Fishing in Beirut

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 26, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 6)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 08:37

Frank watched the wall assembled. The keeper screamed inaudibly, moving the four men left, and then halting them. Guti, Beckham, Raul, and Figo placed their hands over their balls, and braced. Ronaldinho hovered, bug-eyed. Giovanni Van Bronkhurst whispered something in his ear.
The free kick came in and Casillas parried it, Salgado thumping it forward, defenders clearing their lines. Salgado seemed to be hobbling. Frank took a sip from his glass, Belgian wheat beer Leffe, and leaned a little back on his stool. The bar was deserted.
The ball went out over the Barcelona goal-line, skidding off the head of Puyol. Helguera trundled forward using elbows to gain space. Raul and Ronaldo darted and shimmied, as Luis Figo stepped up to take the corner, with two centuries of Portuguese melancholy etched into his face.
Frank ordered another. The set piece came to nothing, the game unsurprisingly tight. El Clasico. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, a big event in Spain, and all over the world. Loyalty, passion, and once a severed pig’s head. Zidane did some tricks at the by-line.
So it was two weeks knowing Aria, weeks where the ground wasn’t there, and he ate from the free bowl of peanuts, dreamily. Her smile made him want to do right.
He got up to drain some beer, and returned to the spectacle of Raul Bravo doing the splits. Xavi had gone down from this unorthodox challenge, and Raul Bravo didn’t seem to be able to get up without assistance. Saviola scuttled about.
Frank wanted Aria to experience this with him. They could share each other’s interests, joyfully. They had already spoken at length of their lives and their frailties, but they each had something extra, which they hadn’t mentioned yet. Time might provide the occasion.
He sensed into his body and felt some tension in his shoulders. He rolled them slowly around. Tendons stretched and muscles were loosened, and something gently cracked. His hair was warm on his forehead. He watched Raul give out pointlessly to Figo, as it was he himself who was playing badly. Figo batted him away.
Frank sent her a text at half time, and then sat staring at his phone for the reply to come. Seven minutes later he was satisfied. She was at home hanging out with Laura, tired as a dog after work. He imagined them there in the kitchen.
He’d first seen her apartment a week before, and she had yet to see his. Next week. He would ask her down and try to cook something, and he could meet her off the bus and drop her back. Laura was still unknown to him, and often meeting friends is the hardest. The girl’s close companions, who scrutinise.
Madrid emerged from the interval galvanised. The game was taken to Barca in the glorious Camp Nou. Figo sprinted down the right to boos and jeers and whistles, and fired a cross to Ronaldo, who thundered it off the post. Beckham did his best to look pretty. Guti and Xavi battled for midfield supremacy, using whatever questionable methods might gain the upper hand. Ronaldinho bounced like a schoolboy.
Frank felt some pain in his ankle. He could never play this game again, even for fun in a courtyard, and although he hadn’t been good the loss nevertheless registered. It was restriction, lessening. He finished his beer and let the game finish too, and left. It was dark with some frost on the street.
Some guy shouldered past and demanded cigarettes, but Frank ignored him, oblivious. It was sweet to know Aria’s name.

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 18, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 11)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 10:21

