Fishing in Beirut

May 19, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 22)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:42

Frank and Aria spent the afternoon at Allee des Synges, sitting on a bench, watching the water. Before leaving they wandered down to the Statue of Liberty, and stood staring out at the calmness of the Seine. Frank told her it was his favourite view in the city.
They held hands lightly, fingers gently kneading. An easy breeze played and danced with their hair. A tourist cruiser rounded the jutting walkway they stood on, returning towards the Eiffel Tower and the place it would berth. A pretty little girl waved her hand and they both waved back.
Aria pushed a piece of gravel over the jetty’s edge and smiled at the plop. She looked down at the dirty, clouded ooze. There was all manner of contaminated rubbish probably buried there, bottles, cans, condoms and long disintegrated bread. The water made a lapping sound against the stone.
Frank was going to look at her but stayed looking at the water. Their hands were barely touching, so light that they tickled. In another second maybe she would gently pull away from him. He felt electricity in his fingertips and down along the sides.
The sun shone strongly on their faces, and she squinted. It was Bastille Day, the 14th of July. The evening would bring fireworks, drinking, a celebratory disruption of routine. Austere parts of the city held hostage by noise.
Aria walked over to the statue, and sat underneath. She was half in sunlight and half shaded. Her hair fell across her face and she seemed to Frank a stranger. For a split second he had no idea who she was.
Her left eye was hidden, her lip curling upward. It was an angle, an expression, completely new, transforming and surreal. He stared and she noticed him, and then she broke the spell by smiling.
He walked to her, sat alongside. He knew she didn’t want to touch him, not in that moment, and that was fine. He scratched the back of his neck where he thought maybe he’d been bitten.
The sun pierced through a cloud, unsettling, stabbing. He felt suddenly afraid, utterly alone. He turned to look at Aria, and she was looking at the ground, her hair falling down, her hands placed neatly on her knees. He became aware of his breathing, and was crushed in deep sorrow.
Would this ever fully go? Could it always return to unnerve him on a whim beyond control? Awareness, negative focusing, impeding the ability to just sit, stand, walk. Perhaps it could only be accepted, his reality when it came.
She threw her arms around him. She just slid over and embraced him, holding him tight. He started crying, and laughing, his body reaching for hers. She caressed his face, sweet water from his eyes on her wrist.
His arms were around her waist, her back, Frank desperately trying to communicate more than he could. To hold, squeeze into life what words couldn’t say. In the sunshine, in the summer, at the foot of a statue in Paris in 2004. He wanted some gesture or motion that said nothing but love.


May 15, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 18)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:40

Aria pulled up the shutters and unlocked the door. The place had an unusual aura first thing in the morning, unsullied by customers and motion. She flicked on the power, and started warming bagels.
The mirror along the wall was sporting a smudge mark. She must have missed it the day before. The warm bagel smell hit her nose as she rinsed a cloth, and set about easing the smudge into a memory. She ran the cloth over the tables, straightening crooked napkin dispensers.
While the coffee machine shuddered into wakefulness, she wrote on the blackboard and placed it at the door. The guy across the street in the flower shop nodded hello. She heard the coffee percolating, and paused in the morning sun, half-inside, half-outside the café. Coffee while it’s forming is called percolating, but God only knows why.
She raised the blinds and the sun crept in. It stretched a quarter of the way across the first table, and she smiled when she thought it would slowly fill more of the room. Its gently increasing advancement would accompany her through the day.
Dust was visible in the air, catching in the rays and dancing about. She was going to swish it with the cloth, but left it act naturally. Already it was May, and she had been in Paris over a year. Whispers of trauma were almost inaudible in her soul.
She replenished the fillings running low or whose appearance was unsavoury. Red onion, olives. The cookie jar looked a little grimy, clouded, so she emptied the biscuits out and gave it a wash. The chewing gum and lollipops in the corner spied on proceedings.
The sun was now a little further. It was in possession of the first table, and had begun serenading the floor. Unfortunately the brightness was revealing more marks and spots. Aria checked her watch and there was still time before opening. Enough to restack the chairs and mop the floor. Bubbles fizzled in the bucket as the mop plunged, clinging to the tentacles and sploshing down on the tile. She chased them dry with a brush, and re-set the furniture.
She expected the owner in today but didn’t know at what time. Because of this it was awkward to invite Frank for lunch. It had happened before that he’d been halfway through a sandwich when she’d arrived, glaring suspiciously and clicking her tongue. Frank had had to pay, handing over fives, tens and twenties.
Karen was a customer who’d recently started visiting. A blind girl, American also, from Chicago, Illinois. Aria found her easy to talk to, wise and with plenty to say. It was impossible not to marvel at her strength despite a total lack of vision.
Aria never said this of course, but couldn’t help thinking it. To be so worldly and competent and yet unable to see. She suspected Karen knew she thought this, even from their minimal customer-waitress relationship. Karen’s movements were all so flowing and defined.
They had never spoken about the bombing or it’s aftermath. Karen had been in four times, twice post-explosion.
With the floor dry, the tables clean, the bagels warm and the fillings ready, Aria stood back and looked at the perfect café. In five minutes time it was officially open, but if someone came in now she wouldn’t make them wait. A breeze pushed through the door, and ruffled one of the specially printed napkins.

