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 16, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 19)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 10:35

Frank put the gathered nail clippings in the bin by the door. His fingertips tingled, and he ran them under warm water, a post-cutting trick. He always kept his nails so short people asked him did he bite them, but he didn’t, never had. He looked at his fingers, the right middle one bearing a scar.
On Pont de Bercy the world had been frozen. Sculpted, hardened, and left hanging for him. A gap in the chaos he had left and the girl he was going to.
He sat down and stared at his manuscript. It was growing – moving and shifting, the relevant and less so pushing for space. Is a person on a page automatically a character, immediately imbued with this status, and changed. Can writing about something alter it, make it less real?
He wasn’t equal to these questions.
He made a sentence and deleted it. Various alternative constructions began swimming in his brain. He had cleaned his room thoroughly in the morning, getting up early to do it. Now, at the stroke of twelve, he was rooted to the desk.
A glass of hour-old water sat beside him. Tiny bubbles floated toward the top, but slowly, ponderously. He saw the smudged imprint of his lips in two different spots.
He went to the window and leaned out. Writing is unconscious exercise, because any movement will do. Stretch, yawn, jump up to do nothing, or walk around. Anything but force those words on that mocking blankness.
One of those sci-fi cleaning vans arrived, scuttling down the road with a hose attached. There was a man attached to the hose, walking along the path spraying the ground, and from Frank’s position it looked like this man was leading the van. His green and yellow dog, out in the fresh midday.
The picture grew more detailed as they approached. The hose, the umbilical cleaning apparatus, writhed and rolled from the vehicle to the man. The water cracked and splashed on the butt-strewn pavement. Frank could still not make out the van’s driver, and he tried not to look, lest he shatter the illusion. Pedestrians took refuge on the street to avoid getting soaked.
Frank went back to his desk. He fiddled with an odd piece of string protruding from his wallet, a straggly end where the lining had come loose. He looked at a picture of himself on a piece of ID.
It was what to say, it was how to say it. It was letters in lines that might hopefully touch someone else. The facilitation of eye movement across static words on a page. The endless belief that it was good, and then it wasn’t, and then it was.
He rotated his ankle. Muscles were caught, and there was clicking, and pain. He rubbed it slowly, methodically.
The sound of a circular saw skewered the silence. A pinpoint sound, like an opera singer in a bad mood. It darted out, finding Frank in his room. A swordfish vibration, a prickly, stabbing, blast.
He tried to describe it accurately. Even if it didn’t make the scene it would be useful to do. Take the senses and filter them through the fingers, put down what is heard, what’s seen.
He wanted clarity. Precision, lucidity, economy of expression. Words on the page because they’d staked a claim to be there.
The wind blew the curtain and the camera drifted out of the bedroom. This is what could happen, a handsome young actor playing Frank. We leave him with his writing, and move maybe skyward, or fade to black.

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 3, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 7)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 10:02

