Fishing in Beirut

April 27, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 2)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 09:34

Johnny stood by the window, a cigarette in his hand. It was cold outside, mid-February grimness. He pulled off the butt and dropped the remains to its fate. Someone had been working, graffiti marks all over the opposite wall.
The confines of his room were sufficient for today. He was sure he wouldn’t leave unless it was necessary. There was a magazine centre-fold stuck next to the mirror, but maybe that was stupid. He’d only put it there recently, and now took it down.
He smoked another cigarette, returning to the window. The kebab shop up the street was emitting steam. He watched with interest for a moment, the white billows curling upward, and then a small Turk came out flapping a towel. He cursed and waved it, coughing, and laughter could be heard from inside. Johnny half-coughed half-laughed, and then turned towards something else.
The clack of high heels had caught his attention. A working girl prowled up the street, incongruous in daylight – fishnets, boots, excessive inexpensive parfum. Her dark skin was worn and made her look older. She picked at her lip as she passed the kebab shop door. The inevitable whistles and catcalls ensued. She seemed more warrior-like than sexual, a marauding fierceness coupled with regret. Her frizzy hair was like Medusa.
Johnny’s phone made him lose her. He checked it, looked back out, and she was gone. Off to do battle or maybe just taking a break. He stayed where he was, looking up in that direction at nothing at all. There was a red garage door he’d never consciously noticed.
He stared at it. It was weird – so obvious and blatant now, and so why not on every other day? It was a vibrant red, a looking-to-be-commented on shade. He spat down below and wiped his jaw stubble. Was he going blind, or could he never picture the skyline for all the clouds?
He ate some bread and pretended it tasted better. This was difficult, but better than the stale reality. He drank water and felt breadcrumbs sticking in his throat. He worked the neck muscles, trying to free them, and swallowed.
Melissa had not been around lately. He hoped for her sake it was nothing more than her mood. She was prone to lose consciousness occasionally, to collapse in a heap from not eating. He thought of her for a second, on someone’s floor, and felt cold.
In the evening he went back to the window. It was dusk, twilight, people returning from dead jobs and physical toil. Factory hands, labourers, bakery assistants, and the partners of drunks. Johnny saw a little child scamper ahead of her mother, an enormous African in traditional dress. The girl hid in a doorway and pounced, but the mother was unflappable, deadpan and burdened with bags. Ha, ha, said the girl, and received a clip on the ear.
The moon rose and emptied the darkening street. Some brothers stood around, punching their chests and saying word. American rap lingo, picked up and mixed with their own.
Johnny smoked, and nodded his head when they waved to him. It wasn’t a wave, just a raising of the hand by one. The sense of community could be strong in odd moments, everyone seeming to know where everyone lived. It was hard to escape the idea your history was known.
“Ca va?” came a call to his right.
He turned his head, and coming down the street was Michel. Johnny spat, and went to look for the key.

Karen put down the phone an

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