Fishing in Beirut

April 19, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 6)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 07:53

Karen balanced the toast on her hand while buttering it. Her fingers and her thumb and the bread made a perfect triangle. Her mother entered the kitchen and said good morning, an open window permitting sounds like the chirping of birds. Karen listened to their singing carefully, six little arias blending to make a bigger whole.
She finished and stood up, washing the implements, and replacing them. French grammar and syntax were in her brain. This morning she’d learnt the future for I will and I’m going to. Future forms were actually easier than those for the past. She had homework to do for tomorrow’s class, sentences to construct and read out. She worked with the aid of a dictaphone.
In the garden she sat with her walkman. She drank some iced water and ran her fingers through the grass. It was so strange to know she was leaving, every phone call to Janey an oddity in itself. She’d hang up and remember she wasn’t kidding.
Her mother came out and sat beside her. Karen took off her headphones having heard her over the sound. They talked of the flowers in the garden, her mother saying the sunflowers were as high as the fence. A lawnmower from a yard in the vicinity hummed benignly.
Her mother had picked up a summer cold, and coughed occasionally, excusing herself each time. She voiced her concerns over Paris. The lawnmower stopped, giving an initial eerie quietness, the kind that arrives when people are unconsciously talking very loud, and then the reason for this evaporates. They realised they were shouting, and laughed. Karen heard her mother scratching at her face and exhaling.
“I really do wish you’d reconsider. You don’t know that city, and at least here I know how you are. I worry for you, and I’m not sure how much you appreciate that.”
“I do Mom,” said Karen. “But I have to do this for myself.”
There was a pause and her mother continued.
“I don’t think it will be good for you. I mean going to Europe alone. You’ve never done anything like this honey. And your father never trusted those French.”
Karen laughed out loud, a laughter flecked with sorrow, and told her mother to stop. She was going and this was ridiculous. It’s still a few months away she said. Are we going to have this conversation every day? Her mother was silent, batted away until the next time, which could be tomorrow, the next day, or this afternoon. Her persistence was the key to her personality.
Karen went inside and entered the bathroom. She brushed her teeth and hair. She knew her mother was worried, and sometimes this worried her too, but come on, it was fine. She was intelligent, capable, and, you know, Janey would be there to meet her. She sighed and reached for some floss.
“Have you had your breakfast yet honey?”
Her mother was shouting from the garden.
“Yes,” droned Karen to herself. She felt hemmed in and cramped by this scrutiny, and it strengthened her resolve to depart. She slammed the bathroom window in frustration.


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