May 12, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 15)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:45

There was a massive explosion at Montparnasse. Frank heard it from his room, but he didn’t know what he’d heard, and only later found out. He was in the middle of detailing some Berlin mini-adventure, when suddenly a deep and terrible boom sound brought him to a halt.
It was mid-Monday morning. April 19th 2004. He sat frozen for a second, the adrenalin rush giving him a fright, and then went to the window. The neighbours began poking out of flats below and opposite, all heads craned in the direction of Montparnasse.
“C’est les terroristes!” cried an old woman. “Les terroristes!”
Frank looked across and saw her peering from behind a curtain.
Pretty soon, after a few minutes, a burning smell hit them. It was evil and nasty in the throat, and Frank saw smoke rising in the sky to the north. His view was obscured, but he immediately thought of the tower.
La Tour Montparnasse was never visible from Frank’s apartment. He wasn’t that high up, and buildings blocked the way. Nevertheless, he knew exactly where it was, and the thick smoke lifting looked to be spot on. He got a phone call from Aria, fear in her voice.
She was at Saint Germain des Pres with Marie, and had seen straight down rue de Rennes to Montparnasse. The tower had collapsed just like the ones in New York. He could hear how terrified she was, a soaring sense of panic evident and making him chill. He wanted to be there or to transport her quickly to him.
On his own street now there was pandemonium also. The sound of sirens and screams carried through the air. Fire trucks, police, ambulances and the CRS, all careening towards the scene or heading off crowds. Frank told Aria to go home and ring him when she got there.
He didn’t know if she would. Immediately afterwards he tried to call her back, but the signal was busy and then died. He kept on trying, wishing they’d never hung up.
Why had he been so stupid? He should have kept her on the line until she was safe. Three, four minutes passed and still no connection, and he cursed how careless he’d been to allow the call end. There was sweat on his forehead and hands, a bad taste in his mouth.
He left the flat. This was pointless, futile, but he wasn’t thinking. No sooner had he arrived on the street than a cop pushed him back. “Rentrez!” he shouted. “Rentrez-vous!” Frank tried to explain that he couldn’t possibly just go home.
The policeman was distracted by a scream and Frank charged away. He got up onto rue Didot and the scene was unreal. A stampede of people was hurtling towards him, office workers, residents, children dismissed from school and couriers with bikes. Cars and vans were blocked in the roadway, some abandoned, others holding frazzled but impotent men. The police were ordering the evacuation of all vehicles and shops.
He tried Aria again. He couldn’t even hear a tone, but the screen said no link. He saw with dismay his battery was running low. The physical mush of bodies was oppressive, everyone hyped-up and wild. Children with their mothers were terrified, chaos all around.
Frank finally made contact. He ducked down rue Morard, and when he heard her voice his immediate panic subsided. She was ok she said, they’d been herded the far side of the river.
Barriers had been put up at Chatelet, and this is where they were, the CRS with bullhorns attempting to manage the mob. Somebody whacked against Frank and he nearly dropped the phone.
“So you’re fine?” he shouted in the receiver. “You’re really fine?”
“I’m OK,” she said. “We’re gonna try and get home.”
“I’ll make it somehow. It might take forever but just ring again when you’re there. OK? Promise me.” Her voice was drowned out as a police bike screeched to a standstill.
