Fishing in Beirut

May 13, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 16)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 09:05

A week after the event it was still the only news item. The death count had become an official tally that was fluctuating less. 1,410. Of course it was conceivable more bodies would be found, but Karen knew it had stayed at this figure for two days already. She knew also that a letter had been sent to Le Monde.
The sensation caused by this discovery was refusing to abate. It had arrived in the paper’s offices on Friday 23rd, which made it late according to its postmark, but service had been disrupted. The letter provided the bomber’s rationale, and was splayed across the front page. Every other newspaper reprinted it as soon as they were able to.
Karen had heard its contents read out so many times. On the TV, the radio. Every day she took five calls from her mother, pleading with her to come home. She wasn’t sure why, but the event had seemingly hardened her resolve to stay.
She’d made sure Michel was OK, not thinking, just phoning automatically. This was on the Tuesday, twenty-four hours post-attack. He’d sounded so down, but no, he hadn’t been near the blast. The conversation ended when he launched into a speech about needing her.
“I just wanted to make sure you weren’t hurt,” she’d murmured, saying goodbye.
It was strange how occasionally she could forget everything, doing the ironing, dusting. For perhaps a five minute period there had been no bomb. Then she’d pause, and it returned. It was such a hard-to-gather-together alien thing.
Terrorist war in New York and now in Paris.
She had immediately seen it in global terms, speculating. As bad as Chirac was, surely he could avoid the mistakes of Bush. The government noises had been dignified and appropriate thus far, but what they might lead to, who knew. Often, failing to sleep, she pondered various likely and unlikely outcomes.
She hadn’t stopped walking, because she didn’t see any reason why she should. From the subdued streets, it was obvious many others did. At normally busy times of the day there was a pronounced hush, striking on a bustling thoroughfare like rue de Rennes.
General uneasiness remained in the city ambience. The buying of goods and services had a mechanical feel. The tone of life in a shop or park was one of abject confusion – the atmosphere of a wake following a genuinely unexpected death. Laughter was conspicuous by its absence.
Karen began tuning out of the endless news bulletins. It was clear how in actual fact nothing was being said. Theories, ideas, no more or less informed than her own. She took sanctuary in her everyday routine, exercising, working, and understanding the event for what it was. It was not the apocalypse. Life was still happening in Stockholm, Beirut, and Lyons.
On a bus she heard a conversation between two old women. This is what happens when we let those people live here. What people she was going to ask, but why bother. Such an attitude lives to snatch at reasons to exist. In the aftermath of September 11th, Americans grew both anti-Arab and anti-French.
Chirac said calm was necessary. Raffarin said much the same. The streets of Paris were morgue-like and uncertain, and most of the citizenry simply stayed in doors. Birds and rodents never had it so good.


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