Fishing in Beirut

February 11, 2010

Part 3: Blue, July – Sept 2002 (scene 11)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 3 : Blue — fishinginbeirut @ 09:43

Sjal’s friend arrived. She was smaller, blonder, a cynic with a heart, and she took to caring for everyone with gruff maternal pride. Her name was Pernilla. She shook hands with Frank upon introduction, did not kiss his cheek, and wanted Sjal to confirm the English sentences she made, although they were perfect. Her eyes held distant secrets.
The three of them, along with Dev’s girlfriend Beth, went to the flicks, and then to the bar where Dev worked. Frank’s mind swam with the film he had seen. The story concerned an Italian actress, and had been written and directed by an Italian actress, who was herself playing the lead. It was shot on digital cameras.
This character was a star in Italy, and was desperate to make a film, which shared its title with the film on the screen. Her life was a tumultuous crash of drugs, parties, and abuse, most of it self-inflicted. The film was jagged, sprawling, egocentric and sublime, with dreams, violence, and desperate, lonely sex. It was a broken masterpiece.
Frank had been struck by his feelings for this girl, because for what girl? Was this person playing herself? The film seemed to suggest it was but a fictional documentary, reality thinly disguised, and if this was true, Frank wanted to find this girl and hold her tight. To push gently the hair from her tear-stained eyes.
He took out the hand-written copy of a poem he’d read and transcribed for keeping. He carefully smoothed the page.

‘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.’

What it meant he couldn’t say. Pernilla and Sjal spoke in Swedish beside him, and Beth watched Dev, as he poured and served cervezas. Frank listened to the Scandinavian tongue. It was German but wasn’t, was Dutch but wasn’t, though Dutch was closer than Deutsch. He had never heard it before.
He put the poem back in his pocket. He had been tempted before to ask Sjal for a translation, but had always refrained. It might lose something in the meaning. His glass was nearly empty, but the girls had plenty left, so he sat there in the evening, and listened while they spoke. They laughed and joked together.
“Can you understand any of this?” asked Sjal. “Maybe we should speak in English.”
Frank said he didn’t, but they should speak in whatever they liked. She said they liked speaking English, and so he asked what she thought of the film. She sat thinking carefully, considering either her opinion or how to phrase it, and Frank felt Pernilla watching, weighing up for herself the nature of this friendship. He took some of Sjal’s beer.

“It was quite hard to relate to,” said Sjal. “For me anyway. Her life was totally removed from mine, basically in every way, and for that reason I felt really far from it. So I’m not sure what I thought.”
Pernilla said she liked it more. Said she understood it. Frank had known this would be so, despite having just met her, and he watched carefully as she tried to articulate her feelings without mentioning whatever personal references she may have had. She was skirting something dark.
Frank got more beer for everyone, because if they didn’t drink it, he would. The night consolidated, evening light now gone. Dev served beer to Americans who couldn’t have been more than sixteen, their attempts to be adult failing to disguise the pure light of incredulous excitement. You can’t do this in the Land of the Free.
Frank and the girls drank slowly, needing to be nowhere else. Dev disappeared for a while to change a keg. This Cruzcampo beer was relaxing if it was anything, or it certainly was that night anyway. Frank felt happy right in the moment. Sjal and Pernilla spoke of their friends’ imminent arrival, in English, telling Frank their names and interests. Lise and Mette. He laughed at all these names, and they laughed at him for laughing.
Dev came back and stopped working, what with hardly any customers now, and two other bar staff on duty. He splashed a beer down beside the others.
“This place is terrible isn’t it?” he said, looking around and clicking his tongue in disdain. “Sometimes I want to start throwing things, just to see what’ll happen.”
He laughed at his own comment, and swivelled his head with a mock manic look in his eyes.
Beth drank from his glass.
Pernilla asked Dev to tell a story. He cleared his throat, and looked at Frank to share the humour in this. He had a glint in his eye.
“Let me see now,” he began, lapsing into pure country shtick. “Sure what feckin’ stories would I know?”
The Swedes were enchanted already, and Dev knew it, and in that moment Frank was reminded of how good a friend he really was, and always would be. Dev with his curly hair.
“I remember one time when I was back on the farrrrrrrrrrm,” said Dev, tugging at imaginary braces, “and there was a feckin’ goat that needed milkin’ quare fast. Jaysus, them were the fuckin’ days, y’know.”
Frank knew that Dev’s entire farming experience was limited to one school trip, but he naturally made no mention of this. Dev warmed to the theme.
“Anyway, this feckin’ goat, yeah. He never liked me. He never liked me one feckin’ bit I tell ya.” He smiled warmly. “He was an oul bollox.”
The girls were in stitches, and Beth and Frank basically were too, even though they’d heard this shit many times before. Dev kept catching Frank’s eye.
“So I walk up to him, yeah,” said Dev, “ this oul bollox of a goat. And he’s givin’ me the evil eye.”
He cleared his throat again, and took a swig that’d put out a fire. He swished it round his mouth like a cartoon.
“And I says to him; ‘what’s wrong with ya? Sure don’t ya need milkin’ quare fast?’ And he stands there lookin’, the evil eye fixed on me like a gun.”
“But surely you can’t milk a male goat,” said Sjal, and suddenly everyone realised just how ludicrous this story really was. It seemed to Frank that Dev was only sussing this aspect now as well. He laughed and drank more beer.
“I dunno,” he said. “I wouldn’t say you can. But there’s a first time for everything, y’know?”

So they finished drinking and left the bar, going somewhere else for wine and coffee. They passed the cathedral all bathed in lights. Moorish and Christian building, vying to praise the Lord, and tourist maps for money, all scattered on the ground. Sjal and Pernilla spoke gently in their Swedish, and nobody else said anything at all.

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