“Rentrez! Rentrez!” This was all they could think of instructing the public. Go home to your houses, get out of the streets. Frank started heading east, away from his apartment.
At Tolbiac things were quieter, although all Metros had stopped operating. He was trying to move very fast, before roadblocks were in place. On a couple of occasions he skirted cops angrily chasing him, and the pain in his ankle shot through his leg like a bolt.
He crossed the Seine at Pont de Bercy, after an hour. Right there on the bridge you could forget there had just been an attack. He found progress easier on the other side, taking a wide route towards Republique. He was asked for his address, but simply gave Aria’s flat. Within another hour and a half he’d arrived at her door.
The four of them together made the sense of shock less overwhelming. The burden of total confusion could be shared around. Frank realised he’d walked for three hours in a daze, a blurred adrenalin momentum it would be difficult to replicate. He remembered pausing on the bridge, and thought it utterly surreal. Aria played with a small silver ring on her finger.
The body count was increasing, 2,000 people missing or presumed dead. The TV spoke of blood streaking the pavement. Frank’s sense of time was horribly askew, and he no longer had any idea of the sequence of events. How long after he’d heard the sound before the madness in the streets. His mind contained a jumble of imagery, flashing sirens and faces locked in fear. He still felt he heard the cries and shouts in his ears.
It seemed like the city had been stolen. The magical swirl of darkness and light spirited away. In its place stood a war zone of barriers and entrapment. The notion of going to a café had been rendered absurd.
Frank watched repeated footage of the tower surroundings. He was already certain these pictures would permanently remain. No one had captured the explosion itself, or at least no one so far discovered. All that could be shown was rubble, corpses, and smoke.
“I can’t get through to my family,” said Laura. Frank had never seen her vulnerable and fragile before. Sitting in a chair with the phone cord round her wrist, she was like a child, an innocent. Of all the things he could have thought in that moment, why did he think that?
“It’s the system,” he said. “It’s just that it can’t cope with so many calls.”
He told her to try again in a few minutes, but she didn’t, and redialled immediately.
Aria looked out the window at the courtyard and bins. TVs in other apartments showed the same as hers. She knew now she was lucky to have caught her mother a little earlier, even though news of the bomb hadn’t yet filtered through. Aria had had to tell the whole story, explaining she was fine.
The TV speculated on possible perpetrators and motives. It was odd how quickly they jumped to an Arab link. Talk of September 11th, Bin Laden, Afghanistan training camps and Islamic extremists. They didn’t have a shred of information or fact. The news anchor reminded viewers of previous terrorist threats in the nineties and before. For a second he seemed to flirt with the notion it could be ETA or the IRA. Then he returned to the Muslims.
Marie asked to turn it off for a little while. Frank wanted to stay watching, but the girls did not. In the silence they heard the newsreader on someone else’s set. The muffled voice continued to struggle to make sense.
Frank felt totally exhausted. It swooped down over him, and his body slumped in the chair. His eyes closed and his mind went on stand-by, ears not accepting external stimuli anymore. The last thing he remembered was Laura saying who wants tea.

