Fishing in Beirut

January 15, 2010


Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 1: Getting There — fishinginbeirut @ 11:47

There’s someone dying on the balcony above. They’re coughing and coughing, and it doesn’t sound good. An ominous death rattle. It blends with the music in Frank’s room, and its harshness is somehow exacerbated. It starts and stops, and there is silence, and then suddenly a volley of phlegm-flavoured drum roll crackles in the dusk, and ripples out to mix with occasional traffic, birdcalls, and Frank’s music. Frank’s music from the flat below.
Frank is 23, and lives in Paris. He sits in his room, plays solitaire with a three-card turnover. His hair is too long, but he has no friends here who will cut it. He doesn’t want to go to a hairdresser.
Many people have cut Frank’s hair. Some are no longer friends, and some are, and live in Berlin, and Chicago, and Sevilla, and elsewhere. Dublin too, where Frank was born.
The coughing won’t stick to a pattern. It starts and stops, and there is silence, and then suddenly…The interval is never the same. It’s the sound of an ailing body Frank is hearing. A sharp and frightening cough, braying for all the sick and lonely of the world.
It’s not dark yet, but the sun is slipping. The birds move toward their homes in military formations. Traffic occasionally, but less than before. Frank’s music is making him cry. He wants to hear the air, the space, the distant freeway motion, not this wretched coughing, and no longer this oily tune. He turns it off abruptly, and there’s nothing on the street below. The coughing’s gone, and that’s a faraway carhorn. It’s peaceful and small, and oddly too it’s warm – strangers going home in cars he doesn’t know. He moves to his window and wipes his trickling cheeks, and leans out, solitary, in the cool evening calm.
And then there is the cough.
He pushes back in disgust. Slams the window, but feels too hot and stuffy. Opens it again, resigning himself to this raucous torture. A bronchial hacking, slashing at his ears.
Frank’s trousers are torn in several places. Random holes here and there. His shirt is creased and open.
“Open up your shirt honey,” a girl had said once, with laughter, and gentle calming mockery. A distant, distant time, a half-forgotten place.
“Open up your shirt, and let me touch your skin.”
An Italian girl in a German city, who said shirts opened up, and performance opened out.
“Open up your shirt,” and Frank had complied.
He walks around the room in a circle, making it bigger, smaller, on each tiny lap. He paces about, and God’s sky darkens.
Buttons coming free, his breathing growing rapid.
“Open up your shirt Frankie, open up your shirt.”


The coughing has abated, the day is fully night. Frank’s cigarette glows brightly, and you won’t find a light on here. Breathing growing rapid, in a distant, distant place.


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