Frank was writing about his time in Sevilla – meeting Lise and Sjal, and drinking with Dev. It was an odd but beautiful experience to put things down. In a way, dredging up these memories for a book was a method of releasing them, a benign and gentle freeing of thoughts in his head. He would scrutinise them closely on paper and then find they were gone.
Writing let him taste and smell in ways he’d forgotten. Sevilla was sensually rebirthed to be fully let go. He remembered small moments – light on glass, wine, laughter. His body seemed to rewind also, and his ankle grew sore.
He stopped for a moment. He rotated the muscle and cartilage till it loosened and felt warm. Slowly he read over what he’d done. He didn’t know if it was any good or not, and he didn’t really care. One man’s gimmick is another’s startling insight.
He walked around the room with his pen in his mouth. Some paper fluttered towards the window and he hurried to retrieve it. It was a page where he and Lise played pool in some dive.
He heard a helicopter in the distance and then silence returned. He wanted to write about Aria and wondered if he could. Might he jinx the sweetness of his reality? It was better to finish the Sevilla section before contemplating this.
He wrote down a conversation between Lise and Sjal. An English conversation, because they didn’t want the others excluded. It was something to do with awareness when you entered a room.
Lise had said she unconsciously registered who was where upon entering a room. She thought Frank did it also but Mette did not. He transcribed these sentences as best he could, knowing exactness was impossible and approximation would do. It was funny to use people’s words to fill up a page.
He boiled water for mint tea, taking a break and leaning out the window. March, and the weather was suggesting perhaps it was May. This was two years in a row – unexpected sunshine in February and March. When he thought of his discomfort a year ago he was amazed at so much change.
He re-commenced writing, drawing linguistic pictures of Andalusia. Once, Sjal and Pernilla had taken him to the coastal village of Torrox, and he remembered clear blue water and banana splits. They stayed in a house owned by Sjal’s parents, with a rat in the kitchen.
Busily, he jotted down descriptions. He didn’t know any of these people now. Probably he could meet them again and still not know them, or maybe not. Perhaps he’d get re-acquainted with them afresh. The sun hit his desk and dust was visible. Aria’d told him that dust made her think of a plane.
He swished his hand through the air. Dust particles scurried and re-aligned. He was going to write something about humans being like dust, but deemed it pretentious. Humans are more like moths, attracted to what can hurt.
He didn’t know how long these memoires were going to be. He thought he would write about Berlin and leave Chicago alone. Reminiscences of Berlin and Sevilla would be perfect.
Aria sent a text and he read it three times. He smiled at his foolishness, but there are worse crimes. I’m making dinner tonight. Come over x. A bird on a balcony opposite broke into song.

Aria bought chicken, peppers, an

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 25, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 12)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 11:03

There was a gig to be done before leaving. It was in a beer garden by the river, with a wooden stage and tokens for drinks. Each band member got three tokens to use whenever.
Frank’s strings were so worn it was difficult tuning them. They’d have served better purpose as fishing line. He wound the pegs in the sunshine, knowing his time in this city was nearly through. By nightfall he’d be bus-bound towards London.
An unusual assortment of patrons drank and ate schnitzels and currywurst. Kids, old people, Africans with dreads, expats. In the corner by a pool table Turkish girls showed off their thongs.
“Remember,” said The Behanser, “we’ve got to do three fucking hours here, so no amount of solos or breaks can be deemed too long.”
Pd had disappeared to smoke and use the phone.
“I was just saying there,” said The Behanser on his return, “take your time on this one. If anyone wants to try anything it’s all part of the song.”
Dev scraped his nails along his bodhran saying it was good for the skin. A child wandered over to investigate and ran back to her mum.
“And a one, two, a one, two, three, four –
Oh come over to the window my little darling…
They started as they always did, So Long Marianne by Leonard Cohen. It was one of those songs they never got tired of playing. Frank felt he must have done it more times than L. Cohen himself by now, and watched his hands make the chords, not thinking.
One tune followed another, with extended instrumental parts, and more beer breaks than the tokens warranted. At one point a Rasta with his own drum joined them on stage.
“I hope he doesn’t think he’s getting in on the cut,” whispered The Behanser.
“Well if he does we’ll just break it to him gently,” said Pd.

