We walked barefoot on the sand, picking up shells we liked the shapes of and putting them in the little bags on our backs. We laughed because we felt like kids again, me at twenty-four, Eliane at forty-something. But then again, age and vitality are very rarely tied to one another, I’ve come to realise.
Lunch was shared with our feet dangling off the edge of a small cliff, by a giant, white, seaside mansion. We talked about how our role as people in the human family is not to judge, but to love. It’s a far better occupation, we together decided. At one point I looked at Eliane’s green eyes sparkling in the sunlight and I felt like I was looking at a blood relative, someone sharing my DNA because of sharing my perspectives.
Back in the tiny white car and around a number of bends until another castle came into view, and we parked and walked around a port filled with little sailboats and kids walking by, licking cones filled with ice-cream of all different colours. At least thirty dogs passed by over the hour we were out, with their humans attached to leashes, and with every passing ball of fluff I felt myself rejuvenate a little more, and remember who I am and the very simple things that make me feel happy and complete: animals and the ocean and smiling children, all very much at the top of the list.
The streets were crowded and French words were thrown at me, trying to sell me this and that, or making inappropriate comments I'm surprised to have completely understood but am choosing to forget. Bodies brushed against me in the hustle and the bustle, hands grabbed at my bag and my pockets, and for the first time in my life I felt unsafe, and sick inside, like there was a brick in my stomach, dragging me down and tuning my senses to hyper. Every sound and smell and sight was dark and awful and I knew I needed to leave as soon as an escape presented itself. And in that moment I wanted future me to remember how that felt, how it felt to feel so unsafe and borderline terrified, because that's how so many people feel every single day, and only on that one, single occasion, privileged, white-girl me was experiencing it for her very first time. And so I reached into my bag and pulled out my plastic box-shaped visual journal-keeper, raised the camera to my eye and closed the shutter on that very moment in time.. then quickly zipped my bag back up and held it close to my chest like a new-born baby.