Fishing in Beirut

March 21, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 1)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 14:21

Don’t let the swirl of desire be your master. Johnny knew this, but it was easy to forget. His longed for October light was upon him again, the years slipping like sediment, his hopes and fears still with him. He watched the students up in the Pompidou library, their busy forms moving back and forth, and he down below on the tile stones. Johnny with pigeons and chill.
He waved his arm and he was just with the chill, and some moments later with Michel. Within an hour he was alone again. He stood up and rubbed his stiff legs, and picked up the guitar, figuring that was enough for today. He went to a café for a beer.
The waitress was familiar to him from a cold night, and he’d known this would be so before entering. He purposely sat with his back to her. She approached and was shocked momentarily, but then recovered, and merely took his order in sadness. Her eyes were like pools built from loss.
Johnny drank with a listlessness, breathing heavier than he needed to. He knew he was holding her interest. He felt her attention on his back and the back of his head, a laser beam of embarrassment, and disappointment, and ruin. Another waitress with tear stains.
He left as the dark became resolute, walking down Boulevard de Sebastopol with the beer buzzing. Early evenings cloaked in blackness. He stopped into one of those DVD and toy places, and bought a magazine with the legs spread. Some blond probably distant from her father. On the street with it in his jacket pocket, he waited patiently at the lights till the colour changed, and crossed to go east on rue Reaumur. He sat down to observe at Republique.
People hurried cloaked in distractions, thinking of their lover or their kettle or their bills. Johnny stretched out like a feline. He watched some kids on a makeshift merry-go-round, two Arabs controlling the motor, and selling candyfloss as a sideline. Women watched children on horses.
There was one time in Paris when he got called a nigger, by an American bouncer outside a club. Soon after his arrival. It had not hurt or surprised him, but the sensation of powerlessness was strong. He could only walk away down the queue length.
He was reminded of this for no reason, or no reason he was able to detect. He was reminded, and forgot, and it was lost again.
Things are as they are, and Johnny couldn’t sit forever. He stood up and shook himself, meandering slowly back toward Chateau Rouge. Was this city a burden to him now? It was too familiar, too known to him, too mocking of his weakness and his exiled raging heart. He knew the dogshit stains.
He was on rue de Chabrol, and then rue la Fayette, crossing over onto rue du Faubourg Poissoniere. He bought another beer in a fruit shop.
Nothing could lift his despondency tonight. These streets were boring now, and useless. They were the hunter’s net of all his failures and insecurities, the recording apparatus of his conquest born from need. They were unmerciful. He heard a domestic argument from a window up above him, woman wailing husband drunk. He spat saliva mixed with Kronenbourg.
Rain would have spoken for his misery. There was none. Crashing, smashing fucked off rain would have given voice to his anger, have bellowed where he was mute, but nothing but a breeze lived, and it was cool and gentle.


March 12, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 8)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 09:43

Johnny got out while she slept there. Got back on the street in a rush. Outside he wandered aimlessly, walking down rue du Ranelagh, and reaching Avenue du President Kennedy. He ambled alongside the river.
He continued down Avenue de New York, then finding Place de l’Alma. He was hot now. He couldn’t decide whether to get the Metro here, or just keep on going. He troubled someone for a smoke. He ventured on, passing bridges for Invalides and Alexandre, and stopped at the obelisk. The hard-on of Place de la Concorde.
He walked nearer and wished he hadn’t, feeling ridiculous when some tourist requested a photo. But then this alone made him smile. Why not oblige these people, take their picture and be part of their lives. Enhance or establish a memory.
He began hoping he’d be asked again, and then he was, by a bubbly Japanese couple. He positioned them and made them say cheese. The wind took up out of nowhere, and laughs splintered lost in the gale. Half-heard, and disappearing.
Johnny sat down on the wall, and watched as the people moved on. New ones arrived in the meantime. He cleared his throat and spat phlegm on the pavement, coughing. A child skipped on by like a song.
Back home he called Melissa. She came around soon and they fucked. He pulled out and went to the bathroom, not wanting relief in her view. He groaned as the life hit the bowl.
She made coffee and he cut his fingernails. The sugar was hard and congealed.
“Tu penses qu’on peut etre ensemble?”
He ignored her and answered the phone.
Night fell and he’d done nothing. The light bulb refused to go on. He’d been here alone since that phone call, four and a half hours previously. He stretched out his hands in the dark.
On the street he felt marginally better. It was rare he just went for a walk. He passed down rue Doudeauville, with some unfortunate lying injured outside a kebab shop. He was moaning away to himself. Johnny turned left and kept going, passing the Metro station, and hitting rue de Clignancourt. He crossed over into Montmartre.
He took rue Custine, climbing steeply, and approached the Sacre Coeur from behind. The light was a radiant beacon. There were a few people around, but not hundreds, and he leaned on a fence looking down. The vast Parisian basin. Lights flickered everywhere, twinkling, and the orange of the Tour Eiffel. He yawned.
There was not much to think in this moment. It was best to just stand there and stare. He saw the multi-coloured pipes of the Centre Pompidou, Notre Dame, the river. This was home to him.
In the flat he boiled some water. Drank it to warm up his bones. A spider scuttled along the sink edge, and vanished unnoticed through a crack. Johnny climbed into his bed.