They took a rest at four, stretching out on wooden benches and rolling grass. Frank had broken a string but was unconcerned. The crowd was shifting before them, people drifting in and out and maybe staying for a while. It was a no-pressure gig – just make a constant sound and the money was theirs.
“This next song is for all the ladies,” said Pd, not realising his fly was undone. The Turkish girls in the thongs ignored them like flies. Unperturbed, they stuck with it, sweat on their brows and lightness in their hearts. The song for the ladies was actually a folk song about death.
The owner appeared to one side, her arms folded, but a smile on her face. Some people in the audience were clapping and so was her son. Frank sensed another string about to go, and then it cracked loose and whiplashed outward, the short part attached to the peg, the rest trailing down. The Behanser beefed up his strum to compensate if he could.
In the end, they got paid and went drinking. There was a bar boat docked on the far side of the bank. They walked across, the river sparkling.
“So here’s to you Frank,” said Dev. “Sure we hardly knew ya.”
The others raised their glasses to toast his last day. It was a sad and hectic experience, the knowledge this part of life was over. Everything was so fast, and so blurring, and so gone.
How long he had been in Berlin he couldn’t say. It was a fantasy camp, a dream, a story ending. He felt a tear in his eye and finished his beer. Berlin when day broke was the reason God gave him breath. The sun in the sky and the ache in his soul. The hope that his hope would never desert him in conflict.
The water was rippling gently down below them. He was noticing details now, the sound of traffic in the distance. A bee landed on the table, paused, and flew off again.
“It’s at nine o’clock the bus, yeah?” said The Behanser. “Sure you’ve plenty of time so.”
They played cards and remembered stories. The day of departure brings a softness no other can match.

It was evening, the moon visible but the sky still bright. They were camped around Zoo Station at the terminal. A beggar with a McDonalds cup faded and reappeared beside strangers, requesting money in a whispered, alien tongue. His hair was matted and congealed like a wet dog’s.
The hum of bus engines and the smell of petrol was familiar. Drivers stood around talking, passengers smoked last cigarettes. One or two kids loitered to watch bags loaded on.
“There’s loads of fuckin’ nuns around,” said The Behanser. “I wonder are you goin’ to be travelling with them.”
“You can give them a good seeing to,” said Pd, smiling.
Frank showed his ticket to the man. It was last call, most already in their seats now. The lads all shook his hand and folded their arms.
“We need smokes,” said Dev to The Behanser.
A tyre squealed in the traffic. There were people all around – tourists, Berliners, who knows. Frank had Monica’s U-Bahn map in his shirt. With one final nod he turned to the door, and looked up at the driver, his hand on the wheel. It was a long old journey, from pleasure and strangeness to the unknown.
He grinned. He was safe in the knowledge he could always come back. The city would still be there, forever. Frank gripped the handle, and got on the bus.

April 23, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 10)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 09:03

They rang at the door but were turned away. The Madame peered out from the gloom, shook her head quickly, and the slit they could see her through was gone. They were standing on the street at 4am.
Frank, Dev, and Martin were desire’s captives. This part of town had red neon and mirrored facades. It held promises of sin and swollen lipstick.
They turned down a side street and were beckoned by a doorman. “Good deal,” he said. “Beautiful girls.” The man was Turkish and overweight, in his fifties with a lime-green shirt. Martin spoke in German to better negotiate.
Inside, an ancient piano propped up a wall bedecked with sparkles. Girls sat at the bar, an older woman served. Through a half-open curtain they saw an obese German with two whores astride him, his tie on the floor beside a bucket with champagne. The speed they’d taken earlier was wearing off.
“Whiskey,” said Frank. “You know, fucking whiskey.”
“Ja, ja, I know.”
The barwoman busied herself mechanically, pouring Wild Turkey and, before they could stop her, adding Coke. Frank curled his lip and refused to go near it.
“What, “ she snapped. “You say whiskey I do fucking whiskey. Drink, drink.”
He gave her the evil eye but took it nonetheless.
A girl approached each of them, and before Frank was clear, he was on a stool with a hand on his crotch. The other hookers watched them, bored.
“So tell me your name, and your country.” She rubbed him and he rubbed back, the drink so foul.
“Ah, Irish. I love the Irish music.” From the corner of his eye he saw Martin stroke a dark girl’s hip.
“Yeah, Irish, and where are you from?”
“Potsdam,” she said. “Are you going to buy me drink?”
Frank said he had no money. She looked at him coldly and he swore he really had none.
“You won’t buy me drink?”
“No.”
She turned away from him. She was still beside him but it was like he wasn’t there. Her eyes were dead and his talk echoed into nothing. The other girls did the same, Martin and Dev declining also, and the bar was now a frozen den of hostility.
“What the fuck are you doing?” said Martin. “We were promised a show.”
The barwoman stared at them bitterly. Dev looked at Frank and they were almost going to go.
“We were promised a show,” repeated Martin, louder.
A wizened little man appeared from somewhere. “Make show!” he ordered. “Make show!” He clapped his hands and grabbed roughly at the black girl, and she stood up and walked towards a pole. “Make show!” he said again, and music began.
She swayed, comatose, her body forming shapes but her eyes not there at all. Frank drank more Coke and nearly wretched. He pushed it away and watched her naked gyrations.
A mirrorball hung above, purple and blue light catching as it spun. Frank noticed how her shoes were so worn, battered silver sandals holding hard-skinned feet. She caressed herself like a zombie.
“Lets go,” said Dev. “Fuck this.”
The old man hovered over them, imploring them stay for more booze.