Frank began walking naturally. Unaided by the crutch he would journey around the block, moving at a pace that facilitated correct walking. If he went too fast he regressed to a form of hobbling, but at a slow gait the muscles seemed to work properly. His ankle clicked and protested.
The dogs sometimes accompanied him, in daylight or the evening, and all the houses were festooned and joyful, with Christmas lights, Santas, mistletoe. What they call the holiday season.
In his huge security jacket and his woolly hat and gloves, Frank trudged through the snow tracks delicately. One of the dogs disappeared momentarily, only to re-emerge covered in snow. A car skidded.
In his room Frank warmed himself, rubbing his hands and rolling his neck. He smelt chicken roasting. Rachel and Jack were in the kitchen, Jack banging on a pot, and Frank listened quietly, feeling at ease.
He took the garage route to the basement, entering by the side door, and had a smoke amongst the gloominess. There were mice in the walls.
Their presence had been detected three days previously, when Frank noticed teeth marks in stored Irish chocolate bar wrappers, and had then seen three of them, scurrying across the floor. Dan was out buying poison. Frank looked around carefully, but knew it was unlikely he’d see them again. Their hiding places were infinite.
He stubbed out the joint, but remained seated. He took in the sense of this room. With his eyes closed and his head lolling, he experienced its parameters, sonically, spatially. He heard a dog padding.
“You should go out and get a Yank bird,” said Dan at dinner, and Rachel pretended to scold him with her eyes. “Fly the flag for Ireland.”
Frank smiled in politeness, feeling that this would be a tricky proposition, but unable to deny the fact his body was requesting it. Her nationality would have made no difference. He would have lain her down and turned her around, but his mind was snapped out of this when Dan hit him with a tea towel.
“Finish your chicken or I’m giving it to the dogs.”
Frank washed the dishes with the CD player spinning. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. He saw them in Berlin, nearly saw Tom Waits too. He pushed suds from a Celtic-patterned hotplate.
The kitchen in the evenings had become a special time. He liked washing the dishes with music playing. His mind would drift and float from him, memories, imaginings. Thoughts like slow ponderous beings.
Tonight he was thinking of Dublin, the kebabs and the piss and the puke. Excessive smoking and drinking. Brit-esque slappers in skirts. It was English there, different in token form only. The lager, the aggression, the frantic coupling with strangers in the streets. He’d done that too, like anyone.
He finished the dishes and went to his room, then to the basement to smoke. The bag was certainly diminishing, nearly 300 dollars in his lungs. It was sweet though. It was sweet and chilled and soft melancholic, and slowing. He stretched his arms upward.
“Ah sure now, ceilings are pretty cool.” He sent this remark to the wood beams. He got a can of Old Style from the fridge, and cracked it open with a groan. Then he guzzled from it.

Jack stood up by the fireplace. Terminator 2 was on television, and he rose shakily near the dormant grate. Frank watched him curiously, feeling sure this was the very first time – an unassisted standing being accomplished. Jack waved his arms, shouted, and then folded neatly onto his bottom, like a soft internal implosion, or a tower being felled. “Silence,” ordered Schwarzenegger.
Rachel and Dan were out, and Frank the babysitter was drinking a beer. He smiled at Jack. There was a crash on the screen and Jack’s head swivelled, his eyes as wide as saucers, but not containing fear. It was just instinctive.
“That was a crash,” said Frank solemnly. Jack watched him and listened. “There was a big crash, and Schwarzenegger said ‘affirmative.’” Jack gurgled and coughed.
“This is a remarkable transition the Terminator has made,” opined Frank. “It is akin to Hannibal crossing the Alps.” Jack crawled over closer, whispering utterances to himself.
“If you cast your mind back to the first film,” Frank continued, “he was resolutely, indeed indubitably, an evil character. The truth wasn’t in him. Now however, we can observe a startling transformation, as he hereby battles to save the life of the one he was initially sent to destroy.”
He drank from the beercan.
Jack was well accustomed to this silliness, and, although he didn’t understand any of it, appeared to be enjoying himself immensely. He gripped the edges of the couch. Frank picked him up and they sat together, Jack chewing a toy. Arnie had split for commercials.
“I’m going to be leaving soon,” said Frank. I’m going to be going away.”
Jack went asleep in his arms later, and Frank watched his innocent face, his sighs and his nasal breath-flow. His mind didn’t know of sadness. What would his life hold, what would Frank’s, and if they ever met again, would the sleeping child remember?
Was he dreaming?
Frank turned off the TV set. The walls were painted yellow, but a warm and vivid hue, and he took in the room slowly, deliberately. Jack shifted for an instant. There was pain in Frank’s body, and they had said there would be forever. There was breakage and deformation. He looked at this sleeping boy on his chest, and smiled at the knowledge of his energy. His boundless, shouting glee.
When Dan and Rachel came home the dogs would start barking. Jack would probably wake for a moment, and then sleep again. Would wake without knowing he had done so. One of the dogs ventured over, silent and wagging its tail, and Frank patted the soft dark head, two loving pure eyes regarding him. The deep eyes of dogs.
He closed his mind and relaxed. To his sensations. He was almost holding himself. He almost had his arms around his own sleeping form, protecting it from everything, everywhere. But there are no winners in that game. The barrier of protection can block good as well as ill, and if you aren’t receptive, how can you receive? He felt a pulse throbbing.
The arrival of Dan and Rachel was imminent. It was the future, then the past. Frank sat on the couch with the baby in his arms, the dogs alongside him, and his history like a trail. He had a life to live through.

