February 6, 2008
By Katrina N. Mueller
Third grade at the time
It all started with a cloud.
Stacy was proud of her French heritage and would flaunt it at every opportunity. She was tall and thin, with long, straight hair down to her bottom. My small, chubby body, and mop of unruly curls seemed ugly by comparison. I was in awe of her. Stacy was exotic and beautiful and strong, like a fantastical bird of prey. I felt lucky, and a little confused, when she acknowledged my existence.
One day, in early March, Stacy and I were playing on the swings. We were chattering idly when suddenly she glanced up and gave a startled shriek. I jumped and looked around wildly for the cause of her alarm.
“Stacy! What's wrong?”
She let her swing slow and then stop, pausing dramatically before she pointed into the sky with a trembling finger. “It's him,” she gasped. “It's the Snake.”
The proper noun status of the word was apparent in her voice. I followed the line from her finger to a single, thin cloud in the sky. It looked vaguely like a kite, or a snake, I supposed. A rough diamond shape with a trailing wisp behind it. Curiosity overwhelmed my fear and I said timidly, “...the Snake?”
Her deep brown eyes were wide as she imparted the tale:
“Several generations ago my family was cursed by gypsies. No one is allowed to speak of what happened, but ever since that day, the Snake has been following us. It watches from above, waiting, following us and using its dark French magic against us. It's... Oh no!” She cried out again and stared at the snake. “It's déjà vu!”
“What is déjà vu?” Panic gripped me. If there was any sort of strange French magic going on, I wanted no part of it! “Stacy! What is déjà vu?”
She looked at me again and whispered, “Déjà vu... It's an old French magic.” I leaned close, afraid to hear more but too enthralled to stop her. “It's like going back in time. The Snake is sending me back in time! I'm having déjà vu, and you're a part of it... I remember sitting on the swings with a girl like you. A blond girl in a purple coat! You're a part of my déjà vu!”
I stared at the Snake in the sky, paralyzed. The shape of the cloud had sagged and melted, but it didn't matter. The Snake had already cast its magic on me. I had gone déjà vu with Stacy. My life, I realized, wasn't my own. I was part of Stacy's déjà vu. I didn't exist, except as a part of the Snake's dark magic...
I don't exist! And at that thought, my uncertain grip on reality shattered. I ran blindly, screaming, from that thought. Only later did I realize I could hear her laughing as I ran.
I'm not sure how long I was lost in that frenzied state. I remember being sent home from school because I kept babbling about not existing – deep thoughts for a third grader! It took awhile for me to realize I still existed apart from Stacy's monster snake-in-the-sky.
To this day, I still shudder helplessly when I hear someone say those two words: déjà vu. That old French magic still gives me the shivers.