March 7, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 3)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 11:13

Johnny was loathe to admit it. He wanted her. He wanted her and he couldn’t have her, and it growled in his body like an unfed dog. He scowled in their general direction.
She was lounging on the piazza with her legs draped over his. Some day-glo, hairgel, hip boy. Her shoes had been kicked or slipped off. Johnny watched them, this random unknown couple, lounging. He hurt from craving, looking at her there, and wanting her right now. He didn’t even know who she was.
She had a blue top and black dress, and was blond. Her shoes were pretty and white. The dude had some chain round his neck – a whitey down in the ‘hood of his head. He was propped up on one elbow.
“Sacrifice!” roared Johnny, picking up the guitar and forming an E. “Sacrifice tonight yeah.”
The autumn sun caught his watchstrap, as he flicked it rhythmically fast. He loved this Parisian autumn. In a matter of months it would be too cold here, and he would abandon the October light was the best though.

“Sacrifice, for what we have’s not what we need yeah,
Sacrifice, oh no!”

The police idled by. They studied him carefully, feigning ignorance and lack of recognition. One of their radios barked. Deciding against hassling him, they passed on, and he stopped playing and lit a smoke.
“Sacrifice, you fucking pigs,” he muttered.
That girl was still down there. Her legs were long and tanned. He blew a smoke ring, and accepted what could not be. Still, now he had that feeling, and he’d have to find another.
His smoke ventured out into the world; drifting, fading. His phone received a text. A brown and crumpled leaf attached to his boot, and then skitted onward again. The autumn and the dying. Johnny felt like a stranger here, just for a moment, before he stopped and remembered. This was home now. This place and no other.
He checked the text and deleted it. That client was a client no more. Whenever he felt suspicious, he dropped them without hesitation, cause get in trouble here and there was nowhere else to go.
He stood up and stretched his calf muscles. The right one had developed a cramp. Kicking at the air in slow motion, he saw the couple get up and move off. She was not so pretty after all. Her face held a sluttish plainness, and a dissatisfied lipcurl crank. Her eyes were the beads of a magpie.
Johnny spat on the ground, and worked stiffness from his limbs. He swivelled his arms and his shoulders. Blood pumped to the cardiovascular rhythms, and he felt warm, looser. Maybe today was a good one.
He sat back down and sang for an hour, barely ending one song and beginning another. People stopped before leaving. His hands and his voice were at one then, projecting a deepness withheld. This was the soul without censors. A tiny child ran up and put a coin on his knee, and as she did so she gave a tiny sneeze. He smiled in spite of himself.
“Bless you little girl,” he said, and she laughed and didn’t know why. Her mother beckoned her toward her.

