Fishing in Beirut

April 14, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 2)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 07:39

Aria and Laura were at the beach, finished with school for the summer, and with only one year left to go. Suburban girls from San Jose. They stretched in the sunshine, the sand soft and delicate, the sky clear and blue. Five minutes earlier some guys had ineffectively flirted with them.
“When I go to Paris I’ll live there till I die.”
Aria laughed at Laura’s certainty. She curled her toes in the sand and worked out the exam stress, no more need for study before the fall semester began. It was fun to imagine the summer lasting forever.
They applied more sun cream and turned over. The music they were playing was Surfer Girl. Days and weeks could be spent this way, on the sand and by the water, with The Beach Boys on the stereo and the evenings cool and free. Aria noticed some older guy observing them.
He drifted off when she sat up, but when Laura went swimming he approached again. He was quite handsome, unusually tall. He said she’d make a great model. That he was a talent scout on this beach and he might have found the one. You could always come along and see if you like it. She wasn’t an idiot she scoffed, and he produced his ID and card. Straight up modelling he promised, departing.
By evening Aria had still kept the secret. Hadn’t mentioned the guy at all on the bus ride home. In her room she looked at the card again, saying his number aloud and laughing at the idea. The guy was just a dick, but maybe he wasn’t.
She stared straight ahead, imagining the life of a model. The guy had said she was the prettiest, sexiest thing. No one had spoken like this before, not the boys she had kissed or her mother. To be sexy was a new thing to be.

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April 11, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 20)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 11:40

Aria packed her bag economically. It was only two weeks, she had clothes and cds at home, so she removed a few items and put the bag on her back to test weight. It was light enough to carry on the metro.
She was nervous about leaving Laura, after what had happened last weekend. They had arranged that Marie would take Aria’s bed, Marie’s old one, during the time Aria was away. Still, maybe the guy would come looking for her.
Aria didn’t know if she should ask Frank to check in on them. If Frank would like it, or Laura would. He could just call once in a while or text Laura’s cell phone, but she hadn’t asked him yet, and might not bother. She threw her bag in the corner and stood up.
It was going to be great to see her family. Ten months was like forever, and she couldn’t wait to see her sister in the doorway. Her mother was sure to make a fuss. She hadn’t made it home for Thanksgiving, so this would be a double event – turkey, cranberry, the lot. She had presents for everyone from Paris.
She put on some music from Lhasa de Sela. She sensed into her body as she swayed. The voice and the rhythm were intoxicating, spellbinding and heavy with thought, and Aria felt the floor, through her feet and her legs and her chest. To be holding herself as the world turned.
There was definitely a Christmas feeling in the air. It was more than just lights and consumption. When she walked in the streets there was a magic of some sort, a tingling anticipation of warmth or relief. The promise of nursery shelter.
She checked the flight time just to be sure. Re-calculated the right time to leave for it. It was fine, she would make it OK. She remembered that guy who used to curse them from outside, and for some reason he didn’t come round now. Here’s hoping he would never come back.
The clock on the wall had long ago stopped working. Aria never tried to fix it, because the ticking she could do without. It interfered with the rhythm of music. She went over to it now, the hands inert and functionless, and took it down and shelved it away. If Laura liked it there she could replace it. Then Laura returned and Aria said this to her, and Marie appeared through the door. She held a bag and a sheepish expression.
They ate dinner together, Marie shy, but the girls chatting to ease her. She was painfully conscious of her face. She had developed a way of letting her hair hang over it, but this required her neck to bend forward, and made her awkwardness even more apparent. She was gentle like a kitten or a child.
Aria watched her discreetly, feeling tears in her eyes as she noticed the tightness and fidgeting. It was searing to see such symptoms in another. Marie extended and re-clenched her fingers, her eyes looking up and down, seeking invisibility. Aria took her hand and held it tight.
Marie stared at her, startled and unsure. They’d never met before in their lives. Aria squeezed her fingers. For an instant the light flickered, then came back on stronger than before. Marie started crying. Laura looked shocked, but Aria was not, smiling imperceptibly to see the shaking in the limbs. Her hand grew warmer around Marie’s.
Marie cried for a long time. Twenty or twenty five minutes. She sat there in her chair with the dishes on the table, shaking and sobbing and biting at her lip. Aria just wanted to hug her.

