Fishing in Beirut

May 7, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 11)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 10:10

Djinn wrote a letter, and then rewrote it. He wanted to send this to a newspaper, to arrive the day after the event, so it had to be precise, and legible. It would land in the offices of Le Monde when his body was charred. He could not let them think it was a random or meaningless thing.
He had terrible pain in his back, and stretched gingerly, feeling ugly friction and strain. Judging by his discomfort, it might be something more than a twist. He reached around to rub at the area, massaging as best he could. Then he stretched too far, and the pain nearly made him cry out.
Young people in the hallway surprised him for a second, their voices and laughter passing by his door in a rush. They were running down the stairs into freedom. He breathed and stood completely upright. Awareness of pain was bringing more pain in his shoulders and legs.
Ninety minutes passed with him relatively immobile. It was serious effort to walk to the bathroom and piss. Fortune or the lack of it dictated the agony didn’t cease, but instead remained quite active, feeding off itself, adding to his distress. Finally he managed to lie down on the bed and try to sleep.
When he awoke, not having really slept any, the immediate impact of his predicament hit him hard. He couldn’t get up. He was sure of this, knew it instantly, and lay there inert, gripped by a genuine paralysis. It wasn’t even painful anymore, merely numb and disconnected from his head.
Silence and darkness were all around him. He prayed through the silence and darkness and towards Allah. If it was decided he would next week do this, that he would take revenge for his country and its suffering, he must walk, and function. Only by bodily control could he carry out his task.
He focused all his energy on rising. His muscles shook, but he failed in his attempts to sit. Sweat broke out on his forehead, tiny helpless beads, and the pain from earlier came flooding back from the force. Never in his life had he known such incapacity.
He sat up eventually. He pushed himself into a position that was a crouch or a hunch. He stared straight ahead into blackness not seeing a thing. It was a struggle to believe, but a struggle he knew he would win.

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April 29, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 4)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 09:07

Djinn flung the frozen lasagnes into the compartment and slammed the door. His fingers were numb and wet from melting ice. He cursed to himself and rubbed his hands on his jacket. A thread caught his nail and the feeling was nearly more than he could take.
The plan had been delayed. It should have happened by now. He had encountered certain difficulties. The attempt to procure vital material had been met with suspicion by hardware store employees, and he’d been forced to retreat. Now he was buying small quantities at irregular intervals.
He surmised that records must be kept. When, where, how often, designated products were bought. It made sense, but he’d failed to think of it. It was better to travel throughout town, obtaining small, insignificant amounts, with no discernable schedule or regular sum. It was time consuming, but the alternative was possible failure.
He walked back to the storeroom and sat down for a moment. The light in here was softer than the harsh neon strips. He closed his eyes and listened to his breath in his body. The simplicity of breathing was what he was looking for now.
He stood up and returned to work. The freezers were taken care of and now it was on to the drinks. Endless fizzy bottles of sugar and dye, being consumed, and needing to be replenished. He watched a fat man fill up his trolley with shit.
The lemon flavour was low, clearly popular at this time of year. Someone pushed past him and grabbed two more bottles in a rush. He stood still, enraged by this brusqueness, and then slowly turned around and headed for the store. A dropped tin of peas meant he also needed the brush.
The peas had travelled far and wide, an unwelcome fact he discovered upon his return. They were under other produce and hiding in cracks. He swept as best he could, finding it amazing how much dust could accrue. He’d only cleaned that floor that morning.
His hand was sore against the ageing brush. The wood was coarse and splintering, jagged needles pushing his skin. He knew the best solution was a towel wrapping.
“Pardon,” said someone. “Le vin, s’il vous plait?” He pointed in the right direction and the customer shuffled along the aisle.
After work he walked the streets. A light picked up his shadow and then it was lost, only to re-emerge in the beam of another. A prostitute said Bonsoir and he put his head down.
He came around a corner and walked into some skinheads. They pushed against him on purpose and his balance was gone. He crashed sideways on top of a bin, feeling its corner smack his hip as the stench hit his nose. Fucking Muslim they called him, Fucking Al-Qu’ida.
He lay on the ground. They circled above momentarily, spat, and went on. He listened until their footsteps were faint and straightened his clothes.
Dreadful shame made him shake for an instant. He looked about wildly, to see if someone had seen. There were lights on in apartments, but no figures in the windows. He clenched his fists and felt tight pain in his jaw.
The garbage men were trawling about, jumping on and off their trucks and seizing the waste. Djinn watched silently, feeling calmer now. That job might actually have been better than a supermarket stint. Out in the air, clinging to a truck, learning about the city and not dealing with the French. Just throwing all the stuff into the back and climbing on again.
He looked up at the sky and tasted blood on his lip. He hadn’t been hurt, but was insulted they’d managed to draw blood. The taste was bitter copper, returning from whence it came.