May 10, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 14)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 11:44

Aria stood by the water. The day was monkishly still, death-like, very little traffic on the river or the streets. It was Sunday afternoon, two-thirty. She had the strangest feeling something was imminent.
There were no birds, and they often congregated along the bank. There were no tourist cruisers or pleasure boats. Instead what existed was a foreboding buzz, an energy crackle neither obvious nor sweet. She was aware of heaviness all through the muscles of her legs.
She walked along towards Pont Neuf. The water echoed under the bridge as she approached. The lapping was menacing, a child’s nightmare storybook lap. The monstrous stillness was crushing with the urine smell.
She hurried forward. Back out in the air, stopping, she looked across at the Ile de la Cite as it neared the tip. She turned around towards home to get out of this atmosphere.
The flat was empty. The night before Frank had taken her to a gig. She was a little tired, dozy, and fell onto her bed still wearing her shoes. She thought she probably wouldn’t sleep, but just lying might be enough.
An unusual sense of impending persistently remained. Her eyelids fluttered involuntarily. Her mind hovered above, watching her curled form, seeking out the plateau between asleep and awake. She gave a shiver or a start and stretched out her arm.
A tender breeze whistled through the skylight for an instant, but it failed to relieve the static nature of the day. If anything it served only to exacerbate the doldrums. It was a reminder of the absent alternative, a more lively, active world, and turned a spotlight fully on the choking humidity. Aria placed her hand on her stomach and breathed slow.
Her abdomen rose and fell slower and slower. The more she became aware of it, the fuller her breaths became. Maybe peace is only real as a contrast to the lack of it.
In time she fell asleep with her hand still resting there. A part of her was conscious of the lifting motion in her dreams. She dreamt of seeing that LA boy enter a clothes shop, and of running after him in vain. She didn’t catch him, and forgot about it after she woke up.
With Laura and Marie she ate dinner. The three of them around the table as a self-contained whole. There was caesar salad in the middle and bread to be torn off. Aria drank a little wine, still tired but content.
Marie was complimenting the cooking, having only arrived moments before. Laura batted away her praise and told her to eat. Aria wanted to speak of her feelings by the river, but they weren’t so pressing now. There was more of a lull in her mind, a calming hush.
She tore off more bread. It was fresh, warm, broken easily. Given a few hours it would crack and spray shards of crumbs. The chicken was seasoned, the rice light. Nothing tasted in any way different than it should.

May 8, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 12)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:40

There’s always something you’re going to learn. You’re going to find it out, and you didn’t want to. In Laura’s case this was the truth of what Aria had done. Her actions, and what led to them.
She remembered the day, Aria having called in the early morning. Saturday, and Laura groggy on the phone.
“What, you want to talk now? What’s wrong? What’s the matter?”
Laura had known there was something the matter for months. This had affected their relationship, made it hard and uneasy and false. Conversations like actor line rehearsals. Wiping foam from the dishes in their Paris apartment, Laura smiled, and felt sad and alone.
Marie came in. She’d been in the other room, tidying around and re-arranging. She said a room never grew stale if its contents were moved.
“Ca va?”
“Ouais ca va. Tout va bien?”
“Oui – mais je suis fatigué.”
“Moi aussi,” said Laura, “moi aussi.”
Marie dried the plates and the rest. She stacked them and put them in cupboards. The day was overcast and threatening rain, bringing a heaviness inside as well. The lack of energy in the air was infectious and tough to counter.
Laura smiled at Marie. The way she just came in and helped immediately. It brought back a memory of when it was the two of them here, before Aria arrived. It was a flashback experience to see Marie stacking the plates.
Laura rinsed a cloth and ran it over the table. It caught in a splinter and the noise tingled through her teeth. It was that momentary shiver, a whistling blackboard intake, a feeling induced by chalk, or nails, or some such. She rolled her shoulders and carried on with the job.
A crack of sunlight appeared, a laser beam across the wet surface, and then thinned even further and was no more. Music from another apartment suddenly took its place. It rushed in, fast heavy metal, startling the two of them by how loud and unexpected it was. The thump of the drums, and lyrics all dense with misogyny.
“Oh, mon Dieu,” said Marie, putting her hands over her ears. Laura closed the window, but was laughing at the same time.
“You don’t like that?”
“Quoi?” shouted Marie, not hearing.
There was a commotion down in the courtyard, the same middle-aged shrews who complained about the bin usage, now up in arms over noise pollution. Pretty soon the offensive ditty ceased.
“C’est fini,” said Laura, making a finished motion with her arms. Marie took her hands away. The silence was broken by the clucking tones from below, the women, having dealt with the music, seizing on the opportunity to once again fuss over the bins. The wrong material was always in the wrong compartment.
“Les poubelles encore?” asked Marie.
“Ouais,” said Laura. “Naturellement.”