April 9, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 18)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 07:40

Laura closed the door, leaving Aria and Frank by themselves. She had no destination in mind. She strolled to Belleville and bought a sandwich in a bakery, watching the woman make it with a delicacy of touch. Yeah, alright, he seemed nice – unpsycholike.
This was the first person she’d met from Ireland. He was gentle but not without energy, capable of anger perhaps. That’s the way it seemed to her anyhow. She put the sandwich in her bag to save for later.
Her old flat-mate Marie called when she was back on Boulevard de la Villette, a bad line making Laura strain to hear. Marie wanted her to come down, spend some time if she could. This sounded like a nice idea.
On the metro to Alesia, Laura watched a small boy scream blue murder at his mother. He was holding on to a bottle intended for his younger brother, his face red and bloated, his eyes upset and fierce. He was far too old for bottles and he knew it.
His mother wrestled it from him, embarrassed determined and drained, and the baby snatched it. She was raising two tiny specimens of will and greed. It can be hard not to look at such events and feel misanthropy, but they’re only children, and they don’t know. It’s kids in their twenties and thirties that make you puke.
Laura flicked out of her pondering, sneezing. Lukas was a kid and he was gone. The stops rolled by, Vavin and Raspail, and she got there. It was a two minute walk and two flights of stairs.
Marie let her in with her eye discoloured, a red and sinister mark upon her face. Laura did a double take and Marie stared at her. She was about to cry or shout or just fall down. They went to the couch and Marie began weeping, Laura hesitating, and then putting her arms around her, confused. She’d only thought they were going to rent a dvd.
Marie sobbed on her shoulder, desperately. A broken sound that made Laura feel the same. It took fifteen minutes to make her stop, and another ten to coax the explanation. It was Martin, but he was sorry.
Martin was an English guy who worked in Brit pubs. A sleazy chain for expats with bitter and darts. He was some kind of coordinator or boss, 27 years old, the last six in France. Laura remembered him from when she’d lived with Marie.
There was a knock on the door and Marie froze. Laura didn’t know what she was into here. She’d been pushed into this world, initiated without her knowledge, and now she was cowering on a sofa with a beaten and frightened girl.
“Marie!” came an English voice. “Ouvre la porte!”
The girls stayed perfectly still. A minute, an hour? It grew dark, and after they heard him leaving they refused to whisper or move. “He doesn’t have a key,” said Marie eventually. “He left it by mistake before he went.”
In the tension and adrenalin of the moment, Laura remembered thinking it was strange to hear Marie use English. Then she thought it was strange to even notice this fact. Her mind wasn’t processing properly, she was aware of that, so she didn’t question anything she felt. This was some kind of instinctive behaviour or automatic act.
She brushed Marie’s hair hypnotically, the girl prone and alert and her small fists clenched. Marie asked her to stay and what could she say.

April 8, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 17)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 09:24

“The more you understand, the more you can accept, and the more you can accept, the calmer you’ll be. And the calmer you are, the better you are for yourself, and for the world.”
Frank watched her eyes move toward the floor.
She sat still looking down, and he touched her knee.
“I agree with you,” he whispered.
She smiled and met his eyes, and leaned over to kiss his cheek. He rubbed her warm right knee through her jeans.
They were up in Aria’s place, and Frank had earlier met Laura. An hour later she’d left, and they were alone. His apprehension was unfounded – Laura was watchful, but discreetly so. There was no Inquisition Spanish or otherwise. Aria breathed deeply and Frank kissed her, holding her lip between his lips and stroking her neck. A bin was slammed outside and made them jump.
Aria stood up and boiled the kettle. Frank watched her lean to find a spoon. She was leaving in a week, to spend Christmas with her family, and he was in love with her, and wondering what he’d do. Her return three weeks to the day was distant eternity.
They drank tea on a darkening Saturday, happy to do nothing and then take the train to the cinema. It was a few hours yet before they should go.
“So what is this book going to be about?” asked Aria. “You’ll have to let me read it.”
“I’m not sure yet, I’m kinda still making notes. I think I just want to start and see what happens, discover if I can do this, and if it feels like something right. I’d love to get down stuff on Sevilla and Berlin.”
“I want to see those places. I really want to see what they mean to you. I’ve been to LA and San Francisco, and once we went up to Canada, but Berlin. I read about it on my flight over here.”
He was surprised.
“You did? What did it say?”
“Oh you know. It sounded incredible. Full of artists and incredible things.”
He smiled and said yeah that’s what it was.
They finished their tea and she made more. He helped her turn on lights and pull down blinds. He resisted the urge to just ask her to move in with him, because this impatience and haste had not been his friend before. It was a happy rush that blinded him to reality.
She went to put on lipstick and other feminine mysteries, and he looked out the window at the moon. What bastards had taken pictures of this angel? Fury rose and then subsided. It didn’t matter, it was gone. He stood in the apartment amidst her kettle and her cups, the softness of her environment.
When she was ready they left. He took her hand in the darkness, and they walked easily to Goncourt. Youths loitered outside Kebab shops, knives swished within, and Frank bought Metro tickets, a tingling behind his nose.
The train juddered momentarily, and Aria fell against his chest. He was delighted and relieved when he caught her.