April 10, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 19)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 07:49

Djinn squashed the fly in prickly annoyance. It buzzed for a further five seconds, and died. He picked it up and studied it on his fingertip, two legs still twitching, but the soul already in the air.
He scraped it off and flicked it out the window. The groundward rush separated it into parts. Some school children scampered by excitedly, multicoloured bags rattling lunch boxes as they bumped. For a second he thought he was still in the heat of the Lebanon.
But no, to think in such a way was a mistake. He would never be returning, would spend his last earthly days right here. Take as many as possible to a punishment deserved.
It was hard to kill time when he wasn’t working. Walking the streets was an option but it brought no relief. He stretched his aching back muscles gingerly, the bed before him a miserable resting place. The sooner this day would arrive the better for all.
The light was getting caught in the open window pane, making colours like a rainbow. He watched a purple and blue blob dance. The pain had moved from his upper back to his lower, snaking down and twisting inside, and he did more stretches until something clicked.
Just at the time of the click, the bell rang. He stood still for a moment and went to the door. A small man of about fifty waited in the hallway, eagerly introducing himself as from the electricity company . They were doing door-to-door checks, some safety procedure.
Djinn let him in reluctantly, and waited impatiently for his departure. He was gone in less than two minutes. The silence returned to the room, the man’s energy banished by the draft. Djinn closed the window and killed the refraction.
Then he himself left, feeling there was nothing to do but walk. The neighbourhood was now disturbingly familiar. Without realising, he had mapped out walks here also, and unconsciously took different routes that he varied day by day. There were even some sights he looked forward to.
This morning he crossed over to Paris, hovering on the bridge for a time to observe the Boulevard Peripherique. The sign said the traffic today was Fluid.
He went up rue Didot and crossed over rue d’Alesia. There was a little playground with some children. They were very small – too small for school on a Monday, and one of them hugged another and resumed play. He almost smiled but remembered these people were killers. Their mothers and fathers, and their mothers and fathers were animals.
So he came once again to the tower, drawing him like a magnet or a tide. He looked up and thought through the plan. Yes it was going to happen, no sentiment would intrude. Burning flame would carry him to Allah. A dog ran across the road causing motoring consternation, and perhaps this was a small presentiment of the chaos he’d induce. The world would be turned upside down and would not spin right again.

April 4, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 13)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:49

Djinn stood by his window in the morning. Sun shone through. Across the street a girl passed slowly, and returned soon after with a bakery bag. She retraced the way she’d come, looking mildly about at the neighbourhood. Her pastries or whatever swung at her side.
He stretched and stood a little longer. He smoked his last cigarette. Scratching at his close-cut beard he felt a sharp unpleasantness, and realised he’d opened a spot or cut unknown to him. A perfect circle of blood ringed his fingertip.
He left it there, feeling it drying, and walked about the room to be prepared. He’d found a job stocking shelves in a supermarket, his unwillingness to talk not a hindrance or a strain. He performed his tasks robotically, apart.
He cleaned around his apartment, washing a dishcloth and replacing it. The wet one he hung off the sill. His cutlery was spotless and in the cupboard, his knife, fork, two plates. His routine in the mornings was the same.
After, he took a bus to go to work. An Arab was staring at a white woman who climbed aboard, flicking his tongue, his eyes cold and hard. Djinn was disgusted by them both. The man for betraying himself, the other an impure bitch. He cast his eyes down in indignation.
At his stop he alighted, and strode past the guard without hello. He changed in the storeroom, the red jacket and white shirt, and made his way to the soft drinks section. Stocks were running low, the orange and lemon Fanta, and he walked quickly to the stores to replenish them. A child banged into him and apologised.
Stacking these bottles of sugared piss in silence, he accidentally dropped one, and it bounced off the floor. It was a cartoon liquid, not fit for human consumption. He picked it up, poison sloshing about, and offered it to the hapless infant, still standing alongside, eyeing the colas. The kid made a scowl and ran away.
An old woman enquired after pastis, what price it was and where it might be kept. He was less than civil and she took umbrage. Her throat bulged, puffing up and swelling in the manner of the bullfrog. Her voice was barely a croak.
He got the wretched drink. Procured it from another aisle, and entrusted it to her bosom. She gasped and her eyes grew wide. She tottered toward the checkout unsteadily. He was certain she’d complain and didn’t care.
The night he spent alone like every other. What need had he for friends? He smoked, planned, occasionally played solitaire. With a three card turnover to make it last. He had learned so much about patience, had become so attuned to its nature with time, that this game was his life in miniature, his being. He reshuffled the deck and dealt again.