May 4, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 8)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 08:42

Aria bought chicken, peppers, and tomato puree to make a sauce. She had rice already, but needed milk. Curry powder and bread she nearly forgot, but then remembered, and went back down through the aisles and had to queue again. A tiny little kid stole a stranger’s juice at the checkout.
Dinner was going to be for four people. Herself and three others in her life, all of whom she loved. Laura was making salad, Marie was getting wine. She could send a text to Frank and that would be that.
The walk home took her past scaffolding and bars. It was only five minutes, but she heard six different tongues. Builders, drinkers, loiterers on the street; the multicultural city, functioning as one.
She pushed in the front door, the wood expanding occasionally, and needing to be forced. There was music coming from inside, and then she saw Laura and Marie, washing cutlery and singing.
“Well, I got it. A little girl stole some guy’s juice just after he paid for it.”
She put down her bags and stretched, feeling light in her head.
Movement to her right made her turn. A cat charged across the floorboards and jumped onto the sill. All three girls saw it simultaneously, the black feline streamline so alien in the flat. It stopped to lick its paws, and looked at Aria full on. Did it feel it was safe at the window and no longer need run?
They stared as it went about its business, cleaning, stretching, and eyeing the roof. Its whiskers twitched as it crinkled up its nose for some reason. Then it sneezed, sneezed again, and Aria laughed.
“It’s the curry powder. The smell must be crazy to a cat.”
The cat seemed to confirm this by sneezing again. Then it spilled itself out the window and was gone. Marie went to see if it was still down there, but there was nothing, just the bins and the courtyard and the steps. Aria unpacked the shopping and prepared to cook.

May 1, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 6)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 09:42

Laura picked up her discman and put it in her coat. She was in the park, with a break between lectures. This place was called l’Observatoire, just behind the Jardin du Luxembourg and south of the Sorbonne. It was a narrow strip of greenery with kissing couples and joggers.
The sun was shining, the warmest day in quite a while. It was early March. Laura had been listening to Aimee Mann, thinking of the days when herself and Aria sunbathed at home. Three years is both a long time and an instant.
Four children walked by in a line, with their minder a little behind them. They held each other’s coats with tiny hands. The first one stopped, bending to examine some gravel, and halting the entire train. The other three waited placidly and then moved on.
Inside her mind Laura sat thinking. She remembered a quote from an old Japanese man on TV. Watch a football match like you’re watching a tree in the garden. Just look, and be contented by the looking. It had been on a programme to do with stresses of the modern age.
She took in the scenery around her, the trees, grass, walkways and people. For a second she had the strongest sense they were the same. No difference existed between a woman and a flower. Every single eyelash and every blade of grass were at one. Then it was gone, and she was smiling.
She stood up and prepared to return to college. She gathered her jacket and bag and the packaging from her lunch. It wasn’t a difficult afternoon, the emphasis firmly on exams now, and she knew despite her tiredness it would easily pass. The traffic on St. Michel grew louder as she approached.
She crossed the road and entered through the gates. The smells and bustle of the corridor made her feel quite young. Finding the correct room, she sat down near the back and rooted for a note pad. All of her colleagues, or most of them, shuffled about.

Later she studied in the library. It was easier to get work done here what with Aria and Marie. Two guys nearby giggled over a lad’s magazine, pictures of cars and tits holding them rapt. Laura tried to concentrate on her assignment, but it was hard, and she had to ask them to stop. They stared at her like she was a shrew, but that was their problem.
The book-lined shelves granted more peace occasionally than the study area. She wandered among them, only half-heartedly searching for books. The wood smelled of lonely academia, a frustrating accrual of knowledge with no experience at all. Reading about blood is not the same as the sharpness of the knife swish.
She leaned her head against a philosophy tome. Michel Foucault’s Folie et Deraison.
She laughed silently for a second, because sometimes that described her mind. All those philosophers, with their theories on the ways we breathe.
That night she lay in bed and dreamed of a boy who might understand her. He’d have zero interest in hairgel or strategies of cool. She turned over unconsciously, folding into herself due to a sound. A magnified shard of reality infringed on her sleep.

