Fishing in Beirut

January 19, 2010

Part 1: Getting There (scene 2)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 1: Getting There — fishinginbeirut @ 11:17

Frank sat by the river and smoked grass. The October sun made flashes on the water, disturbed only by passing sightseeing cruisers. He spat off the quai, shivered in his filthy jacket, and eyed forlornly a small girl waving from a boat. She smiled with dancing eyes, but he didn’t lift his hand.

‘Andamos
sobre un espejo
sin azogue,
sobre un cristal
sin nubes.
Si los lirios nacieran
al reves,
si las rosas nacieran
al reves,
si todas las raices
miraran las estrellas
y el muerto no cerrara
sus ojos,
seriamos como cisnes.’

Frank knew this poem off by heart, but he didn’t know what it meant. Never picked up Spanish in Sevilla, never had the inclination to. He saw this lack of knowledge as being utterly unimportant, because the sheer act of recitation bore its own weight for him. He rubbed an insect bite on his hand, and by doing so set in train a constant need to do so. Gratification only came when he stopped.
There was a smell of urine from the bank below. He shifted about, his jeans scraping stone. The night before he had been out walking late, and had looked up and seen a man in a window, like a distant yellow TV screen, talking on a phone. Silhouetted dreadlocks, and the warm African French carried down softly on the chill wind.
“Non, mais dis-moi,” the man had murmured. “Je ne peux pas attendre.”
If you could get up to that room, and go down that phoneline, and wind up next to the other speaker, what world would you have entered? Is it a bedroom or a kitchen, a bathroom or a hall? Maybe you’d be in an alley, on a street, and what is it that’s needed, and what just cannot wait? And what if after this call someone called the caller, this man who’s somewhere else, and you went down that phoneline, and on and on. Would you end up right beside someone you know? Would you have passed by needles and agony to get from here to there? Have spied on naked skin, heard yelping dogs? What worlds are behind walls? Can you be connected to that man in the window by a snaking chain of people, and neither of you know it, and never will you know?
Frank had let his mind wander and thrown away his beercan, and wound up nowhere but home, alone and out of drink. Now a day later he sits by the Seine, and he won’t even wave to a child from who knows where, a child who when she’s fifty will say once I was in Paris.
He rolled his neck and spat. Slick saliva puddle kissing pissy Paris ground. He lay down on his back and there were no clouds overhead. Concrete coldness seeped through the hair on his head, permeating the back of his skull, hurting the bones. He sat back up and re-attacked the insect bite. It gave as good as it got.
There was a flutter to the left, and he turned to see a pigeon strutting about like one of those rappers talking ice and bitches, head and shoulders in motions of brain dead arrogance. Raised his arm violently, and it hopped and cooed and flew. There was near stillness by the water now. Ripples.
Frank got up and pissed by the quai wall. Two American tourists marched by, the woman clucking in disdain. The swish of anoraks and jeans. He watched them powerwalk over the cobbles, gesturing as they spoke. They grew smaller, too distant to be heard. Then they disappeared around the bend.

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