March 29, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 9)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:31

Djinn was in the supermarket. He held a basket with fruit inside it, and read from a tin. Did he want to eat this or not? He decided to take it, placed it carefully next to apples, and continued. An old woman stepped to one side.
In the second aisle he studied the sauces, tomato and curry and others in jars. He scanned the top shelf for rice. He wanted cereal as well as this, and walked quickly around to locate it. He avoided the brands made from sugar.
When all was bought and he was back on the street, one of his bags burst. Apples rolled drainward bound. He hated himself for his stupidity, feeling undignified scrambling about, and looked up frantically, making sure no one had seen. A little girl smiled from a window. He clenched tight his jaw, furious.
In the apartment he checked the bruising, the apples discoloured and cracked. He binned them in another wave of fury. This country, its weather and people. He ran the tap to wash juice from his fingertips, kneading the joints together to remove the sticky mess. The soap he was using was useless.
He left after lunch again, stalking the streets of the 14th arrondissement. The air was chilly and sharp. On rue Didot he felt a pain in his side, and leaned against a lamppost, gasping. A dog moved out of the way.
He ventured down roads and alleyways, weaving toward the tower he planned one day to hit. That day was so close he could feel it. At last he stood underneath, staring up at the rooms full of lights. There were people in there so oblivious. He watched the traffic on the place alongside, the stopping and starting, and the people in throngs. It was like his own movie. They came towards him, didn’t see him, were replaced by others in an endless urban dance. They were all just the same and all stupid.
He smoked a cigarette and ignored a scavenging beggar. He spat on the ground to dismiss him. Smoke curled around, escaping from Djinn’s mouth, at Montparnasse, in Paris. A woman eyed him malevolently.
There were dark clouds overhead now. It looked certain it would rain. Others sensed this also, scurried to shelter in time, but he didn’t. He waited and then it began. Massive globular drops descended, attacking him, rendering the concrete world a river or reservoir. He stood there impassive and unflinching.
“Monsieur,” someone called out. “Monsieur.” Of course he ignored this completely. Soon all sound was drowned out by the rain, the passing cars and rumbling chatter unheard. He could feel his sensations shutting down. He clenched his fists and gripped his teeth with his tongue, urging feeling to return so he might suffer longer. His elbows involuntarily shook.
Whenever this rain stopped he would stand for another hour. He decided it there and then. Whenever the water ceased and the world again resumed, he would stand one hour more in this place. Society or conscience wouldn’t move him.
He rubbed at his face as the water thundered down, feeling stinging on his cheeks and nothing in his hands. “Monsieur!” he heard again, as from a distance.

March 20, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 13)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:42

If you invite pain and suffering into your life, they will come running. Don’t invite them, just deal with them if they come.
Djinn had seen his mother raped. In the kitchen, near a chair. He’d been young, a child only, watching wide-eyed and unmoving. When their business was finished they left. He’d run to her, held her, cried as she cried with him, on the tile floor. This was long ago.
He stands by the window on this French suburban street. He is in the town of Malakoff, next to Paris. A car goes by at a slow speed, two smiling children in the backseat, their mother driving responsibly. Djinn rubs at his eyelids.
Over in Beirut he had the sounds that helped to mould him. The familiar floating noise. Here he feels unmoved by it, the music of daily life, taking nothing from the French cars, voices, bird calls. He wishes he could block them out.
He has been living here a month. It is the second of October 2003, and he feels like he’s been here forever. The days are long and tedious. He has tramped the streets and consulted maps, pinpointed useful locations. Has surveyed the site many times. He has looked from every possible angle, calculated distances, ascended often as a tourist. The Tower of Montparnasse.
He knows it like a body part.
On their buses he stares out the window. On their trains he looks straight ahead. He ignores their old people, their words, their sinful immoral girls. He prays. On the streets his tension hurts him, muscular folds tightening in the shoulders and the back. He stretches his joints in the evenings.
Once a woman asked him the time. He acted like he hadn’t heard her. If he caught someone’s eye he would glance at the floor, or away, anywhere. It made his head sore. The weather was harsh on him also, filling his soul with anger and fear. Making skin crack.