April 26, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 1)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:45

It was February 6th 2004. Aria was twenty years old. Frank, Laura, and Marie watched the candles, one staying lit and requiring a second blow. The icing held some wax they’d need to cut from it.
The cake was a bakery concoction. Sugary creamy layers – pink, white, frosted. Aria kissed her companions and picked up the knife.
“Moi, je ne veux pas beaucoup,” said Marie.
“Too late,” said Aria, laughing.
Frank rotated his ankle, and watched this sweet girl cut her cake. His darling who was shining with joy.
“I think we gotta sit down for this,” said Laura. Maybe she’d noticed Frank’s pain. They gathered around the table, the cake brought over on a plate. The room was warm and exciting.
“Make a wish when you cut it as well.”
“But I already made one when I blew it.”
“Doesn’t matter. Go again.”
Dancing crumbs hit the plates, rolling and clinging to forks and teeth. Frank felt foolish but it didn’t concern him. Eating cake was a vulnerable action, a childlike embarrassment from sugar and cream. It was you with your guard down, gorging.
They drank some champagne after, bubbles on their tongue, laughter. Marie looked so happy and Frank was in a dream or a play. Soft company, easily kept, with no edge to it.
“So where are we going tonight?” asked Laura. “You gotta pick somewhere, somewhere nice.”
Aria said she didn’t know, and it really didn’t matter.
Frank glanced out the window, catching movement in the flat opposite, a girl hanging out a pillowcase and singing a song. She saw him for a second and then re-directed her gaze and left.
Marie had been here for a few months now. When Aria returned, it was decided she stood stay. The three of them ventured out to buy a mattress. She slept below Laura’s loft, in the other room, a curtain giving privacy and heat. The rent was easier, and she was safe.
When they did go out it was to Montmartre. The girls danced, and Frank rolled his ankle and wished he could. Who was he kidding – he probably wouldn’t have anyway. Aria was beautiful in the neon light, her smile dazzling. To know he was with her surprised him when it entered his head. He scratched his beer bottle; sexual frustration they say, but that couldn’t be true. Other girls circled, but what did he care about that.
Aria came to him, and they kissed in the darkness. Her body fell against him, a little drunk. He held her tight, her familiar smell and aura. She laughed tucked into his neck, and he felt her breath.
“If your leg is sore we can go.”
“No, it’s not. I can’t feel it.”
They danced slowly, not dancing, just swaying as one. Whatever the music was, Frank couldn’t hear it. Her hair was tickling his cheek, and her skin was soft through her top. Some guy tried to muscle in rudely but Frank pushed him off.
“I love you,” he said quietly, and she didn’t respond.
“I love you,” he said again.
“I love you too.”

April 24, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 11)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Karen, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 10:07

They went shopping on Michigan Avenue. In a coffeehouse on the corner of Monroe, Karen again felt frustration from her mother ordering for her. She knew she meant no harm, but was stressed nonetheless.
“I’m not gonna have that Mom. I haven’t even decided yet.”
“Oh, I’m sorry honey. It’s just that normally you – ”
“I know Mom, I know.”
It was pretty busy around them. A lunch time rush in the centre of downtown, and Karen felt hurried and observed, maybe inaccurately. The kinetic jolts of her mother made her painfully aware.


In a snack bar in San Jose Aria finished her burger. She drank Sprite and watched the diners come and go. She surprised herself when the straw reached the end and she started slurping. All of the ice in the world was nestled in the cup.


In a café in the 6th, the newly arrived Michel Rigaudeau from Bordeaux fiddled with his napkin. His hair needed cutting and his shoes begged for repair, but this was only because he liked them, and resisted buying new ones. The waitress watched him curiously, but not in that way.
An old man called Boulier sat at the far end, an infrequent visitor, with his hat and his cane. He occasionally came here having strolled in the park with the pigeons.