March 3, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 13)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 22:44

Johnny was at Beaubourg. Michel had wrangled another lesson out of him, and was seated alongside, smoking.
“Both / both of, neither / neither of, either / either of,” said Michel, brandishing a grammar book like a weapon. Johnny’s heart sank. Michel turned to the appropriate lesson, comically flicking the pages in an unconsciously earnest manner. Johnny forlornly eyed the content.
“So all of these words are for two things,” said Michel. “Not much things.”
“Many things.”
“They are for many things?”
“No,” spat Johnny. “You say ‘many things,’ not ‘much.’”
“Ah, yes. Many things.”
Michel paused for a moment.
“But they are not for many things,” he ventured, timidly testing the water. His shoulders hunched.
Johnny stared at him coldly. His mouth opened as if to speak, but then Michel realised he wasn’t going to, and instead confirmed it for himself.
“They are for two.”
Thus the lesson began. Johnny sat there scowling and correcting, and Michel prodded, questioned, and sniffed. Johnny felt a buzz in his jacket every time he got a message. Michel was desperate to learn, and was trying really hard.
“Both of us went to the party,” he read.
Nevertheless, Johnny couldn’t be bothered. He didn’t even feel particularly angry, it was just an unnecessary drag. He started fiddling with his phone.
He stood up suddenly, and announced he was going for a walk. Told Michel to keep studying. He turned to his right and skirted the top of the piazza, disappearing down rue des Lombards and emerging at Chatelet. Bus 58 was parked on Saint-Denis.
It felt good to take a change of location, even if it was only around the corner. He watched the skirts and suits. He thought of jumping on the 58, unsure really where it went, but what was the use. He’d have to come back eventually. A child dropped an ice-cream and roared loudly, and its mother negotiated it onto the bus. The screams grew muffled within.
He scanned the faces for want of a distraction. Get lost in the appearance of others. There were furrowed brows, tourist smiles, and heavy and light applications of make up. His jacket buzzed again. He went and bought a crepe, asking for sugar and chocolate, and the man behind the counter needed convincing he was serious. He ate in a machine-like fashion.
He wandered into a café and drank a cup of coffee. He played X’s and O’s on a napkin. An old Arab man beside him whispered to himself, folding and unfolding a torn off page from a phonebook. Johnny cracked his knuckles.
He leaned with his chin in his palm, feeling his breath make contact with his skin. Warm jets covered his nails. So many people talked and hummed to themselves in this city, at once entirely present, and somewhere far away. He threw a glance at the waitress.
Back at Beaubourg, Michel displayed his knowledge. He seemed to be completely in control of this topic, and Johnny was tempted to ask why he needed a teacher at all. A pigeon pecked a panino.
“You don’t need me for your teacher.”
“Yes, I think that I do.”
“You don’t.”
They sat in momentary silence.
The pigeon extracted a large lump of mozzarella and scampered off. Johnny kicked the remaining bread, wishing to put some distant between himself and it. The Chinese busker wailed.
A girl called Severine sat down beside them. Johnny knew her in passing, and had once woken up in her flat. He tried to recall something else. She told him he looked well, and that she’d been promoted. She was evidently pleased. He felt embarrassed and imposed upon, but was expert at hiding this, and probably merely appeared aloof. She left a short time after.
“That was who?”
“No one.”
Michel went to buy some alcohol.
As they sat drinking in the sunshine, Johnny watched two teenage girls in whispered conversation. Their body language was private, conspiratorial. He felt that they were separate, but still wanted to be seen. He caught a glimpse of bra strap.
Do women have that many secrets, or just a worship of secrecy? He really didn’t know. He turned to Michel and flicked his ear, and Michel said ‘both of the girls are pretty.’ Johnny rolled his eyes. This was German beer, or claimed to be, and the faint metallic taste spilt the beans that it was cheap. It was cheap shit, an insult to the Reinheitsgebot.
They finished the bottles and started on others, content to be drinking in another easy day. Don’t stress yourself, cause half the world will try to. They flicked the discarded tops. Johnny reached round for the guitar, and absently picked a pattern. He put some tremolo on the B string. The teenage girls swivelled their heads, and seemed to agree non verbally it would be interesting to approach. They sat at a respectable distance.
Johnny continued picking. He murmured or hummed occasionally, but was in possession of no desire to erupt into full-blown song. One of the girls began assembling a ponytail.
“Jouez monsieur,” said her companion. He gave her a sly-dog smile. “Jouez une chanson pour nous.” Michel leaned back on his elbows.
The police put in an appearance, and the beer was deftly hidden. Michel spotted them over the far side and placed the guitar case on top of their stash. Johnny went on with his playing. The girls began to talk amongst themselves, quietly, discussing some hope or ambition, or maybe reciting a poem. There was a rhythm to their interplay. Michel kept an eye on les flics.
“So what do you want to hear?” said Johnny. They didn’t understand. He repeated it in French, turning a tuning peg slowly, and when they told him anything he gave them a quizzical look. Hair flicking ensued.
So he played something, anything, and they seemed to be satisfied, or at least pretended they were. He almost offered them beer by mistake. They watched him with wisdom and wonder, or with something approaching those two. They scrutinised. He stretched out his arms in the evening, yawned, and quietly scrutinised back. Michel had left.
“I’m going to tell you something,” said Johnny, standing up and knowing they wouldn’t understand.
“Businessmen are fuckers, and love is impossible.”

