Fishing in Beirut

April 20, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 7)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 08:53

Monica was her name. She was watching an unruly musical display, and he went over afterwards and sat down. Performance of any kind provides strange confidence.
She was from Bologna she told him, over here studying.
“I like the way the songs all opened out,” she said.
He agreed, and wasn’t sure in that moment exactly what she meant. When he said his name was Frank it made her laugh. He was ‘Frankie’ for the evening, in the pub and on the bus and in her place. That night they made slow love and he went home.
The lads were awake in Bohmische Strasse, drawing upside down crosses on the wall. Pd was laughing hysterically. He’d been presented with a full Black Forest Gateau earlier by a neighbour, and had scoffed it all mercilessly in front of the others. The plate and fork and some napkins were strewn about.
Frank rolled a joint and the buzzer shocked him. Minutes later Martin bounded in.
“Jesus Christ boys, I’m after spendin’ all me money on two Russians. I’m all worn out and I think I need a drink.”
He sat down, sweating. The tale that followed left everyone mute. Two 25 year old blondes had made the Belfast pianist a believer, with the aid of ropes and feathers and their own God-given secrets and curves. Pd had to head for the can.
When he returned, the smoke had thickened. He fought his way through it and sat down. Frank strummed a melody on his guitar, and squinted around at the bizarre crosses on the walls. Dev poured whiskey on the floor and lit a fire. Blue flame danced for an instant, and then went out.
“With the lights off that’d be brilliant,” said Frank.
Indeed it was, flickering and writhing, shadows jumping and alive, smoke seeming thicker than natural. All of them were transfixed in the raging glow.

An hour later a helicopter flew overhead, and in their state they were sure it was coming for them. Frank covered his face with a towel and ran to the balcony to investigate. The chopper was circling menacingly, and he watched it in fear.
It was growing light now, the blue-dawn reality that was their lives. A time when things cemented and got lost when you slept again. Frank stared up at the helicopter, its red body and black wings, the whirling rotors like the charge of some coming apocalypse. He fell asleep on a chair with the towel on his head.

“Get up!” someone shouted. “Get up! There’s money to be makin’ on the Ku-damm.”
Frank couldn’t see for a second, and then remembered the towel was blocking his view.
He removed it, shivering in the air, his bones aching and cold. It was probably one or two but it could have been anytime.
Martin was gone, and The Behanser was striding about with a cup of soup in his hand, marshalling the troops for another day’s slog. From the bedroom Frank heard the groans of Pd.
“What the fuck,” said Dev, stepping onto the balcony and stretching. His hair was knotted and face creased. He yawned and spat down below, dredging up phlegm and depositing it. The distant concrete was too far for the splash to carry up.
They milled around the kitchen, banging into each other and picking at food. They grabbed the guitars and left.
The Mexicans were nowhere to be seen, so they were probably down the far end. Occasionally one of them disappeared and was replaced by a lookalike. The same belly, the same moustache, the same instrument. Another compadre allergic to the factory floor.
Dev sat on the ground and fondled his bodhran. Frank could hardly be bothered playing today. He formed chords distractedly, allowing the others bear the brunt.
Pd slapped his thigh as usual, keeping a rhythm entirely separate to that of the song. The fact no one could hear Dev rendered this moot. The music was greeted with hostility and appreciation in equal measure, and when Pd went round with the boot the collection was average. “Thank you, but no,” someone said. “Your music has not pleased me.”
After hitting the majority of the restaurants, they packed up and moved towards the tram. The short journey to Prenzlauerberg took them past Hackescher Markt and Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. .
Jason was on the square, drinking sangria and talking to himself. “Alright boys,” he said when he saw them approach. They sat with him and smoked, and it became obvious they weren’t going to play that night. They went to a shop and bought beer and jumbo skins.
It grew dark and the night was beautiful. Lorca-longing and the sweetness of what you can’t have. Frank lay back and closed his eyes, his head spinning. He breathed deeply, and thought of hope.
Jason sang a song, an ancient blues from the cotton field. The way he howled and shook he was Johnson or McTell. He convulsed back and forth, his head and body jerking, the strings besieged but holding strong. He spat on the ground and his ponytail worked loose and came free.
Oh woman what have you gone done to me?
Oh woman what have you gone done to me?
Well you took my lovin’ and then you cut me free.
The stars hung above, and the sound rose up to meet them. Speech wasn’t necessary, and drink was in plentiful supply.


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