“Tension leading to an impasse. A balance of power. A conflict of worlds, ideas or ideals.” Steve Luca via Japaridze Tarot
Giuseppe’s gleeful demeanor darkened. His eye gaze shifted from the beauty of Parc Phoenix to memories of a distant past – almost as if the mention of her name had haunted him. “Freya? What makes you ask?” Selene quickly noted his change in body language – from the shift of his gaze to a slight slouch on his shoulder – Who was this woman? How exactly did she fit into Giuseppe’s life? “Ms. Laguerre?” Selene nodded. “Well, I think this is a conversation best saved for the bookstore. I can provide you with visuals – photographs, paintings, things of the like. What do you say we head to Trois de Jardins?” Selene shook her head yes and asked, “Would it be possible to stop by my flat on the way? I left my phone charger and I often use an application on my phone to catch rides back to the flat when it’s late at night.” Giuseppe responded, “Well, of course.”
They arrived in the building where Selene’s flat was located and the smell of cigarettes overpowered the hallway. While Selene entered the apartment to get her phone charger, Giuseppe relished in the nicotine tinted air in the old brick building. The aroma reminded him a New Year’s Eve he had spent with Freya in Boston. The year prior, both had taken a road trip across the United States starting in Los Angeles. For the entire month of December, they had stayed in a small apartment that belonged to one of the sibling’s of a friend of Freya’s. “All set.” Selene came out of the flat ready to head to the bookstore. As they walked towards the bookstore Giuseppe began to tell Selene of that New Year’s Eve they had spent in the city among some of Freya’s friend. The joy he had felt. The year had been 1994.
Upon arriving at the bookstore, Giuseppe looked around, opened the store, turned on a small light and headed straight towards the painting room. He then remembered there was something he had forgotten. “Ah! The photo album!” He went to a small safe in the southeast corner of the room Selene had failed to notice the first time she entered. He opened the safe and pulled out what appeared to be a photo album. Giuseppe flipped through the pages until he pulled out a photo of a lovely ballerina. The photo was labeled as Freya (1965). “Right after I left Brazil in 1977, I went to Italy. My intention was to spend some time with my parents as they were in their fifties and time wasn’t moving backwards. I was twenty-six and it had been exactly a decade since I last had visited Naples. I remember arriving and feeling a warm embrace – as if the city never held onto any grudges for me having left. After a few nights home, I became restless. I think my parents wanted to keep me all to themselves – based on my travel patterns, they were afraid it was the last time they were to see me. On a Friday night, January 27th to be exact, I decided to head to a pub in the center of the city. It was there that I met Freya. Her hair was up in a tight ballerina bun, she wore a sleeveless, patterned dress that rested right above the knee, and high-heels. She made the room brighter. That night I had the courage to speak to her. We spoke for the entirety of the night and once the pub closed, we walked around the city until we saw the sunrise. That night, I asked her if it was possible to see her again. She told me to meet her at the same pub the following Friday.”
Giuseppe flipped through the photo book frantically searching for something. Suddenly, he stopped and carefully pulled another photograph out of its encasing – a photo of the pub from March 1968. “How long did you stay in Naples?” Giuseppe chuckled. “I had promised my parents that I was only going to stay for a two-week time period. Yet, the week after meeting Freya, she was all I could think about. Normally, I would be planning for my next city, for my next stay, for my next adventure. That week was different. Every corner I turned, I would do so hoping and praying I would run into the lovely ballerina I had met at the pub. At this point in my life, I had met my fair share of beautiful people, but Freya’s intense and direct energy was captivating in a manner I barely have the words to describe. I’ve spent the rest of my life buried in books in an attempt to find the right words to describe the essence of her soul.” Selene looked at the old man in front of her light up as he spoke of this woman that had changed the way he perceived the world.