They sat in the Schwartze Café with cream coffee. Martin was talking about artists who made paintings from shit. It was an hour since the brothel, fully light when they came out, the sun climbing. The streets populated by cleaners and staggering drunks.
“Yeah, yeah, seriously boys. Their whole manifesto is art from bodily fluids. Shit, blood, semen. They work in warehouses and squats, and this stuff sells big time in markets.”
Frank began to feel queasy, unsure.
Dev spilled sugar all over himself, some patron doing that trick of leaving the cap unscrewed. He cursed, but the waiter was laughing.
“Machts nichts,” he called over, uncaring.
They got the U-Bahn back towards home, Martin leaving at Gneisenau Strasse. On their balcony Dev and Frank composed poems of that night.
“The fuckin’ eyes in the place,” said Dev. “They hadn’t seen light in twenty years.”
Frank drew a picture of the girls and threw it down to the courtyard.
They had a bottle of what the label called ‘Breakfast Cider.’ It was a strange, fizzy, non-alcoholic carbonated applejuice, and they guzzled the whole thing with pastries.
“I’d love a fucking sausage roll, or some chicken,” said Dev, dropping crumbs.
It was ten o’clock. A bright, hot mid-morning, the snores of Pd and The Behanser carrying out through the bedroom window, droning softly in time. Like a detuned accordion clogged up with gunge.
Frank whacked his knee with the empty plastic bottle, and a bird squawked and took off from a roof. The sound reverberated around hitting concrete and windows.
“One should always seek out the quiet parts of a new place,” said Dev. “The quiet parts can make even an old place new. It’s like when we went to that Jewish Museum. Just the design made the area around it more complete. Silence is like that, stripping away the noise and the panic. An unbroken silence is the same all over the world.”
Frank couldn’t argue with that. And so he didn’t, and they drank the rest of the juice in silence.

April 20, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 7)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 08:53

Monica was her name. She was watching an unruly musical display, and he went over afterwards and sat down. Performance of any kind provides strange confidence.
She was from Bologna she told him, over here studying.
“I like the way the songs all opened out,” she said.
He agreed, and wasn’t sure in that moment exactly what she meant. When he said his name was Frank it made her laugh. He was ‘Frankie’ for the evening, in the pub and on the bus and in her place. That night they made slow love and he went home.
The lads were awake in Bohmische Strasse, drawing upside down crosses on the wall. Pd was laughing hysterically. He’d been presented with a full Black Forest Gateau earlier by a neighbour, and had scoffed it all mercilessly in front of the others. The plate and fork and some napkins were strewn about.
Frank rolled a joint and the buzzer shocked him. Minutes later Martin bounded in.
“Jesus Christ boys, I’m after spendin’ all me money on two Russians. I’m all worn out and I think I need a drink.”
He sat down, sweating. The tale that followed left everyone mute. Two 25 year old blondes had made the Belfast pianist a believer, with the aid of ropes and feathers and their own God-given secrets and curves. Pd had to head for the can.
When he returned, the smoke had thickened. He fought his way through it and sat down. Frank strummed a melody on his guitar, and squinted around at the bizarre crosses on the walls. Dev poured whiskey on the floor and lit a fire. Blue flame danced for an instant, and then went out.
“With the lights off that’d be brilliant,” said Frank.
Indeed it was, flickering and writhing, shadows jumping and alive, smoke seeming thicker than natural. All of them were transfixed in the raging glow.