February 27, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 9)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 11:36

His reference point was the last one. When he thought about a take, he could only remember the last one. The girl right there beneath him. He turned over, propping himself up on his elbow. He was lying on the bed, fully clothed.
Before he left his mother had called him over. He’d been frightened, in a rush. She had whispered in his ear. Some things never grant an ending, they just gradually fall away. These men have given you one. This country is not yours now, and you are truly free. He had slunk out the back door.
Johnny tugged on the hair at the back of his head. His breath prevented silence. He lay still, scrunching up his face and closing his eyes. You are truly free.
They kicked him from Dakar for reasons he had buried. He wound his way to Paris. Jean, Johnny, whatever. He was lying on the bed, propped up on his elbow. His reference point was the last one.
He hated memory with all his heart. Girls, places, feelings. He strove constantly to forget, to deny, to wrestle the past right out of his head. He had learned the hard way how this only made things worse. In the course of an average day, remembrances would surface, and the more he pushed them back, the more they buried in. It was so clichéd it was farcical.
He had not returned to the place of his birth for over three years. He had reached a wounded acceptance this would last forever. Would become ten years, twenty, death. He sat up on the bed, those kids down below, playing football.
He drank water. He wanted to drink water today. He tuned his shit guitar. The strings strained and loosened, pleading with him to be confined to the bin. He couldn’t be bothered getting new ones. He started a song but abandoned it halfway through. He threw the thing on the bed.
He thought about calling someone, but he would be called sooner or later. Maybe he’d go to Beaubourg. Michel would probably turn up for an English lesson. He had not seemed to notice that Johnny was losing heart. He’d taken to arriving with print-outs off the net, rolling reams of grammar he was all hyped up to learn. Johnny had no idea what a ‘question tag’ might be.
The guitar fell off the bed. It banged below unmusically, like a cat chewing on a banjo. He eyed it with disdain. He picked it up and tuned it again, squeaking round the pegs till they finally did his bidding. Somebody shouted something outside, and although he didn’t hear what, he knew it was for him. He flung the key out the window, so whoever it was could come up.
A slovenly character appeared momentarily, claiming he’d managed to dig up money from somewhere. Johnny stared at him hostilely, as he emptied notes and coins onto the bed. How much was there he wanted to know.
The cokehead shuffled, sniffling and mumbling while his fingers clicked a rhythm. You can lose a bank job from that poison, and end up in a hostel with no arse left in your jeans. Johnny gave him his money’s worth, and ushered him out the door.
He played a song and played another, loosening up slightly. He stretched and cracked his knuckles. High beyond the rooftops, the clouds unleashed their load, and dirty heavy raindrops hit the turning world. Johnny was glad he’d stayed in today, because soakings are not welcome, and money must be made. He lit a cigarette.