March 11, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 7)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 09:17

Frank’s cousin Paul went to heaven. Frank and Danny took a pew. There were great uncles, distant aunts, second cousins, and crying girls. An Irish-American dynasty. Frank had met Paul occasionally, as a child at weddings and births, when Paul had flown to Dublin. He’d been kind and simple and strange.
Frank felt some pain in his ankle. He gripped the crutch. He was morphined for the morning, gazing serenely at the rituals and robes. Dan dropped his keys and they clattered.
Afterwards, groups gathered and whispered, intoning gravely in a hush. Efforts were made to ignore the inappropriate comments of children. Frank met his relatives randomly, some known, others not, the rest half-recognised from pictures. One of them mentioned his sideburns.
Driving home, they stopped off for fast food, the burger and the wrapper indistinguishable and one. Dan outlined the family tree. The history of the bloodline on Frank’s mother’s side was long in Chicago and New York. Ancient ancestors. Frank listened with interest, conjuring up images of the dust bowl and before, uncaring of whether this was relevant or not. The harshness was romantic.
There were alcoholic layabouts and eyes filled with tears. Journeys across country in the snow. There were marriages that were scorned and religions renounced, and Frank thought of uncles in sharp pinstripe suits. Were they driving the Ford Model-T?
Back on the road the highway was clear, and Frank found a station for the religious right. They listened momentarily to the brimstone and bile, until suddenly it wasn’t funny anymore. The silence was better.
“So why did you come here?” Frank asked.
“For the change.”
They drove on, and Dan continued.
“I was fed up in London, with the people and my job, and when I finally got my green card, that was it. There was no hesitation.”
Frank rotated his ankle.
“And did you sort out a flat?”
“I stayed with my cousin, Maire. She was at the funeral too.”
“For long?”
”Yeah, for a while. My first flat, I shared it with Rachel.”
The American landscape flashed by as they went, all concrete and build-up, with spaces between. Big cars and restaurants. The El passed alongside, as they came up towards home, and Frank heard the rattle, though his window was closed. The track shaking.
They told Rachel what happened, in the living room of the house, and Jack sat on her knee, listening. His eyes moved from one to the other. He dropped his spoon and peered down at it curiously. It was gone and that was fine. One of the dogs shuffled over to inspect it, wondering if it was food and leaving when it wasn’t. It sneezed as it left.
They drank in the basement in the cool afternoon, and Dan told a story of when Paul took him out. Some dive-bar on the southside. It had been winter time, snowing, and Paul had been drunk. All the world drunk on nothing – that’s what Chicago felt like sometimes. Dan finished the story.
At night Frank walked the dogs. He limped around with the crutch and a can of Old Style, and they padded ahead in the moonlight. The streets were a dream then, in the darkness and peace, and the trees in front gardens were lonely and strong. There was magic.
The evenings were still grand, but they’d soon grow much colder. Then freezing. He had hats and gloves in his wardrobe. He’d been warned before coming, pack plenty that’s warm, and he’d done so obediently.
All of the houses were fronted with wood. Porches. Hanging in these was a lantern or light, and some held a wicker chair or similar. It was old-fashioned. Frank moved by slowly, stopping if needed, and studied them. He was happy here in this winter world.
As he eased round the block, he came to the bridge, and stood solitary upon it. The El passed underneath. He made out a large group of young people within, students no doubt, on their way downtown for drinking. He finished his can, dropping it in a bin.
The dogs breathed beside him, and the train sound diminished till the silence returned. It was gorgeous. Frank on the bridge was the lord of the nightworld, the sentry of silence and of being alone.
“Come on,” he whispered. “We’re going back to the house.” They bounded ahead into stillness. He followed in wonder, alive to it, a man with his dogs and with sweet nothing else. This was God-given. The morphine in his bloodstream was slow and at rest, like a spirit level.
The lights on that bridge were like nothing on earth. From the Sears tower, and the Hancock. Massive, looming skyscrapers, street lights in unending rows. A helicopter. Back in the house, Frank went to the basement, and with nobody down there he rolled up a joint. At the bar counter.
He drank Ten High Kentucky bourbon before sleeping. The ice melted into the glass. The lamp by his bedside could be brightened by degrees, touches on the stem adding wattage if required. It brightened, brightened further, then turned off.
He was reading a story about memory. He was melancholic from the subject and the drink. He thought of Berlin, of his life and his leaving, and put down the glass on the locker to his right.
With the room dark once more, the world totally emptied. It was sealed off and separate. Frank closed his eyes and rotated his ankle, and a sharp line of pain shot right up through his knee. He felt tingling, then nothing further.