An hour later a helicopter flew overhead, and in their state they were sure it was coming for them. Frank covered his face with a towel and ran to the balcony to investigate. The chopper was circling menacingly, and he watched it in fear.
It was growing light now, the blue-dawn reality that was their lives. A time when things cemented and got lost when you slept again. Frank stared up at the helicopter, its red body and black wings, the whirling rotors like the charge of some coming apocalypse. He fell asleep on a chair with the towel on his head.

“Get up!” someone shouted. “Get up! There’s money to be makin’ on the Ku-damm.”
Frank couldn’t see for a second, and then remembered the towel was blocking his view.
He removed it, shivering in the air, his bones aching and cold. It was probably one or two but it could have been anytime.
Martin was gone, and The Behanser was striding about with a cup of soup in his hand, marshalling the troops for another day’s slog. From the bedroom Frank heard the groans of Pd.
“What the fuck,” said Dev, stepping onto the balcony and stretching. His hair was knotted and face creased. He yawned and spat down below, dredging up phlegm and depositing it. The distant concrete was too far for the splash to carry up.
They milled around the kitchen, banging into each other and picking at food. They grabbed the guitars and left.
The Mexicans were nowhere to be seen, so they were probably down the far end. Occasionally one of them disappeared and was replaced by a lookalike. The same belly, the same moustache, the same instrument. Another compadre allergic to the factory floor.
Dev sat on the ground and fondled his bodhran. Frank could hardly be bothered playing today. He formed chords distractedly, allowing the others bear the brunt.
Pd slapped his thigh as usual, keeping a rhythm entirely separate to that of the song. The fact no one could hear Dev rendered this moot. The music was greeted with hostility and appreciation in equal measure, and when Pd went round with the boot the collection was average. “Thank you, but no,” someone said. “Your music has not pleased me.”
After hitting the majority of the restaurants, they packed up and moved towards the tram. The short journey to Prenzlauerberg took them past Hackescher Markt and Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. .
Jason was on the square, drinking sangria and talking to himself. “Alright boys,” he said when he saw them approach. They sat with him and smoked, and it became obvious they weren’t going to play that night. They went to a shop and bought beer and jumbo skins.
It grew dark and the night was beautiful. Lorca-longing and the sweetness of what you can’t have. Frank lay back and closed his eyes, his head spinning. He breathed deeply, and thought of hope.
Jason sang a song, an ancient blues from the cotton field. The way he howled and shook he was Johnson or McTell. He convulsed back and forth, his head and body jerking, the strings besieged but holding strong. He spat on the ground and his ponytail worked loose and came free.
Oh woman what have you gone done to me?
Oh woman what have you gone done to me?
Well you took my lovin’ and then you cut me free.
The stars hung above, and the sound rose up to meet them. Speech wasn’t necessary, and drink was in plentiful supply.

April 15, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 3)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 09:30