February 24, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 6)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 10:23

Johnny felt the lessons were going well. Michel had made significant advances, and he was now attempting to teach him the conditional.
“It’s all about possibility,” he kept shouting. “If I found some money, I would keep it.”
“It’s all about possibility,” said Michel. “If I found some money, I would keep it.”
“Exactly,” said Johnny. “The possibility of ‘if.’”
It was sunny by the Centre Pompidou. Johnny broke off the lesson momentarily to rattle out a bloodcurdling folk song of anger and death. An elderly couple vacated the area.
“Wishes and maybes,” said Johnny, putting down the guitar. “All the wishes and maybes, of the world.”
“What might happen,” ventured Michel, timidly.
“Ouais,” said Johnny, leaping up, “c’est ca. What might happen. It’s the same thing.”
Michel scribbled something in his notebook.
“You can just translate,” Johnny explained, sitting back down and snorting. “If I would I could. You know?”
They let this knowledge permeate. Johnny’s teaching fire was going out for today, and he leaned back and reached for a smoke. Michel did the same. The familiarity of this scene was comforting. The people were different, but everyday it was basically just the same. The international throng, taking a break from their lives. Johnny in his leather, the guitar so old and worn.
“So do you think I am learning well?”
“I don’t know. Do you?”
“I think I am doing OK.”
“Then there’s no need to ask me.”
“No, not really. There is not.”
“I think that’s OK for today.”
Johnny scanned the piazza, establishing who was where. There was that Chinese busker doing U2 songs – his competition, his nemesis. One love, not the same, got to cally each other, cally each other…The guy was hopeless, but passionate.
Johnny stood up to stretch again, and his phone rang as his body loosened, the beeping signal cutting short his cat-like extensions. He snapped it from his pocket, and listened.
“Je ne peux pas,” he said, and hung up. He sat back down, clicking his fingers.
For the rest of the day he sang songs and drank. Michel left and others arrived, and it was always like this in the springtime. There were jokes and stories, and strange little moments that caught him unawares. Once a child came over and hugged him. A juggler performed to his left, with bowling pins and then with fire. Johnny sat and watched, a tiredness now descending.

February 21, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 3)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 16:10

Johnny ignored the hookers. He was on rue Saint-Denis, in the evening time. He was eating a crepe and waiting for that fool Michel, who owed him money as usual. He saw him come out of some place further up, whistled, and when Michel arrived they strolled back to Beaubourg. Johnny didn’t really feel angry about the money, but he still wasn’t leaving without it.
They sat down and drank. Johnny huddled inside his leather coat, and Michel looked at it enviously. He’d come from his audition wearing only a shirt. The crowd thinned out before their eyes, night coming down, and the tourist bellies rumbling. Johnny spat champagne on the ground.
Michel handed over the cash. He didn’t even have to be asked. Johnny counted it carefully, but felt ridiculous doing so, as no resistance had been offered. He stuck it in his pocket.
“I want to improve my English,” said Michel, in English.
“Tu parles anglais?” said Johnny, surprised. He looked at him with interest.
“Un peu, mais je veux parler bien.”
There was silence after this. Johnny didn’t know what was coming next.
“Est ce que…” faltered Michel, stopping.
“Oui?” said Johnny, guessing now. “Qu’est ce que c’est?”
“Est ce que, uh, on peut parler anglais un peu?” stammered Michel, scratching furiously at his right eyebrow.
“Ouais, si tu veux.”
Johnny roared with laughter.
Si je veux?” he coughed, wiping his chin. “C’est toi, putain. Qu’est ce que tu veux French boy?”
“Moi je veux parler anglais,” said Michel.
“What is your name?” said Johnny. “How old are you? Tell me.”
“Arret,” said Michel.
“Quoi,” shouted Johnny, in hysterics now. “Tu veux parler anglais ou non? What is your fucking name?”
“Michel,” said Michel.
“My name is Michel.”
“Very good. How old are you?”
Michel grimaced. “I am 29 years old.”
“And what do you like to do?” asked Johnny, falling over on his side. He was genuinely enjoying this, but he only wanted Michel to think he was taking the piss. The prospect of English conversation sounded good for some reason.
“I like to read and spend the time with my girlfriend.”
“Spend time.”
“Spend time, not the time.”
“Oh, OK, and spend time with my girlfriend.”
“Very good,” said Johnny, approvingly.
He lit a cigarette, then reached back in his pocket and gave another to Michel. He blew out smoke, cheeks puffed, and Michel flicked the lighter for a flame. They continued.
“Tell me all the different types of weather you can have in English.”
“In English or in England?”
“In English and in England,” said Johnny, although he hadn’t meant that at all. “Tell me ‘bout that London fucking weather.”