March 9, 2010

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

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 09:17

Frank was holding the baby. His name was Jack and he was seven months old. He waved his arms and shouted with joy. His smile showed a tooth in the gum base.
“Ah sure go on outta that now,” said Frank, amusing them both with the spiel. “What would you be talkin’ about at all at all?”
Jack bounced and tried to look at several things at once, and then Frank put him down, and he sat there eyeing a soft ball. Frank procured it for him. The sun was coming in and stretching on the wooden floor, the American street half visible through the blinds. A pick-up truck trundled by, going the wrong way down a one-way street. Frank laughed.
“When are you going to start walking around?” asked Frank. Jack smiled, and handed him the ball. One of the dogs arrived and sniffed randomly, or perhaps not randomly at all. Frank picked Jack up and took him outside, and they admired berries in the front garden while a squirrel scampered up a tree. Jack turned his head toward the movement.
“Ga,” he said. Frank nodded solemnly. “Ga, ga, ga, gaaaa!”
There was a church a few doors down, ‘the opposition’ his uncle joked. Anglican or Methodist or some form of Protestant worship. The wine just stayed wine for them there. Frank and Jack watched a woman enter, Jack’s fingers catching on Frank’s shirt. Frank felt a stab in his ankle.
The crutch was not needed to walk in the house. It was for downtown, or the shop. If there was no tobacco, no papers, and he was gonna have to eat the grass or do without. If the dogs needed walking in the evening.
Jack wriggled and struggled, and Frank placed him on the ground. He picked at a daisy with interest, muttering some sound to himself. Frank stepped onto the pavement. The street was dead straight in each direction, tree-lined, peaceful. The houses were pretty and low. It was funny to be here, to be in America in daylight, a natural clearness in the October sun. It was funny and benevolently strange.
He felt the morphine buzz, a sealing warmness, and looked up at the sky as a plane flew overhead. The house was right under the flightpath, and this was exciting and nice. The flat in Berlin had been too.
Jack shouted something, and Frank turned around to observe him. Jack was holding the daisy. Frank picked up a leaf and threw it at him, and Jack watched it float toward his face, making no attempt to intercept. His eyes studied.
“That was a leaf,” said Frank. Jack laughed, gurgling.
“That was a leaf that I threw at you.”
Frank wandered over to a bush in the garden, and Jack watched him walk as he did so. A man on a bike cycled past. There was a wrapper or packaging entangled in the branches, a green and navy emblem torn and frayed. A fly crawled along it.
“Did you put that wrapper in the bush there?” said Frank. He had walked back to where Jack was. “Did you put that wrapper in the bush?”
Jack looked at him sweetly, aware that these questions were playful. He understood tone and mock-tone.
“Did you put that wrapper in the bush there?” asked Frank again, bending down and tickling Jack’s ribcage. “Cause if you didn’t, who did?”
He picked him up then, and they went inside.

In the evening, Frank and his uncle had a beer in the basement. This was the set routine. They sat at the old bar on barstools, studying the chessboard by lamplight. Frank’s days were numbered.
His queen was gone, a bishop too, and all of his enemy’s pieces had cordoned off routes of attack. He moved forlornly.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” said Danny. “I reckon I might have you if you do.”
Frank placed it back.
“I think you’ve probably got me anyway.”
“I suppose that it’s lookin’ that way.”
They played on for a while, and Dan won. He cracked his knuckles in victory.
“ I better go upstairs for a bit.” He finished his can and left.
Frank looked around, at the couch and the exercise clutter. A stationary bike and a treadmill. He stepped up on the treadmill and started walking at a low setting, loosening his ankle and making it warm. He liked the sensation at this pace.
There was a mirror over the far side. He watched himself, walking, and he thought he looked so thin. His forehead was creased into a frown. Consciously relaxing it, he realised how it was always like this now; furrowed, tight. He loosened his elbows and shoulders.
A dog padded on the floorboards overhead. He heard the scratch of its nails. Then the other one followed, more a scamper or a run, and Frank stretched out his arms, feeling tension ease.
In bed he lay with his discman. The comfort of low Leonard Cohen. Show me slowly what I only know the limits of, dance me to the end of love. He touched a sweet tear on his cheek.
The room was bathed in Chicago blue. His crutch held the wall. `He sat up and turned off the sound, and there was perfect, perfect silence. He put the headphones on the quilt. The streetlight in the laneway flickered outside, leaning over the chain link fence of the garden. The spirits could pass unobserved.
Frank watched all this stillness, this Hopper tableau brought to life. What joy in a pure lack of motion. The light died, went out, extinguished. It ceased. Frank and the world did not move. He yawned suddenly, and a delivery van pulled up. Brown. UPS. The driver got out with a package, and briefly entered a building. Then he drove off again.
The night had become early morning. Frank felt some pain in his leg. He leaned over for two codeine tablets, and swallowed them with water. The taste of the water was stale.
He lay back down and pulled the covers. The discman was next to his head. The headphone wire touched his neck, but he pushed it away with his eyes closed. A bird broke the silence with song.
Soon his uncle would let the dogs out. They would chase down the steps out the back. Frank was partitioned from the back door by curtain, and he heard it open every morning, and felt air. When the dogs went to piss it made him have to.

