Fishing in Beirut

January 21, 2010

Part 1: Getting There (scene 3)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 1: Getting There — fishinginbeirut @ 11:04

Johnny gets up, and God only knows what her name in that bed is, but he is out the door, with laces not yet tied. It’s seven or eight, an early workday morning, and the air is doing that tickling thing that makes you want to shake with joy. It’s a new day, and you’re in it. He turns up his collar and nearly trips over his laces.
Further down the street, which is called Alesia, he stops and ties them. Stops and ties them, looks like kneeling in a pew. Whatshername had clamped her leg over him when they finished, and left it there, grip-like, till morn. Between his shoulder blades throbbed slowly from the wriggling movements deemed necessary for extrication.
Whatshername was the latest in a long line of whatshernames. The most recent in his ever lengthening tights-ladder of less than twelve-hour courtships. She had kissed like she was thirsty. If he closed his eyes now on rue d’Alesia he could still be back in her room. Looking down upon her in her cramped orange bed, her face blurring, the smell of her skin. If he closed his eyes.
Johnny was 32, sometimes said 30, and others 35. Sometimes mumbled 33 – ‘like Jesus.’ Yes, behold!, the temporary Christ of the lonely single business girl, the ragged fucking Saviour, who rolled his own stone from the mouth of the cave come earthly break of day.
Every day for the past two years he had sat in front of the Centre Georges Pompidou and played acoustic guitar – not for money, not playing for the benefit of the tourists. How he fed and clothed himself was a mystery even to him, or at least was a mystery when he forgot about selling coke. He forgot as often as he could.
He arrived from Senegal three years before, known to all there as Jean, intimidated initially by choked Parisian sprawl. A room in the Goutte d’Or and the phone number of a distant cousin in case things got rough. He’d never called this cousin. Jean did become Johnny, and acquired a full-length leather coat, and lived predominantly on crisps and dry baguette, and cheap domestic champagne. He spoke English to Pompidou sightseers in a good mood, and scowled endlessly at nothing at all in a bad one. He sat there all day, was visited by many, and occasionally went entire weeks without playing so much as a note.
The darkness brought a hunger, and living things will feed. At night he walked into bars in potent places, and he knew the type he was looking for. The stylish attire, the make-up, but the bouncing of the dainty shoe on the foot and the demure dart-away glance betraying an at-heart office girl fed up competing with the boys. Where was her romance? her wistful lipcurl wondered, her mystery enigma – her knight in battered leather, whose breathing made hers fast. Well there he was across the floor, and he was looking at you.
He would wake up in the morning to another commentellesappelle.
He stopped into a bakery on rue d’Alesia and emerged a minute later with pain au chocolat. Stuffed the wrapping into a pocket and devoured. He didn’t think he’d ever been here before, but a sign said Denfert Rochereau up ahead, and that was on Ligne 4, and Ligne 4 went to Chateau Rouge, which was the closest stop to Johnny’s room on crumbling rue Leon. He could return and get the guitar, and be back at Beaubourg before today had even started.


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