He reads from his Koran and recites his prayers turned eastward. He eats silently. To control a plan one must control oneself, and this can only be done by adhering to routine. If a bird sings audibly he denies the occurrence, struggling to banish the memory of a simple, once pleasant event. The tea they sell here distresses him.
The clock is ticking on and the time is fast approaching. Patience will offer reward. In the gathering of material and the straining will of same, he senses something massive, far beyond his scope. French cars, French people, French steel and glass and skin. All will crumble, melt, burn in holy flame, just like a prophecy. Djinn feels tired suddenly.
He lies on his bed and stares at the ceiling. There is a crack with an insect upon it. The creature follows the line of the fissure, almost exactly, creeping upside down with no knowledge of the world. Djinn follows the creature with his eyes.
He will sleep later, dreaming of death. To dream of death is important. It means his heart is pure, his mind focused, his soul is free from fear. It means his will will carry him. He has to die too of course, in the building he will light. His soul must mingle with the others. He turns off the lamp in his bedroom.

March 4, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 14)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 10:35

The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west. The west is the dying part of the earth, although the opposite appears to be the case. He is comforted by this thought. The west is full of poison, is ravaged by its lust, is slowly disappearing like an image from its screens. He’s aiding an unstoppable process.
He moves away from the window. He flicks his cigarette. As it falls to the street below, the last smoke leaves his body and mixes with the air. The air and Lebanese sunshine. He eats some drying bread, and lights another smoke. Smoke is good for thinking.
Walking in the mornings gives him lightness in his head. Idle wandering in the quartier. There are streets he always returns to, streets he knows like his hands. Avenues. He has circuits that he uses, routes planned in his head, and every single morning he can choose a different one.
A pattern.
Every day is similar, and this is how it is supposed to be. There are few deviations. Stones are in the same place each time he passes. The objects never change. Parked cars, registrations plates, sundry decorations in windows and on doors. People. He’s ghost-like as he passes, shrouded by belief.
Sound commands his focus. The noise of traffic, voices, his own feet as he moves. Birdsong. He listens with attention, walks slowly, and sometimes rolls his fingers, like two spiders on his arms. Arachnid wrist attachments.
Djinn is always thinking of the work he’ll carry out. Perfecting by modification. The plan bounces and rolls in his brain; becoming, changing, real. He holds it like a prayer. On the rooftop in the evenings he whispers what he’ll do. What Allah will do through him.
The sun sets while he watches. Slowly, by degrees. Over time the roof-light changes, shadows falling, lengthening. Temperature goes down. He gives a tiny shiver, but stiffens his muscles to prevent it further. He’s tense as night takes over.
The devil of the west, and the irredeemable wrongs. The sacrilege. He broods on retribution, on the details of the plan. He works and re-works the motions. All around the air is cooling, and his body is a bowstring, holding off the chill. The roof and he are welded.
He has right upon his shoulders. Purpose. He walks the streets, watches the sun, smokes. It’s all prologue. It’s a training ground, a readying, a filing down of matter not needed by his soul. An unburdening. As he stands upon his rooftop, every night is the same, but he can feel within him how the time is drawing near. His eyes close.
There is a near imperceptible wind on his face. Like child’s breath. It massages his forehead and cheeks, in tiny constant jets. He’s motionless. When the student is ready, the Master will appear. He’s a statue on the roof, awaiting divine instructions.
He’s eating some bread made with raisins. He’s smoking his last cigarette. The birds are still singing, the apartment’s been sold. He’s looking at ways of getting to Paris.

February 18, 2010

Part 3: Blue, July – Sept 2002 (scene 15)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 3 : Blue — fishinginbeirut @ 10:38

He loves the sound of birdsong. The gentle morning chirp, all fresh and free of chains. He stands by his window just to hear it. These birds inhabit the trees around him, the trees planted on the street below, reaching to Allah. He smokes amid early birdcalls.
It’s another sunny day in the capital. He eats bread and wants for nothing, lost in his future dream. Holy smoke, rolling. A dark blue bird alights on the ledge, head darting about, furtively. He stands motionless to observe.
The bird struts and stretches, occasionally moving its wings, but seemingly content here. It pecks at the chipped white paint. For a second it loses its footing, recovers, and then continues as if nothing had happened. It is not scared misfortune will strike again.
He waves his hand and it’s gone. Its muscles cut the air, and the wing motion sounds like a paper bag, temporarily filled by a gust of wind. The blue bird disappears. In the sunshine morning he is once again alone, framed in his window for anyone looking up.
It’s all about generating the right heat to twist metal. Then the building will collapse into itself. This was made to work before, by others, in America. He had watched in fascination. He had felt then part of something huge and humble, this holy vengeance, although he knew not the perpetrators, nor their plan. This was what was so awing. There were others out there, with similar aims, and clearly this was no coincidence. There were forces at work. Action had been commanded. He was merely a cog in a waking machine, a chosen instrument, and he would do what he would do, undoubtedly. The time was drawing near.
He lights a cigarette, and exhales. More birds circle about. His gums bleed nearly every day, red droplets splashing into the sink. He ignores this minor happening. In its way it is purification, bloodletting, and he stares at the red lines. The trickles. It’s a small and sharp reminder.
Spill your own to take from others. Show you have no fear. Whatever is requested you must do, and nothing is outside the realm of your ability. This must be understood.
Back home he had killed for belief. Soon he will do the same. The French will pay, the West will pay, Christianity will suffer as it made others do. He knows the building to hit. Sparks and rubble, and a haughty tower reduced to dust. Plans and explosives. He stands by the window smoking a cigarette, and he can see it all before him, like the mending of a wound.
He hears children below. He is returned to his surroundings. The sun hits his face, the smoke curls away, and he smiles for an instant, alone. Birds flying and chirping. The everyday and ordinary, his external life, floats around his body. Moments waft like smoke. He stands in the morning in the city of Beirut, a city which, odd as it may seem now, was once known as the Paris of the Middle East.