March 5, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 1)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:38

The leaf is the tree, and the tree is the earth. But still they are separate. Frank is in Grant Park, with his crutch beside him. Skyscrapers lunge upward in the downtown city hub. Clouds scurry to avoid them. Frank is in a morphine haze, the medicine supplied by doctors to combat dreadful pain.
To his left is Lake Michigan, to his right the Windy City. Around him trees and grass. It’s morning. He walks for as long as he is able these days, and has taken to sitting in this park. It’s near water. Homeless men drift about, and sometimes they talk to him or wave. If only the pretty girls would do the same.
The previous Tuesday down on Washington, he’d given five dollars to some woman. A beggar, a bum, whatever the term. She could have been forty or eighty. God bless you son she’d said to him, his eyes moistening from a draft. His ankle throbbed with pain.
He has memorised a number of intersections, battling to get to grips with the sprawling city grid. Street names are useless, it’s intersections that give bearings.
His body feels light and tingling; he has more drugs for when it doesn’t. Morphine, codeine, whiskey. The prescriptions for the first two are legal and correct, but the dosage for the third is one he wrote himself. The sweet Kentucky cure.
A leaf blows directly in front of him, skipping. It settles, then takes off again. He follows it with his eyes, his gaze resting on his discarded shoes and socks, placed on the grass in the sunshine. He slowly moves his ankle.
He is plagued by ideas of a perfect alternative life. He gets lost in constructions and conceits. Other places, perfect people. Things hidden. Maybe it’s just the injury, the morphine and being alone. Maybe it’s just today. He feels that in his life he can never say goodbye, can never leave to drift what is meant to float away. His fingertip rubs his forehead.
A group of school children walk past. Boys and girls, laughing pushing, perhaps five or six years old. That was Frankie one time. He clicks his tongue in disgust at this mawkish sentimentality, drugs and pain or not. He puts his shoes and socks on.
Walking back across Madison Avenue and into the city, he feels a shudder at the corner of Monroe and State. His right leg buckles for an instant. His arm grips his crutch, his entire torso leaning, shaking against it. Somebody stares in alarm.
Frank stands still, recovering from the shock and relaxing his muscles. It’s cooler here, with skyscrapers blocking the light. He sees a man get off a bus, his left leg severed at the knee. It makes him feel pathetic, and snaps away his self-pity.
He hobbles down the steps of the subway station, passing through the ticket barrier. The blue line will take him to Jefferson Park. There are crowds on the platform, and he’s self-conscious and totally alone. He feels that his jacket is ridiculous.
The train comes and they shuffle aboard. No vacant seats of course, and he hopes he won’t fall and embarrass himself. Somebody would get up if he asked them, but he wants this even less.
It rattles and shakes through the tunnels, leaving the Downtown area and emerging overground. It’s northwest all the way. Soon he will be home, in tree-lined squirrel suburbia. His aunt and uncle’s house. A deaf man passes out key rings, as the train lets off at Belmont. Four more stops to go.

March 2, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 12)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 09:55

