Fishing in Beirut

April 22, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 9)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 09:03

Johnny smelt crepes wafting over. Tourists in the sunshine with food and drink in their hands. It was packed on the piazza today, hardly room to swing a dead guitar. Pretty girls and moneyed boys and cameras.
A portrait artist to the right had ensnared an American girl on his stool, and was painting her flirtily while she laughed and messed with her hair. Her friends were all standing around with ice cream and soda cans.
Johnny watched the scene easily. Their legs were tanned but too young, and he wrinkled his nose. They had bouncy ponytails, and a burgeoning awareness of feminine persuasion. They were gradually learning how their glances might come to be used.
He stood up and rubbed at his eyeballs. His teeth joined together and his cheeks squashed into his nose. To be active on this day was a superstar endeavour, and he had no intention of moving in the deadness of the heat. His boots were stuck to his socks which were part of his skin now.
He played a song and briefly attracted attention. Not from the girls but from a hobo scouring a bin. The man paused for an instant, training himself on the sound and then resuming. He talked in a fast hiss to no one and unearthed some bread.
Johnny took a call from Michel, a nervous new client recently arrived from Bordeaux. He’d met him through Lorena. Lorena was returning to Sevilla within the fortnight, feeling an urge to be back in her hometown, temporary wanderlust sated. Paris est trop she said, too stressed and too much.
A man offering shoulder massage set up a complicated chair to the left, a dentist-type apparatus with a hole for breathing as you lay. The plan was to entice customers to lie on their stomach with their face through this hole, and he would ease away their aches and pains with his muscle rub. Johnny strongly considered it, but what was the use?
The first customer pronounced the service excellent. He was an Indian portrait artist, a regular on the square, and he lay down like a dead man, relaxing into the experience and emerging revitalised. Johnny was envious, but couldn’t bring himself to approach.
Instead he went to the supermarket, picking up crisps, bread, and cheap champagne. The pop of the bottle was like the start of a party that never was. He chugged it down and broke off some bread, using the alcohol to ease the dry food down. The flavour of the crisps was not what he wanted and he dumped them.
Back on the piazza the masseur was gone, and a guy making paintings from oil had taken his place. This was real, car engine oil, and the odd black creations were spread out on the pavement for punters. Everyone looked, but nobody reached for their cash.
Johnny guessed he’d been gone for an hour and a half, wandering around at Les Halles and stretching his legs. This guy was churning off these pictures like an assembly line. One would get finished and he’d start another, his face covered by a mask for the fumes of his material. They were all much the same, and his jeans were soaked in the dark stuff.

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