April 2, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 12)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 11:12

Frank and Aria had dinner in Frank’s place. Cleaning took him hours but was worth it for effect. He met her off the bus, so beautiful dismounting. He kissed both her cheeks then her mouth.
When they entered the apartment, he felt for a second like he was on some reality dating show, but then the sensation passed. It was momentary nerves and anxiety. In that flash, he was positioned somewhere, observing them, but within a heartbeat they were seated, and he melted back into himself. He was present now and content with it.
She was wearing a red cardigan, and it really suited her. He was going to say it but didn’t. She complimented his culinary efforts, him fobbing it off and feigning indifference. He’d slaved over that stove like a fool. The wine was good and from Chile, and soon formed a wall inside which they could speak. Unguarded and uncaring.
She asked about his leg, saying she’d noticed him limping. He told her the story without hesitation. Berlin, the bus crash, recovery both body and mind, and already he knew she related, and then she told her story too.
He poured more wine, and they paused to let things settle. There was no rush, and no need for it. Frank went to take her hand, but then decided not to. They were already joined as it was.
Outside the moon was maybe a day from being in fullness. The same might be said for the lovers in its light. They slept together that night, first time, right time, and Frank was lost in pleasure like no other he had known. The bed was hardly perfect, creaking and groaning from their weight.
In the morning Aria went for croissants. He showered and after they ate. She’d had some funny conversation with the woman in the bakery, an impromptu discussion on men, and she was still laughing at the woman’s advice, which was avoidance for life. Les hommes sont impossible!
They turned on the radio and the sun broke through – crystal, piercing wintersun. An ad came on for the mayor’s office, some concert or spectacle planned. Frank smiled at Aria, how guileless her laughter could be, and he knew he was totally in love with her, her presence her soul and her past.

March 31, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 10)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 07:56

Laura left the flat to go to college. She crossed over Republique and was soon at the Pompidou. She took Pont d’Arcole onto Ile de le Cite, and stopped for a moment beside Notre Dame, craning her neck until it hurt. The sparrows up above looked unnatural.
The Sorbonne stood between Saint Jacques and Saint Michel. She entered through the main gates. Passing through corridors and hallways, with multi-national students everywhere, she felt a buzzing in her head, and forgot what she’d meant to remember. There was something to do after this.
The classes were uneventful, taking her up to four o’clock, and then depositing her back on the street. She looked at CDs in Gibert Joseph. The alternative section was pretty good, well stocked if heavy of price tag. There were bands she had never even heard of.
One of these, The Death Monsters, had a picture of a girl being tortured. A guy pushed alongside to study it. Was he a rocker or a Goth, a nu-metaller or a punk? She found herself laughing at these labels.
She moved over to the F section, bands called Fugazi and Fish. Fugazi were D.C. punks. She picked up the record, read the song titles, and saw she knew most of them to sing. This was an album a friend had. Leaving without buying anything, she remembered what she’d planned to get done. It was too late now to accomplish it.
She met Lukas by the river. She was homeward bound again.
“It’s a difficult game for the first time writer,” he said. “You have to write the book with all your heart, and then sell it like a used car.” She hadn’t seen him in months.
They spoke briefly as the wind blew, him flicking his hair and looking iconic. He was depth and mystery until you knew him. She wished him luck with his work regardless, although he’d never let her read a line. She left, sensing he didn’t want her too.
She didn’t look back, but was aware he was still standing there. Watching. She tied back her hair as she went. She crossed Place de l’Hotel de Ville. Pigeons scattered in front of her, cooing and flapping their wings. Their droppings were drying on the stone.
In time they would harden and disappear. Laura felt her ponytail on her neck. She went up rue du Temple as the light fell, crossing and then recrossing the street. Pavements were being dug up and drilled at. This street was so familiar, this Paris life permanent now. It was strange to believe she might one day leave it. There was a Chinese man dragging a mattress, scuffing it up and down kerbs. His face didn’t register exertion. She wondered should she help him, and actually made a first step towards doing so, but the aloofness of his calm put her off. How to initiate proceedings?
She walked on and soon was home. She turned on the light by the door. The neighbours were preparing something spicy and exotic, the smell entering the room as she did. An unwestern concoction of musk. She hung up her coat and sat down by the cooker, observing its rust and small cracks. She was starving to make something great.