Frank began to tremble. He had been practising continuously for two and a half weeks, and every time he did it, he felt a little more. Shaking, warmth, expansion. He lay inert on his bed, fearless of this stillness where before it was too much. His feelings danced within him.
The physical sensations of his body were numerous and strange. They were everchanging. He felt lumps, gurgles, wires and spheres and spikes, all within the housing of his skin. His mind flashed random pictures.
Sometimes this healing lasted merely thirty seconds, others it stretched out to fifteen minutes or longer. He smiled or cried or both, a world within his chest. Pictures came of the accident, but also of Monica, of Lise, of half-remembered moments from his childhood long ago. He observed what he was feeling.
Afterwards he would rest or sleep. He went walking in the evenings. There was a bridge which led over the Boulevard Peripherique, from Porte de Vanves to the sleepy town of Malakoff, and he stood there as the sun set, watching transfixed. Gold and pink and purple.
He developed a taste for weird cheeses. They were a luxury, and he didn’t beat himself up for wanting them. He just ate freely. They held a mixture of a bitter sting, which was maybe the first taste encountered, and a pleasing sweetness. They were all different colours.
On the bridge he stood or wandered. He passed through neighbourhoods. There was that deeply stirring Parisian light, the peaceful sensation of the summer, the evening. Day’s end. Malakoff was not Paris, it was more a town that could have been anywhere, and the parts of the city it bordered weren’t so bustling or strong. Sometimes he sat down on benches.
In the mirror in the mornings, it almost looked like his muscles were growing stronger. This couldn’t really be, or maybe it could. He would stand straight before himself, taking in this body which now felt like his own. It was stronger, warmer.
Showers were sensual dreams. Falling water hit his being, and he could direct his consciousness to focus on just a shoulder, or a leg. It could be all in that one moment. When sitting he would settle on his sleeves against his wrists, or his collar on his neck. Numerous sensations would follow. Frank was enchanted by the power that he held, the same energy that had caused anxiety, now rendering him fresh and new.
He kept practising. He sensed into himself constantly, remembering to do it again and again regardless of activity or location. Soon it was how he lived, with him always. He walked and felt his muscles, sat and followed his breath. Drinking, he was the liquid. Sunsets were not sunsets, but the only event in the stationary world. The same for the wind or a car horn.
He took that Spanish poem from his pocket and threw it away. It floated down peacefully over the Boulevard Peripherique. The wind caught it and didn’t, and it glided easily for spells, before being fluttered, or whipped, or re-directed. Finally it attached to a speeding bumper. Frank began to cry, there on that bridge in that city, and distant company neon signs blurred in his watery gaze. Banks or building societies.
He kept walking, breathing. Breaths became fuller as energy dispersed. Light was clearer, sounds were sharper, thoughts were strangely optimistic. What was broken only blooms in midnight.

February 26, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 8)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 08:37

Frank had been losing all morning. He began to suspect that maybe the deck held only fifty-one, but when he counted, they were all present and correct. The day passed in this manner, and when evening came he had not eaten very much.
He went to the kitchen and rummaged. Bread, crisps, some fruit juice. A banana he really didn’t feel like. He gathered them up and returned to the bedroom/living room, sitting on the floor and eating slowly.
The crisps were stale, but he ate them anyway, and was glad of them. The bread was in a similar state. All this dryness was alleviated by the solidifying fruit juice, which, given another day, would probably have reverted to being a piece of fruit itself.
He returned to playing solitaire and trying not to think of that girl from the graveyard. He was losing at both. The game kept grinding to a halt before he could complete it, and his mind kept making pictures of her eyes locking with his. He sighed and rubbed his face, stretching the skin on his cheeks, and making him appear quite ghoulish. He blinked and gave a cough.
He turned his cards and they presented no options. He shuffled and re-dealt. A red jack, a black six, and other uninspiring selections. He ran through the remaining deck, made a few moves, did so again, and there was nothing else. He shuffled and re-dealt.
What had she made him think of, that dark-haired graveyard girl? What did he feel he had shown? He yawned and scanned the cards. Abandoning the game momentarily, he closed his eyes and tried to relive the scene. He sat quietly, but then saw a flash of the accident. There was a sharp pain in his left arm, like a violent twisting. His eyes snapped open, and he rose to his feet, hands twitching. He blundered into the kitchen.
He ran the tap and drank some water. He wanted to leave but didn’t. If the mere act of going outside could make him feel better, than surely there was nothing really wrong. He smiled faintly at this. He heard somebody closing a window, his neighbour down below, and was warmed and quietened slightly. He stretched and felt some trembling.
The trembling always pleased him. It happened once in a while, a soft and warming shake, and he felt so new and whole then temporarily. He had come to wondering if there was a way to make it start. He drank a little more water.
He sat down, felt stillness for a moment, and then his mind clouded with memories of Lise, and Sjal, and Monica. He was breathing through his nostrils. He was unsure how necessary it was to remember these people now, these places. How much good was it serving? He was 23, and already familiar with so many streets and faces, fleetingly. Did he put too much weight on encounters?
Leaning back, he felt his stomach gurgle, and a strange and calming sensation slide slowly within. It was like a glacier dissolving, an ice-rock of energy, thawing. He coughed and resisted an urge to move. His body buckled suddenly, into itself, and his mind was on that Berlin bus. The crash and the smash. He waited for it to pass. It did in time, and his thought returned to Lise. He relaxed.
All these nagging memories, of Sevilla and before. Maybe it was time to start saying goodbye.

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