Fishing in Beirut

February 25, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 7)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 10:02

Aria was at work. Customers came and went – coffee, bagels and currency, blurrily changing hands. She sighed and wiped her brow. It was another two hours before she finished, and she was feeling stressed today, being the only one on the till. Someone was looking for banana bread.
She explained it was gone and he didn’t understand, and she had to explain again, feeling stupid and pretty pissed. “It is gone?” he said in faltering English, like they always do, when they just won’t listen to your French. “Yes,” she answered. “That’s what I already told you.”
The owner came in, and observed her, hawk-like, from a distance. She was paranoid about staff giving so much as a biscuit to a friend. She hovered in a corner, fingers clicking, and pursed her mouth as if trying to remove a gum-trapped morsel. Aria tried to ignore her.
The smell of the bagels was sick-sweet. In the beginning, she had loved their taste and smell, but now they made her queasy, and she never took one herself. Still, the job was fine and untaxing, and if it didn’t feel that way today, at least she was aware this was an exception. She tied back her hair during a free moment.
“Hey,” said Laura, brandishing a student paper. She’d just walked in off the street. The owner visibly stiffened, Aria noticing out of the corner of her eye. She contemplated giving Laura a whole pack of biscuits, and giggled in her mind. Laura had made page six of the paper.
“Look,” she said. “It’s that thing I wrote about Lorca. I really didn’t think they’d print it.”
Aria wanted to read it, but unfortunately she couldn’t right then. It would have been tantamount to biscuit-giving in the eyes of some. A guy wanted to pay for a cappuccino, and she clanged open the cash register and deposited the change. The owner left abruptly.
“Read it to me,” said Aria. “I want to hear it, but I just can’t read right now. Go on, there aren’t too many customers.”
“OK,” said Laura. “It’s not too long anyway.”
She folded the paper and cleared her throat. Aria laughed, and Laura started reading.

“Garcia Lorca and the Children Still Unborn,” she declared, “by Laura Taylor.”

“‘We walk on
an unsilvered
mirror,
a crystal surface
without clouds.
If lilies would grow
backwards,
if roses would grow
backwards,
if all those roots
could see the stars
and the dead not close
their eyes,
we would become like swans.’

– “Earth” by Federico Garcia Lorca

“Lorca was…” Laura began, and then the owner cut her short. “I don’t pay you for this,” she said in English. Aria coughed and apologised, and Laura stepped back in surprise. Neither of them had seen her re-enter. Aria messed with her hair, and Laura moved towards the doorway. The owner exhaled dramatically.
There were no customers to deal with in that moment, so Aria was forced to busy herself doing nothing, while she was silently rebuked. Needless to say, it was a long moment. She heard a car horn from outside, and the yell of some irate pedestrian. A DJ yapped on the radio.
Eventually the owner left again, skulking away like a creature of the night. Aria relaxed, and rolled her shoulders. She felt like a scolded schoolgirl, and fiddled with a sugar packet as a distraction. Nobody in the café now. Very soon this day would be over, or at least this portion of it. She would not be regretting its loss.
The sun spread out on the tile floor, revealing dirt patches she thought she’d cleaned. She turned off the radio abruptly. The bagel smell wafted round her, and all the other smells and sounds. The coffee, the coffee machine. She looked at the mop in the corner, at the tea towel on the counter. “As long as there is people, there’ll be sun and death and rain,” said a sign on the wall. Aria yawned in boredom.
A woman came in and ordered soup, and so it was Aria and this woman together alone, the server and the served, like a woodcarving or a sketch. Supermarket soup, at a price to make you blush.
“Oh, c’est delicieuse,” exclaimed the woman, beaming.
Aria thanked her and smiled.
“C’est vraiment delicieuse,” the woman repeated, the type of woman who would never buy supermarket soup. “Mmm, mmm!”
Aria went back behind the counter, and asked her if she wanted the radio on. She didn’t, and the silence was sweet. They each went about their business in the afternoon, the woman eating, and Aria cleaning absently. She dusted and pottered about.
The clock wound on, and then she could finally close the shop. The metal shutters rolled down, and she was free for the day, and happy. The sun hit her pupils, or her retinas, or whatever part increases the seratonin levels and gives you that smiley something. She passed down the street like a leaf.
She made a detour by the river, and leaned against the wall on Pont Neuf, watching the sparkling water. There were readers and strollers on the banks, and a tourist cruise ship lay berthed to one side. A queue was forming for the next sailing, and she wondered what it was like to see the city in this way, and whether any queuing tourists would mistake her for a native. Une vraie Parisienne.
She started heading home, cutting across the square at the back of the Pompidou Centre, down rue Rambuteau, and up rue du Temple, to Place de la Republique. It was about a twenty minute walk, all in all. She felt that big-city lull and comfort – a peace in the eye of the storm sensation. Millions of dreams and thoughts, all around.
She crossed over Republique, and took the back streets to the canal. Here she paused again on one of the hump-back bridges – slow, placid water, perfect underneath. Two old men were fishing to her right, and a guy working in a video shop over the other side had stepped out for a smoke. The water caught the setting sunlight.
As she reached l’Hopital Saint Louis, she turned her head to the left, and a jutting piece of the Sacre Coeur shone between the buildings. It was illuminated already, though the sun had not completely sunk. Aria rounded the corner and the view disappeared, and now she was on her street, with the old and battered cobblestones. She would be home in less than a minute, and was dying to read Laura’s piece.

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