March 27, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 7)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:48

There were two people from London on the Metro.
“Awwight you cunt?” said one.
“Smashin’ you cunt,” replied the other. This went on until Aria reached Goncourt. She could still hear their conversation as she walked away.
In her apartment with Laura, they prepared the evening meal to music. Aria chopped onion while Laura buttered bread, and the pasta bubbled slowly. They had plates and glasses set out, and wine waiting patiently on the counter. The onion tears started.
They ate and spoke of eating, dishes they should some day attempt. Laura dipped bread in the sauce. There was steam in the kitchen from the boiling pasta water, and Laura got up mid-sentence to let in air. The chill made her soon change her mind.
Aria glanced at her, and knew immediately she wanted to steer the conversation. Towards Frank, towards nosiness. Her smile was challenging, playful.
“I don’t know what you’re smiling at, cause I’m not saying a word.”
Laura pursed her lips up.
“I’m not,” repeated Aria, laughing without meaning to.
Someone slammed the lid of a bin.
Frank texted after an hour perhaps, and Laura watched, as Aria thought of her reply. He was alone in a bar watching soccer.
They talked about him then as the bottle emptied, the red wine from Bordeaux easing wordflow. All about the mystery of his look. Whatever she felt, it was new for this guy. He had a quality unencountered, a stance. He’d be alien in San Jose.
The night ended and they were tired. They brushed their teeth side by side at the sink. Climbing up the ladder, Aria shuddered with joy, this guy who breathed also, sending lines to her.

March 24, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 4)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 08:39

Laura dusted the apartment. It was a cold but sunny morning, and she lifted and replaced glasses and CDs, getting at the nooks and crannies with her duster and cloth.
She was happy but apprehensive for Aria with this new boy from Ireland. Aria spoke like she’d known him forever. Laura had yet to meet him. She paused for a second letting dust float around, and then resumed cleaning while a bird broke into song. There was a radio from somebody’s window.
Two weeks before, Aria had come home so happy, full of joy from this Frank guy. They’d met and then gone to the movies. Laura was suspicious of anyone who spoke to Aria, though she was careful not to show this, wondering whether they sensed the same sweet vulnerability she did. In bars, did she protect or stifle Aria? She wasn’t sure, but felt her intentions were good.
She dropped the cloth and knelt to pick it up, spying one of Aria’s socks half-trapped beneath a chair leg. God she felt like her mother. She fished it out and threw it in the wash pile, and laughed at herself, 20 going on 40. She suddenly felt dowdy in her flip-flops.
She was a beautiful girl and they made a good pair, out on the town getting noticed in the clubs. Aria’s French was so good now. Laura watched out but thought sometimes she needn’t, although the knowledge of what Aria had been through made her instinctively. She had been hurt, and she was younger.
Laura was the girl who made you laugh to show she loved you, but the boys she’d met thus far tended to view such girls platonically. Lukas was an exception. Her self-appointed shepherding of Aria didn’t help either. She was popular with boys, could punch and mock them easily, but sometimes there were moments when that didn’t seem enough. She’d found it hard to get closer.

That night she worked on a college assignment. The paper was due the next Monday. She yawned and stretched and started writing again, a girl in a window with a lamp and a desk. She heard bins being opened in the courtyard.
The paragraphs came easy, and it would certainly be ready for Monday. She took a break and walked slowly round the apartment, eyeing the areas she had earlier cleaned. It looked bigger with the dust gone.
She had liked Lukas, but he turned out a fool, the male equivalent of those girlies who just can’t ignore their hair. She’d been tricked by his eyes blue and beautiful. The exotic newness of his speech and his style, the detached intelligence of the Scandinavian mindset, had led her to believe she’d found a soul of depth. All she’d found was the seashell.
She sat back at the desk and drew a space monster, a small boggle-eyed creature in the corner of her notes. She gave him fur and a nose and whiskers. He smiled up at her, and she coloured in his fur with a purple felt-tip pen. His eyes got light blue irises. Settling back to her schoolwork, she would glance at him occasionally. Then laugh and resume writing.
When Aria came home they could drink wine together. The bottle sat on the shelf with the cork half jammed back in there. Laura opened the window feeling air upon her face, and then the sound of Aria’s key in the lock made her smile with joy and loosening. Her baby was back from her travels.