They got the U-7 at Neukolln, Karl Marx Strasse bustling and full. At Berliner Strasse, they changed for the U-9 to the Ku-damm. The Mexicans were already playing the red restaurant on the right.
The Mexicans were the competition, two guitars and a violin. Their bellies forced the guitars to be played at chest level. The strings on these instruments were older than the street they were serenading, and flapped about tunelessly as the chords were plucked.
Frank lit a cigarette and watched them. They were sweating in the German summer heat. The Berlin sewer smell rose up violently, making diners cough and Dev complain.
They’d wait half an hour before playing here. After one performance it needed time for the clientele to change. They moved across the road and set up at another restaurant, effortlessly stealing The Mexicans next port of call.
The place was half-empty, and Frank tuned up. The Behanser wandered off during the first song, leaving him alone to play guitar. Dev sat in front with his bodhran, and Pd slapped his thigh while he sang.
Frank felt light in his head from the sun’s rays. The chords to these songs could be done without even a thought. So Long Marianne, Lime Tree Arbour, these were the set staples. Adapted to be played at cafes, beer gardens, and bars.
The Mexicans in turn leapfrogged them, and the two groups continued around the Ku-damm in this manner, overtaking one another, pausing, and doing so again. They stopped for beer on several occasions.
Stretching in a restaurant they had just hit, they laughed when The Mexicans huffed up and started playing. Frank smiled at finally catching their act. They performed for the customers impassively, staring ahead like they were dead or waiting for a bus. The Behanser let a belly laugh but it didn’t ruffle them.
As evening descended, they waited for Dev to drain his glass and got the tram to Prenzlauerberg. There was a square surrounded by restaurants, known as Kollwitzplatz. Here they shared sangria with an English busker named Jason, who told stories of Anderlecht, Paris, and Sevilla. He was maybe forty, with a scraggly ponytail and booming voice. He welcomed the company, and gave a sense of being utterly alone.
Then they started. Touring the restaurants, blasting out the same set. It was difficult sometimes to imbue it with any effort. However, it was this or working, singing or the sites, and so they sang, happily. Dev sat on the ground like a beggar or a Buddha.
In a bar at four in the morning they met Martin. An Irishman in an Irish bar in Neukolln. He was thirty-five, from Belfast, and played piano in five star Berlin hotels. The Behanser and Frank invited him back to the flat. He sat at the Bluthner grand, playing Mozart. He launched into Beethoven’s Fifth to make them laugh.
“You boys are wicked,” said Martin. “You’re brand new.”
His thick Northern accent was screaming for mimicry.
Dev tripped over a flashing lamp stolen from a construction site, reaching in vain for something but no one knew what. He just stretched out from his seat, then stood up leaning forward. He tripped on the lamp as he lunged at a shadow on the wall.
“Sit down you moron,” said Frank.
“There’s a fucking shadow on the wall like the ghost of a girl.”
They all looked, thick smoke obscuring everything, cigarette papers and butts littering the floor. There was no shadow or girl determinable.
A carton of sangria had spilled that night or previously, soaking the threadbare carpet, the smell mixing with the smoke. Dev dropped a roach in a can of Kuppers. Frank spied a pack of painkillers on the table and ate the six that remained in it. They combined with the smoke and the drink and made his body quite numb. He saw The Behanser stand up, but slowly, like underwater. Martin laughed, sounding as though from somewhere else.
“Play fucking piano,” mumbled Pd. “I’ll sing something Irish if somebody plays.”
Martin hit A minor and followed with F. As soon as he moved to G they knew what was coming.
True you ride the finest horse, I’ve ever seen,
Standing sixteen one or two, with eyes wild and green.
The Behanser removed a block of hash from his anorak.
As dawn broke they played charades, miming the titles of films that never existed. Pd took an hour and then gave up
“What the fuck was that?” shouted Dev. “What fuckin’ film were you doing?”
“If you can’t guess it, it’s fitting you’ll never know.”
They sparred back and forth for a while, each claiming the other’s turns were inventions.
The pointless exchange was finally ended with whiskey.