He continued, “The following Friday, I awaked with an all-consuming joie de vivre. I remember nearly skipping on my way to the pub! That night, I asked Freya that if at all possible, I wanted to see her more often. I still remember her laughter and the twinkle in her eyes when she responded, ‘I’ll have to see if it that’s possible’. She led a demanding life devoted to the dance universe. It was her passion. I still can feel sensations in my body arise when I remember the first time that I saw her dance in front of an audience – it’s almost as if she was possessed by the all the muses themselves. Eventually we began to see each other more often. My two weeks turned into months. I found a job in Naples. Got a small apartment near the pub. And lived contently in one place for a while. At the same time, I reconnected with a lot of my childhood friends. My life flourished. However, one evening while flipping through my travel journals I felt a deep melancholy settle in my soul. On a Thursday evening, while waiting for Freya, I took out a map from my satchel – one I always carried with me. There was still so much world for me left to see. When Freya arrived, I asked her to travel the world with me. I told her of this elaborate story of us I had managed to craft that afternoon. Freya began to cry and then spoke to me in anger, ‘How dare you insinuate that I leave my dance career behind! You are like those other men!’ She walked out of the coffee shop and ran down the street. I chased after her. I apologized – but suddenly it seemed as if something had been broken.” Giuseppe’s story reminded Selene a lot of the story Mr. Flaubert had shared with her. However, it seemed that though Mr. Flaubert had eventually found a new Mrs. Flaubert, Giuseppe had not.
“In July of 1978, I gathered all of my savings, packed all of my bags and headed to India. After arriving, I felt an empty void in my soul for the many days, weeks, and months that came. I wrote to Freya on a daily basis. So much so that the india post workers knew me by my first name. Freya never responded to any of my letters. I painted this painting – Two of Winds to try and capture what I felt was going on between us.” Selene looked at the painting in front of her. The painting was a lot more minimal that Giuseppe’s other paintings. It wore a light blue, slightly cloudy background and had an odd figure in the forefront. The head of the figure was in the shape of a bat – forming a dark face in the middle. From the wings of the bat, the body was split into two. The right side of the body was yellow and bore a geometric shape. The left side of the body was that of snake. Both pieces were conjoined by a conch from which a pair of hands protruded; the right holding a spear, the left holding a sword. That Christmas, December of 1978, she appeared in front of my apartment. It was a rather embarrassing day. I was walking home with a woman I had just gone on a date with, only to be greeted by a fiercely powerful ballerina at my door. When I arrived at my door that evening, I remember bursting into laughter. I remember feeling tense and saying, ‘Freya, next time you plan to visit, please warn me in advance!’ The woman I had walked home with must have felt the tension because she simply walked away. There we were – Freya and I, face to face. After our encounter in India, I continued to travel and Freya continued to visit me during the holidays. This arrangement was ongoing for five years. She continued dancing, I continued to voyage. In 1983, Freya relocated to Nice to become a dance teacher – eventually opening a studio of her own. I followed her there and we began to build a life. And here I am today.”
Selene looked at the calendar sitting on top of the bookshelf. She stared at the date it displayed – her second to last night in Nice. Though her time there had been riddled by illness, not exactly what she had expected, it had been transformative. “Where is Freya today?” Holding back tears, Giuseppe responded: “We built a beautiful life. In the beginning, while she continued to establish her dance school, I continued to travel solo. Once her school was established, we traveled together. We would go to two countries per year for extended periods of time. She loved it!” Giuseppe laughed as he spoke of her joy. “A year after our New Year’s Eve in Boston, she was diagnosed with late stage cervical cancer. A year after her diagnosis, in November of 1997, she passed away. Well my dear, I think it’s time I close shop and you head back. You have long travels ahead of you.” Selene said her goodbyes to Giuseppe. That night, instead of calling a ride home, she decided to walk under the full moon. While she took breath after breath on the streets of Nice she contemplated the pain that we all carried, the grief that has been in residence with the joys of the brightest souls on Earth – the full range of feelings in the human experience.