March 22, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 2)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 08:47

Aria saw the graveyard boy on the subway. He saw her too, but she didn’t know that. She found herself looking repeatedly, which was strange, because since that day she hadn’t thought of him at all. He looked fuller, more whole now.
She gently made him notice her, watching until he had to glance up. She wanted to show she remembered him. He remembered her too, trying and failing to conceal this in his eyes, and she studied them, and knew.
They got off the train in slow motion, her from one door him another, and sat down on Metro benches, silently. They were twenty metres apart. The station emptied like sink-water, passengers gurgling and spilling through the gates, and finally Aria’s trainers made echoing squeaks as she jigged. Frank watched her minute nervous movements.
“Tu parles francais ou anglais?”
“Les deux.”
“But English is how you were born.”
“Yeah,” she laughed, finding the sentence amusing.
He stood up and shuffled much closer.
When he was standing before her she smiled at him, and he smiled back without fear. Her beauty was anything but frightening. He wanted to feel how her nose felt, but you can’t just do this off the bat. God will grant it if it’s meant for you.
Some people appeared on the platform, scattered randomly along, and Frank and Aria stood up and passed though the exit. She was aware of her hair and her jawbone. Their arms touched as they moved into daylight, accidentally, or not. Both felt so strange and so calm.
The station they’d emerged at was St. Sulpice, and they sat on a bench on the church square, while pigeons inspected them for sandwiches. A man tuned a violin in the sunshine.
Frank and Aria listened to him – the half-escaping notes, which he would soon turn effortlessly to music. The instrument whinnied and conformed for him. He commenced a lilting waltz made from sorrow and rain, an inappropriate sound when two lovers have met. It bound their first encounter with finality, reminding of transience, and endings. It didn’t bother them in that moment.
Later in a cinema, with Aria drinking Coke and Frank ablaze with new care for her, they let their knees touch one another, through jean fabric. The actors emoted on screen. They sat by the river after, lost in the eyes lost in their eyes, while tourist cruisers passed. All was maintained by the light falling.
“So you think you’re going to stay forever?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I can’t see any reason to leave.”
The purple sky wrapped the day up in night-time, leaving the American girl and the Irish boy to stand wordlessly, and depart the quai-side. A dog barked from under a bridge. Frank took Aria’s number carefully, writing it precisely, and clarifying twice. She smiled and her lips held him spellbound. As he walked home southward and her northeast, the dog by the river found a sandwich in a drain. He wolfed it hungrily, stale lettuce splatting on the cobbles. He sneezed from pepper mixed with dried mayonnaise, rubbing at his snout with his right front paw. There was a used smack needle lying next to him, under a leaf.

March 8, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 4)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:37

Aria was late for the lesson. She ran down the corridor, dropping books and sheets, and her trainers made a squeaking sound like tyres or mice. She entered the classroom and sat down.
This was the last October they would be in school. Laura had mentioned this earlier, and Aria laughed gladly, not thinking of it that way. Come next June they were finished. She found the right page in the geography book, and tried but failed to relax. She had 200 dollars in her pocket.
She had come home pretty late the night before, shaking and a little bit drunk. She’d been nervous before the shoot. Some whiskey had calmed her sufficiently, and she’d posed in the way they asked, feeling a high from their stares. That super-attentive attention.
Today she felt stressed-up and guilty, and wanted to do it again. It was always like this. Her mind was a swirl full of chatter, and the teacher couldn’t hope to compete. Aria was lost in her thinking.
Later in the cafeteria, she ate about half the meal. It was nice but she just didn’t want it. Pushing away the plate, she got up and went to her locker. She put the money inside. There was a picture of her mother and Anna there, tacked to the back of the door, but Aria didn’t want to see it now, and shielded her left eye with her hair. She slammed the door.
She skipped the next class but went to the following, and it was boring and hard to keep still. She chewed on her pen as she listened.
Math made no sense in this moment, the sum totals blurring from afar. Her heartbeat was getting annoying. She jiggled her knees, but that moved the desk, and soon other students were watching. She fidgeted.
“You can leave if you won’t stop that moving.”
She stopped. This was a stupid way for a teacher to address a seventeen year old, but it shamed her into inertia. She scowled at the math on the board.

“I’m doing this for you Aria. For all of you.”
At home she lay in her bedroom. She was getting more tired each day. Her lips twitched, and her limbs jumped occasionally. She struggled with imagery unwanted. This was not a great life, she knew that. Something was definitely wrong, but maybe this work could correct it. She felt it might wash it away.
The room seemed to swim momentarily. Her head throbbed. She sat up and her fists clenched, and she inhaled deeply. Fuck these feelings and thoughts then. If this was how it was going to be, fuck it. She didn’t have a clue what was wrong with her, and slumped back down in a heap. Her shoulders and neck felt so stiff.

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