Karen and her mother left the shop. On the street they ran into Dorothy, who was complaining about Archie and the ways he drove her mad.
“I’ll leave him one day you know, permanently.”
They said goodbye and went to get the El, pushing through throngs with the office workers freed.
“Hold that fucking door!” cried someone, pointlessly.
The train rattled westward, moving through Cicero and Austin, heading home. The heat was stifling, bodies everywhere and humidity high. Karen held her stick and felt sweat on her palm.
“It’s just incredible what crowds there are. I knew we should have tried to beat the rush. I said that honey, didn’t I, that it would be like this.”
Karen agreed, yes, you said it, wanting to be back in the garden, or somewhere at least. She heard a man selling cookies like a preacher from the slum.
“Oh yes, and then the LORD told me something. He said Leroy, for that’s the name I was born with, he said LEROY, you go out and sell those cookies, for ME, and for the CHILDREN. And I am IMPLORIN’ all you good folks here today, to BUY some of these here fine cookies, and help us all spread a little love. Every little cent’s another miracle.”
Karen closed her ears to him, concentrating on her breath. Her stomach rose and fell while the air flowed. This trip would end, this day, this month and whatever was coming. She would go to Paris and be happy, and start something new.

April 21, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 8)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 07:38

Aria brushed her hair in the mirror. The sun came through the window and onto her desk. She didn’t know why, but she always brushed her teeth in the bathroom and her hair in her room. It was a ritual or routine and it stayed because she liked it. The card with the number had been stored in a drawer to her right.
Staring at her own eyes in the mirror, one of her giddy spells came over her; a fuzziness, a rush. She jumped up, the feeling frightening but familiar, registering her breath spasmodic and short. This frightened her further. She ran to the door and then stopped, thinking frantically as to what had caused it this time. It was like she’d had a sudden recollection of something, now lost.
She went downstairs. Her mother was at work and her little sister was at summer camp. She sat on a chair in the back garden, the air bringing relief. Her body was shaking slightly, and she really didn’t know what brought it on this time. It was an unsettling stillness followed by suddenly remembering to breathe.
The shock she got began to go down slowly. Voices from the neighbourhood were soothing, carried lightly by the wind. As a child her mother would protect her after these episodes, wrapping her in her arms and stroking her hair. She stroked her own hair now to replicate that feeling.
There was a prickly sensation on her skin. Around her stomach and chest, it felt like tiny scurrying ants. Her legs were heavy and dead. She didn’t like this, the thought and touch of it, and jumped up again, scared. Now she had to let it go down again.
These episodes came and went. Her mother called them her giddy spells. It’s just a giddy spell Aria, you’ll be fine. The child had had them as long as she could remember. Aria sat down again, stroking her hair and thinking of something else. It was easier to do this when her mother was in the house.

She went for a walk. Out on the street took her far from the introspection of inside. She walked and felt much happier in her neighbourhood.
A dog ran along the road with a squeaky toy in its mouth – a black and white dog and a red toy. Whenever he swallowed the jaw movement made the thing sound, and Aria laughed, trembling, all fuzzy but in a different way now. He disappeared around a corner and was gone.
When she got back to the house everyone was home. She’d timed it so it would be so. She came around the back way and entered the kitchen, her mother at the sink and Anna drawing in a book.
“A cat is what I want for Christmas,” she said.
Mother and older daughter laughed.
“Christmas is not for a long time honey. Tell Aria what you got to do at camp.”
What Anna got to do at camp was make Batman out of cardboard, a wild mutant creation with pink painted legs and only one eye. His left arm was raised like he was waving.
“And the teacher said that mine was very good.”
They all sat down to dinner with Batman included. Fresh salad was slipped onto Anna’s plate, in such a way that she forgot this was unusual. She ate it, oblivious to her aversion, and Aria and her mother smiled but didn’t let on. Aria couldn’t recall her nerves from earlier.

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