come from and if lucky, had one plate of rice to share. She washed men’s underwear and clothes all day for 1 euro while they gawked and laughed at the irony of a white woman doing their laundry. She said she had never been so happy in her entire life.
“Africa is happiness,” she says with a joyful glow. “These people have nothing. Not a thing to offer, but their hearts …” She stretches her hands out as if grasping a beach ball in front of her chest, shakes her head and breathes out with misty eyes.
“Their hearts touch you. All the time they dance. They are the happiest people alive,” she finishes in her French accent.
Julie is the most genuine person I have ever met. She is a white, Jewish, French woman and her former husband is an African, Muslim muscian. Their son, Dial, is the beautiful combination of all things. Just 9 years old, he is exceptionally bright and struggles with his identity and lingering racism in school. He idolizes Michael Jackson and can dance just like him. He often asks his mother if he too, should bleach his skin white like Michael so he might also have white babies when he grows up. Julie attempts to explain to her son why his idol tried to appear as a white man and why he probably paid a donor for white children.
The whole thing is a concept so foreign to me that hits me with the weight of an entire building, crashing into me like a wrecking ball and sending my insides spiraling into pieces throughout space. And with every earnest look on Dial’s precious face, I want nothing more than to protect every child in the world from this feeling.
Julie wants me to go to Senegal and experience this way of living with her family there. Although the place frightens me, it intrigues me as well and I am tempted to visit. The three of us eat avocados drizzled in balsamic and more melon with Jambon for dinner, look at pictures of their family trip to Senegal, and dance to Michael Jackson for hours.