“Well,” said Michel. “It can do snow…”
“It can do snow, rain…”
“No it can’t.”
“Yes, I think that it can. The cold. Like here you know.”
Johnny sucked the smoke.
“Don’t say that. It can snow, it can rain, it can…I don’t know, be cloudy.”
“It can be cloudy,” said Michel.
They drank some more in silence. Johnny surveyed the deserted square, or, as he came to notice now, the near-deserted square. There was a figure moving slowly across, down by the Pompidou entrance. He squinted in the darkness, trying to make out who it was, wondering if maybe he knew him. Smoke rose skyward.
Whoever it was changed course, climbing the sloping square diagonally. This brought him gradually nearer as he passed. His jacket was ripped and threadbare, his chin hunched toward his chest. His feet seemed to shuffle more than step. Johnny stared in uncertainty, still unsure if he’d ever seen him before. He pursed his lips and sniffed.
“You look at him,” said Michel. It is who?”
“Je sais pas. Personne.”
“Il n’est pas Francais. Anglais, peut-etre.”
The figure drank from a can. He put it back in his pocket and shuffled on, leaving the square and disappearing down a side street. Johnny and Michel were alone.
“Il n’etait pas Francais,” repeated Michel. “Anglais, peut-etre.”
“Ouais, peut-etre.”
Michel took out a notebook and scribbled phrases down. Johnny saw him write ‘it can be snowy,’ but said nothing. He was tired now. Yes he had seen that guy before, somewhere, but he didn’t know him, he was sure of that. Someone else uncertain of the place they had been set. That’s all. He stood up and stretched and yawned.
“It can be very fucking cold,” said Michel.
The lights were on in the Centre, the empty library brighter than day. Blue and red pipes snaked upwards. An enormous picture of some dead German flapped in the wind, an artist being exhibited Johnny presumed. He’d been in the Centre Pompidou many times, but he’d only ever wandered around the free bits. Never, as they say, taken in a show.
Michel stood up too, and Johnny punched him in the stomach. He had energy to unleash. It wasn’t hard enough to hurt, but maybe to hurt a little, and Michel groaned in shock for a moment, before swinging deftly back. They flailed at each other in mock viciousness, observed unawares by a table-stacking waiter, who’d seen all this before, uncountable times. Johnny seized Michel in a headlock.
“It can be snowy, French boy,” he shouted, laughing and hitting at exactly the same time. He rubbed the top of Michel’s head with his fist, employing what those in the trade refer to as a knuckleduster. Michel hissed like a pansy, and Johnny stopped and released. They swayed in the moonlight, regaining breath.
“Je ne peux pas dire, ‘it can be snowy’?” gasped Michel, coughing.
“C’est pas grave,” his companion snorted. “Tu peux le dire si tu veux.”

February 10, 2010

Part 3: Blue, July – Sept 2002 (scene 10)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 3 : Blue — fishinginbeirut @ 08:40

