Fishing in Beirut

April 25, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 12)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 11:03

There was a gig to be done before leaving. It was in a beer garden by the river, with a wooden stage and tokens for drinks. Each band member got three tokens to use whenever.
Frank’s strings were so worn it was difficult tuning them. They’d have served better purpose as fishing line. He wound the pegs in the sunshine, knowing his time in this city was nearly through. By nightfall he’d be bus-bound towards London.
An unusual assortment of patrons drank and ate schnitzels and currywurst. Kids, old people, Africans with dreads, expats. In the corner by a pool table Turkish girls showed off their thongs.
“Remember,” said The Behanser, “we’ve got to do three fucking hours here, so no amount of solos or breaks can be deemed too long.”
Pd had disappeared to smoke and use the phone.
“I was just saying there,” said The Behanser on his return, “take your time on this one. If anyone wants to try anything it’s all part of the song.”
Dev scraped his nails along his bodhran saying it was good for the skin. A child wandered over to investigate and ran back to her mum.
“And a one, two, a one, two, three, four –
Oh come over to the window my little darling…
They started as they always did, So Long Marianne by Leonard Cohen. It was one of those songs they never got tired of playing. Frank felt he must have done it more times than L. Cohen himself by now, and watched his hands make the chords, not thinking.
One tune followed another, with extended instrumental parts, and more beer breaks than the tokens warranted. At one point a Rasta with his own drum joined them on stage.
“I hope he doesn’t think he’s getting in on the cut,” whispered The Behanser.
“Well if he does we’ll just break it to him gently,” said Pd.

They took a rest at four, stretching out on wooden benches and rolling grass. Frank had broken a string but was unconcerned. The crowd was shifting before them, people drifting in and out and maybe staying for a while. It was a no-pressure gig – just make a constant sound and the money was theirs.
“This next song is for all the ladies,” said Pd, not realising his fly was undone. The Turkish girls in the thongs ignored them like flies. Unperturbed, they stuck with it, sweat on their brows and lightness in their hearts. The song for the ladies was actually a folk song about death.
The owner appeared to one side, her arms folded, but a smile on her face. Some people in the audience were clapping and so was her son. Frank sensed another string about to go, and then it cracked loose and whiplashed outward, the short part attached to the peg, the rest trailing down. The Behanser beefed up his strum to compensate if he could.
In the end, they got paid and went drinking. There was a bar boat docked on the far side of the bank. They walked across, the river sparkling.
“So here’s to you Frank,” said Dev. “Sure we hardly knew ya.”
The others raised their glasses to toast his last day. It was a sad and hectic experience, the knowledge this part of life was over. Everything was so fast, and so blurring, and so gone.
How long he had been in Berlin he couldn’t say. It was a fantasy camp, a dream, a story ending. He felt a tear in his eye and finished his beer. Berlin when day broke was the reason God gave him breath. The sun in the sky and the ache in his soul. The hope that his hope would never desert him in conflict.
The water was rippling gently down below them. He was noticing details now, the sound of traffic in the distance. A bee landed on the table, paused, and flew off again.
“It’s at nine o’clock the bus, yeah?” said The Behanser. “Sure you’ve plenty of time so.”
They played cards and remembered stories. The day of departure brings a softness no other can match.

It was evening, the moon visible but the sky still bright. They were camped around Zoo Station at the terminal. A beggar with a McDonalds cup faded and reappeared beside strangers, requesting money in a whispered, alien tongue. His hair was matted and congealed like a wet dog’s.
The hum of bus engines and the smell of petrol was familiar. Drivers stood around talking, passengers smoked last cigarettes. One or two kids loitered to watch bags loaded on.
“There’s loads of fuckin’ nuns around,” said The Behanser. “I wonder are you goin’ to be travelling with them.”
“You can give them a good seeing to,” said Pd, smiling.
Frank showed his ticket to the man. It was last call, most already in their seats now. The lads all shook his hand and folded their arms.
“We need smokes,” said Dev to The Behanser.
A tyre squealed in the traffic. There were people all around – tourists, Berliners, who knows. Frank had Monica’s U-Bahn map in his shirt. With one final nod he turned to the door, and looked up at the driver, his hand on the wheel. It was a long old journey, from pleasure and strangeness to the unknown.
He grinned. He was safe in the knowledge he could always come back. The city would still be there, forever. Frank gripped the handle, and got on the bus.

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