April 13, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 1)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 09:09

The band shakily took to the stage. Its four members tuned their guitars and vocal chords, and launched into a bloodcurdling rendition of an Irish folk song. The assembled Germans were aghast.
Frank, Dev, The Behanser, and Pd sweated for the nation. They could see the bar manager regretting giving them a call. Nevertheless, they hit a rousing chorus, The Behanser falling over in the heat and his drugged-up state. His sense of timing wasn’t missed.
Dev bashed the bodhran and Frank strummed unperturbed. Pd hit a high note. The swirl of music, and a crowd, and a head full of E and grass, took Frank outside himself, a guitar strumming, worriless thing. The Behanser got back up and started playing.
When the song finished they slumped and drank. Four more pints would arrive when these were gone. Some places happily doled out drink to them, others needed prodding and suggestion. Frank saw a woman uncross her legs.
The crowd were getting into it now. Pd sang a version of “Danny Boy” a cappella, roaming about the pub trailing the mic. He disappeared midway through the climax.
On the U-Bahn down to Oranienburger Tor, Frank felt nervous. He snapped out of it when The Behanser gave him a drink. They went into a bombed out department store, a victim of the war and before that the Kristalnacht. Artists and others gathered here. There was a dwarf breathing fire, and a strange dog that was constantly stoned. It chased its swishing tail and drooled saliva.
The Behanser went looking for a dealer. The others could see him crashing about, disappearing behind pillars and reappearing, and then he was back. He sat down and they prepared his captures. Tired after the day. Some girls hovered about to see if they’d share with them.
Frank recognised a dealer he’d seen occasionally, not in this group now loitering, just going past. A little blond German pixie. He held her with his eyes but she ignored him, and then Pd was saying ‘that’ll floor an elephant,’ and handing him a cone. He breathed deeply.
Dev started playing his bodhran like a bongo, patting out a rhythm with his fingertips. Frank lay back using his guitar case for a pillow, every single star up there a galaxy unknown. Every single person and blade of grass. An Australian voice said something unintelligible, hundreds of bodies around, tripping, pissed. On some nights there was trouble and the sting smell of Mace.
“Are we gonna get some food,” said Dev, “some fucking sustenance.” A Hungarian girl sat down beside Frank. She asked his name and then called him Frank Sinatra. I get no kick from champagne, he sang in her ear.
The girl suddenly started screaming, and moved her body away from Frank’s arm and stumbled into the night. Frank turned his attention to the stoner dog.
“Woof,” he said, and the creature ran over unsteadily, a crazed look in its eyes. Pd rubbed at its paw fur. The Behanser came back from the kebab shop, handing out doners and eating a currywurst. Dev started complaining that his had no sauce.
At seven am they crossed the road to a bar called Obst und Gemuse. They sat outside with the sun rising, beers in front of them and guitars alongside. Frank went to the toilet and there was graffiti above the bowl.
To be is to do” – Sartre
To do is to be” – Camus
Do be do be do” – Sinatra
He pissed and shook his head and went back outside.
“Possession is not the key to feeling,” Dev was saying. “You can feel bad with a hundred fucking cars.”
The Behanser eyed him sceptically, smoking. An unkindness of ravens pecked at something hidden across the street. Perhaps they weren’t ravens, just crows. Pd threw a banana skin and they scattered.
They left soon after, paying the bill and heading for the U-Bahn. They clattered back towards Neukolln, in a four-seat booth each.
Dev rolled a joint, absorbed in the act of construction. Frank thought of the sun climbing through the world. Each stop picked up commuters bound for work, business suits and builders, the builders with beer in their hands. The steady chatter made Frank want to sleep.
Back in the apartment on Bohmische Strasse, they collapsed amidst bottles and ashtrays, on couches from the street. An enormous grand piano sat in the corner. Dev picked out a few notes on it, a Bluthner from the 19th century. Pd put his hand down his trousers.
The Behanser stood up and announced he was making soup. They heard the woman who lived above leave with her dogs. The animals scampered down the stairs outside, the owner following with leads tingling in her hands. They were hitting together and making a kind of music.
Frank dozed till the soup was ready, knowing he could sleep for a few hours, and then it was back out to play. On the Ku-damm, in Prenzlauerberg, anywhere. He remembered he needed to buy new strings for his guitar.

Aria and Laura were at the beac

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