Johnny cut the powder. He chopped lines, and she snorted it from his bed, half-covered by a faded African rug. She was scarred across her breast. Why he let her come here he didn’t really know, but mostly when she called he was prone to answer yes. It was easier.
Her hair was blond but darkening, and her hands shook involuntarily. She called him ‘J’. The rug was across her belly and thighs, and she was sitting in a lean, her left arm on the dirty mattress for support. He had four lines done on the back of some book, and he handed it to her.
“Je pense parfois que tu me detestes,” she told him. He reassured her she wasn’t hated. There was someone calling on the street outside, and Johnny bade her be silent till he strained to hear if it was for him. Satisfied it was not, he reseated.
“Cover up your tits,” he said roughly, and she scowled and did so. The rug was now exposing her thighs, and he exhaled in frustration and jumped up, clicking his tongue and fingers simultaneously. From a drawer he fetched a tablecloth, threw it at her fast, and when she failed to move, he draped it ‘cross her legs. Now she was head and feet.
“J’ai trop chaude maintenant,” she murmured. He rolled his eyes and removed the cloth. She kicked her legs as if they had just been freed, and he reached over to knead her calf. She purred from somewhere sad.
“Oui bebe,” she offered low, and his hand went slightly up. He continued, advanced, stroked the pallored skin, and reached a point of contact that both right then desired. She lay back.
His phone rang. He thought about ignoring it, but then he picked it up, and talked of drugs and money with his right hand in the girl. She twisted while he spoke.
“All of that is not possible at once,” he said. This guy sounded English, and had his number from Michel. Johnny was going to have to talk to Michel. He stood up abruptly, and she hit him with her foot, a hiss of sharp annoyance pushing from her mouth. He batted the foot away, and removed himself to the window.
“Next week,” he said to whoever. “Next week will be OK.”
Two children were playing football down below. An African and a Turk, judging by the latter’s jersey. The World Cup had just ended, Brazil the champions since June 30. Johnny watched the kids volleying. He didn’t want to see his room, her body, the drugs and books and guitar strings, everything strewn about randomly. He wanted to watch this. Soccer. Football. Wholesome activity. Zidane and Figo, and the pursuit of excellence. His call ended, and he stared, transfixed.
The ball bounced on the concrete. The children passed with skill. He wanted to be down there, to be running, to be sweating from exertion as the body muscle pumped. To be asexual and uncaught. To never know lust, desire, betrayal or relief. To be the man who runs with the ball. To have no knowledge of women, of drugs, of the mechanics of the city. To kick and sweat in peace.
He heard her calling his name.
“J,” she whispered. “J, viens ici. Je suis desolee.”
He turned back to reality.
Walking over gently he climbed on to the bed, and she worked on his belt as he pushed off the rug. The springs creaked in protest, the bed so old and bent. They lay side by side, hands exploring skin, and when she kissed his lips, he felt his soul relax. The ball skidded off the kerb outside.

February 3, 2010

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

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 3 : Blue — fishinginbeirut @ 08:33

Johnny was selling a lot today. Things were going so fast he felt like he was on the stuff himself. He jumped up and down, bug-eyed, yanking the phone out of his pocket and speaking in code to the weirdos on the other end. They were always saying they’d know the final order in an hour.
“Je ne peux pas attendre,” he hissed, again and again. “Dis-moi” He was sweating, and he sensed his agitation may be growing apparent to those around him.
Tourists were gaping, and not at the Centre Pompidou. He was gonna have to cool it. He looked around, the building’s blue pipes blurring as his head swivelled, the pipes and the tourists and the crepe smell and this fucking guy in his ear all mashing into one bizarre sensory experience, his stress refusing clarity or perceptive definitions.
He stuffed the thing back in his pocket and sat down. Maybe he should change the ring tone, cause this one sure was annoying. Later. He really wanted to play something loud about now, to shout and rock and whistle, but he was too frazzled, and then the unholy thing went off again.
He leapt up like he was on fire, cursing and answering at the same time, so the caller received merde instead of oui. He put his shades in his pocket with his left hand. The guy told him he wasn’t sure right at this moment, cause he had to talk to “some people,” but he’d know in an hour.
“Fuck you Yank!” Johnny screamed, unaware of how this man could even have his number, or who he was. “You have a wrong number,” he seethed, managing to squeeze this phrase through his rage. “Do not call again!”
He hung up and sat down, but then stood up to swap the contents of his pocket, reseating with the phone in the pocket and the shades on his head. This head he shook violently in anger, his face contorting into a grimace of dismay and confusion.
“I don’t know,” he said to a passing English child. “I really do not know.”
Later he felt better. Some of the heat went out of the day, and he sang a few songs to ease the tension. He winked at two Japanese toddlers. The buttons of his coat scraped the guitar as he strummed, the whole thing covered in random marks and scratches. “Why?” he roared. “Why ayayayayayay?”
People came and sat with him. Some he knew. A joint was passed, a champagne bottle went pop, and he left this hippy girl in charge of the guitar to go and buy crisps and bread. He kneaded his fingers as he walked to the shop, feeling alright now, and noticing some white guy in a Senegalese jersey. Dakar back streets, but that wasn’t today nor yesterday. He banished the thought. The hot July night came swooping, and he made it back to the group and sat down. All this energy around, and he had that twitch in his groin. He looked about and clicked his tongue, thought about resting an arm on the girl beside him, but didn’t. Her laugh was not conducive. She was laughing here, having fun, and he could never put the moves on a certain type of joy. Disappointment was a target, innocence was not. It was terrifying.
He rubbed his nose and checked his messages, and there was one, but he couldn’t be bothered reading it. Now might be a time to change that ring tone…ah, later. He put it back in his pocket. A few pigeons remained, strutting and bickering low, and he watched them momentarily, before closing his eyes.
“Why have you left me lonely?
Why have you made me cry?
Why have you left me lonely?
Why ayayayayay..?”

