Fishing in Beirut

March 5, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 1)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:38

The leaf is the tree, and the tree is the earth. But still they are separate. Frank is in Grant Park, with his crutch beside him. Skyscrapers lunge upward in the downtown city hub. Clouds scurry to avoid them. Frank is in a morphine haze, the medicine supplied by doctors to combat dreadful pain.
To his left is Lake Michigan, to his right the Windy City. Around him trees and grass. It’s morning. He walks for as long as he is able these days, and has taken to sitting in this park. It’s near water. Homeless men drift about, and sometimes they talk to him or wave. If only the pretty girls would do the same.
The previous Tuesday down on Washington, he’d given five dollars to some woman. A beggar, a bum, whatever the term. She could have been forty or eighty. God bless you son she’d said to him, his eyes moistening from a draft. His ankle throbbed with pain.
He has memorised a number of intersections, battling to get to grips with the sprawling city grid. Street names are useless, it’s intersections that give bearings.
His body feels light and tingling; he has more drugs for when it doesn’t. Morphine, codeine, whiskey. The prescriptions for the first two are legal and correct, but the dosage for the third is one he wrote himself. The sweet Kentucky cure.
A leaf blows directly in front of him, skipping. It settles, then takes off again. He follows it with his eyes, his gaze resting on his discarded shoes and socks, placed on the grass in the sunshine. He slowly moves his ankle.
He is plagued by ideas of a perfect alternative life. He gets lost in constructions and conceits. Other places, perfect people. Things hidden. Maybe it’s just the injury, the morphine and being alone. Maybe it’s just today. He feels that in his life he can never say goodbye, can never leave to drift what is meant to float away. His fingertip rubs his forehead.
A group of school children walk past. Boys and girls, laughing pushing, perhaps five or six years old. That was Frankie one time. He clicks his tongue in disgust at this mawkish sentimentality, drugs and pain or not. He puts his shoes and socks on.
Walking back across Madison Avenue and into the city, he feels a shudder at the corner of Monroe and State. His right leg buckles for an instant. His arm grips his crutch, his entire torso leaning, shaking against it. Somebody stares in alarm.
Frank stands still, recovering from the shock and relaxing his muscles. It’s cooler here, with skyscrapers blocking the light. He sees a man get off a bus, his left leg severed at the knee. It makes him feel pathetic, and snaps away his self-pity.
He hobbles down the steps of the subway station, passing through the ticket barrier. The blue line will take him to Jefferson Park. There are crowds on the platform, and he’s self-conscious and totally alone. He feels that his jacket is ridiculous.
The train comes and they shuffle aboard. No vacant seats of course, and he hopes he won’t fall and embarrass himself. Somebody would get up if he asked them, but he wants this even less.
It rattles and shakes through the tunnels, leaving the Downtown area and emerging overground. It’s northwest all the way. Soon he will be home, in tree-lined squirrel suburbia. His aunt and uncle’s house. A deaf man passes out key rings, as the train lets off at Belmont. Four more stops to go.


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