January 30, 2010

Part 2: Aria (scene 6)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 2 : Aria — fishinginbeirut @ 09:27

If your wishes are not granted, there’s a chance you’ll have to kill. Nobody wants to, but wrongs took place in history. Unholy acts were sanctioned. The French marched into his country, long before he was born, and they claimed it for themselves. They scorned as mindless his religion. He heard the stories growing up – the barbarism, the flame, the callous Western putdown of all it doesn’t know.
More than one million lost in the War of Independence. Nearly two million more made instant refugees. Over one hundred years of French Imperial rule, and when they finally left, the country shook with pain. It was into this that he was born. The Western leaning authoritarian governments. The failure to uphold true Sharia law. The final humiliation came in nineteen ninety, when the holy Islamic party won legislative elections, and had their victory nullified. He was 14, and this was not too young to act. It was soon after they started calling him Djinn. Civil war began, chaos could bring change, and no one else made bombs for cars like the genie from the slums.
Their group was strong and certain, and members acted as they saw fit. They insisted on an Islamic state. They cut the throats of villagers, blew up foreign journalists, and left to suffer women who would not become temporary wives. They killed the blood kin of colons. Djinn wanted more. In the heat and dust of some deep Saharan bolt hole, he knew it couldn’t end with simple government displacement. It was the French who had to pay. Hiding from his own military, a wanted man in a desecrated land, he began to search in earnest ways to flee and plot.
Passage to Lebanon came unexpectedly. A dark and terrible Mediterranean crossing, and a mad man in the galley screaming “Tell me where is Egypt!” He made it safely, and left that sorry ship behind. He is sitting in a sun-filled apartment, a space he shares with no one, in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. He has one knife, one fork, and two glasses. Three guns. Djinn spends hours by the window, thinking, watching, smoking cigarettes. It is calming. In the middle distance is the bay, blue and dream-filled. He cannot see the Lebanon Mountains that rise to the east, behind him now, unless he goes up to the roof. He saves this for the evenings. For the eerie final sunsets on the jumbled tension city. On the Christian hills of Ashrafiyah, and Muslim Musaytibah. For the simple aching beauty of the white buildings in light. He has four shirts, two pairs of trousers. He has a watch with Western writing – mode, display, water resist.
He has been here two years. This apartment, this routine. Prayers in the morning and the evening. Traffic sounds are soothing, and silence speaks of peace. Allah expects duty to be done.
When the bomb goes off in Paris the world will finally listen. The plan is nearing completion. It has been gently coaxed from infancy, and is now a rumbling, almost real event. It has teeth, and claws, and the wisdom to carry itself through. When he speaks it aloud, he smells the smoke it will create. The building metal will soften, and the Western dogs will scream. He walks the streets for exercise, and gives the little children who live downstairs sweets and coloured pebbles.
Very often sunsets can make him want to cry. He doesn’t cry of course, but wants to. The arching light embalms the stonework. The sky is magical, is perfect, and is the glistening protection of the Middle Eastern kingdom. He stands on the roof in the evenings, looks to the eastern mountains, smokes and wants to cry. Children sounds from the street below. Cooking utensils clattered in kitchens, open windows and murmurs of radio. Turn to the blue bay. Boats, the harbour, the odd unlikely tourist. The scars of civil war, and subsequent Israeli and Syrian occupation.
After this he returns to the window. Night falls, and he watches waking street lamps, with sweet mint tea slipping on his tongue.

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