January 28, 2010

Part 2: Aria (scene 4)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Character : Karen, Part 2 : Aria — fishinginbeirut @ 10:22

Michel sat down beside him and they talked of this and that. Johnny wanted full payment for last time before he gave any more. He spat, and reminded Michel of his aversion to mixing business with pleasure. Coke was not discussed when the guitar was out. Coke was not dealt at Beaubourg. Coke was purely a minor activity to pay the bills, he was not a coke dealer, and if Michel wanted a coke dealer he, Johnny, was sure there were plenty to be found.
“Je suis chanteur,” he barked. “C’est tout.”
Michel, smiling to himself, shifted position on the ground. C’etait chaque jour la meme chose, and cajoling and haggling would be needed to derail Johnny’s righteous conversation train, and still leave with the necessary. He lay down on his back. Johnny’s guitar case served as a functional pillow, and he closed his eyes easily and thought of darling Karen, almost immediately beginning to worry after her well-being.


Karen walked the sunny street slowly, taking in the day sounds. Her stick tapped lightly. She held a bag of groceries in her left hand, and expected to be back at the flat around 11.40. The morning air was sweet and pleasing. Friday, February 6th.
She was glad of this change in the weather, what with winter’s wily treachery. Slippy and rushed, with invisible collisions potentially imminent, everywhere. Ice on pavements, and your stick can slip. Other people can slip, and hit you falling. You can have a nasty accident that way.
She reached her building and punched the code, and the lift brought her up to the third floor landing. Exit lift, turn left, first door on left. Her key had her name inscribed in braille – a gift from Michel. She turned on the TV, and could hear twelve year olds squealing as they were remade as sexy popstars. Could hear their talk of favourite lipsticks.
Karen ate and listened to TV. Warmth on her face through the window. She turned down the sound, left the TV on, and heard birds. There was a plane flying somewhere overhead. With the television sound gone, the room settled into the atmosphere of daytime. The fridge hummed in the kitchen area. She turned the TV off, and there was stillness.
All alone in the afternoon light, she finished the tuna. She exhaled and leaned back, slowly. Whenever Mom called it was to worry. Whenever Michel called it was the same. They’d never met one another, but in ways she felt they bore so much in common. They worried. For her.
The sunshine threw crystals on the vase by the window, but Karen on the sofa doesn’t care for light refraction. It isn’t pertinent. Way back one time when, and she fell on the Chicago street, someone had expressed horror at all that red. Of course Karen knew what she was talking about, even as a little girl, but she’d decided quite soon after that colour didn’t matter. Colour wasn’t there. Yes her stick was white, and yes her hair was brown, but what’s the use in knowing, if knowledge brings a blank. She stuck to the relevant, the pertaining. There was feeling, there was sound, there was touch and smell and moments. There was love. There was healthy eating and newspapers.
There is an exception to all of this. An important part of Karen, illogically so. She got a glass of water and returned to the couch. Sat there thinking calmly. There is a photograph above, above Karen’s head right now, in colour. It’s there for all to look at, and for her to know it’s there. It’s framed. There is a boat out on a harbour, and distant glinting shoreline buildings, the sea all speckled randomly with golden frozen jewels. The camera-captured sun on the blue Lebanese ocean. “Fishing In Beirut,” the taker called it.

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