Fishing in Beirut

March 17, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 10)

Filed under: Part 2 : Aria, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 10:15

Aria cried in the changing room. Her body did not feel like hers. Laura was at her French class, always talking of Paris now, but Aria needed her in this moment. She was overwhelmed and alone. Laura was going after the SAT’s, and had been preparing for a long time. Already they were into November.
Aria wanted to go with her. She felt like maybe she could. She could run from all of this, her feelings and her life, and be whole again. New. In the changing room the other students chatted, and she covered her face with her hands. She smelt a gym smell.
June was when Laura was leaving. June 2002. Aria whispered it softly. She could push through the pain until that time, and then freedom. Was it possible? She hated seeing her mother and sister, hated how clearly they loved her, and she raged and shook and cried in her bedroom. Her mother would cry then as well.
“We should talk about this honey,” she’d plead with her. “You can tell me whatever you feel.”
Aria would scream.
She would clench up near-frozen and death-like, powerless as her father’s hands touched her five year old body. She couldn’t banish this imagery. In her room with the door locked and her heart like a stone, she lay tense limbed. She didn’t know it was an identical position.
Anna banged on the door, but Aria physically couldn’t open it. She lay paralysed. Whenever this happened she saw many things, all flashing in her mind like a dream. Sometimes she saw a pink toy rabbit. This rabbit brought a peace when it came to her, but she mentally pushed it away. And then the hands touched her.
She was paralysed there in her bedroom, the fingertips touching her hard. Why was she seeing this now? She had been five years old, an infant, and had time not rendered it void? Was it not nothing to her now?

January 30, 2010

Part 2: Aria (scene 6)

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

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

January 29, 2010

Part 2: Aria (scene 5)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 2 : Aria — fishinginbeirut @ 15:09

Aria’s new flat was in the 10th. You went up a cobbled street and down a tiny passage. When they got there she was sweating, and she threw down her bags and collapsed on the purple couch. She felt circular tingling throughout her body, with a strong pulse clearly evident, hitting her bones in about six different places. She blinked and looked around.
Laura was glad Aria was here, cause Marie had moved out five days previously, and she’d been sitting waiting for Aria’s arrival ever since.
So had the landlord.
“We don’t know why the weather’s this hot,” said Laura at the sink, dropping ice into two glasses of water. “It’s been on the news and everything.”
Aria drank slowly, and Laura sat beside her. They’d been friends since they were ten. Laura still worked in that restaurant she’d mentioned in emails, the course at the Sorbonne still put all the emphasis on grammaire, and, you remember that guy Lukas I told you about? Well, he turned out to be nothing but Swedish hairgel! A child bawled at her mother, audible now through the open skylight, and possibly audible at any other time also, and Aria smiled sadly, reminded of that baby on the plane.
She started to unpack, then left it, and lay down on her bed. Making the acquaintance of a new bed is unusual, more so when it’s your bed now indefinitely. She rubbed the surface – nail catching fabric. This bed was in a loft, not quite a separate room, up a ladder from the living area, and separable by curtain. Laura’s was the same, in the other room, which contained a desk, a lamp, and a fair amount of the Spanish landlord’s junk. Aria sat up from her bed, and could see traces of Selotape on the walls, where Marie must have put and removed her pictures.
Laura went to work, and Aria had pasta. Leaned out the window, and saw the neighbours leaning back. Her view was of a tiny courtyard – green trash cans about ten feet below, Arabic speaking women eyeing her curiously from windows opposite. She said Bonsoir, and one echoed it back, faintly.
She unpacked to low music. Sat still afterwards, awareness focused on her breathing and her heartbeat. The sensations of her body in this new place. She felt a wave of fatigue buck her, the muscles seemingly tightening and sagging all at once. She followed a tingling from her left cheek to her neck. The things we sometimes do, and the sadness it can bring us. Her head turned to the left, her wrists buzzing warm and ready. Warmth spread now, limbs and heart and soul, breathing coming freer, and teeth releasing tongue. She smiled, and yawned.
Sometimes in her mind she heard the clicking of the camera. Less than before, but sometimes. That oh so strange feeling positioned there before it – a feeling so exciting it was frightening and sore. A headlong wildness, and the genuine belief she was nearing some completion. Her own body glowing, vulnerable for the lens, with the muttered dark instructions, talk of tits and ass and pussy.

*

The next day they saw the famous things. They took the Metro to Anvers, and there was the glorious Sacre Coeur. Aria was thrilled. It was crawling with the sightseeingly minded, but the sun was high and clear, and together they gazed calmly at the shining Christian white. The city stretched before them as a rounded peaceful whole, looking ancient, perfect, and utterly deserted.
“I think it’s great that you’re here now,” said Laura. “Better late than never.”
Aria turned to look at her, the railing rubbing her arm, and they hugged right there in silence, below the tourists and the domes.
Montmartre was warm and quiet, the crowds of the Sacre Coeur left easily behind. They walked the streets in secrecy, ascending and descending steep steps and gradients. Birds sang songs of parochial self-containment, and the two American girls drifted, not caring to do more than walk alongside one another.
“It makes me think of home,” said Laura. “Although it looks nothing like it.”
One hour later, atop the Arc de Triomphe, Laura’s phone rang. What followed was indecipherable to Aria, and not particularly like her language tapes. She strained to catch words and phrases, thinking she recognised some but not sure, and gazed down the Champs-Elysees at the trafficked lines of shining metal. Americans, Spanish, and Northern Europeans gazed with her. Laura got off the phone and they moved around the different sides. Put a coin in a creaking telescope. The streets came alive for Aria as she squinted, people and vehicles moving, like tranquil earth revealing teeming ant life in the eyepiece of a microscope.
Horns were occasionally audible. Shape and movement in the map-like distant streets. Laura took a turn to look, and Aria was asked to take a picture by a grinning Finnish couple. A child in a soccer jersey dashed past, too low to be caught in the viewfinder. She strolled around and looked west, the sun hitting the glass of the nearby La Defense skyscrapers, radiance held there like sheet metal, making her close her eyes and see red dots, flashing.
They clattered down the steps in the company of many, eyes needing to grow accustomed to the gloom. It was quicker going down than up. Back on the street, they craned their necks to where they had just been, other people mere specks up there now, and probably some of the same people too. Ice creams were in order. They sat down on a bench – squealing tyres and Japanese tour groups. Mushi, mushi. The men eyed them attentively, their near-identical plaid shirts holding pens, cameras, and foldable city maps. Their wives chatted absently. What words describe the sound of Japanese? They made memories for development, and set about the business of collective monument entry. The traffic circled crazily, on what is apparently the world’s first organised roundabout.
Aria and Laura spoke of San Jose. Of streets, incidents, and middle aged women with day-glo hair. Of high school. Laura said she never wanted to go back. They sat for a while, awoken to nostalgia, and stood up then in unison, and left.
Laura took Aria by Pont de Bir-Hakeim, cause this is where Marlon Brando walked in Last Tango in Paris. They stood midway across, looking down at the tree-lined solitude of Allee des Cygnes. An old man sat on a bench hanging over the river, and the sun went in behind a cloud. Crossing the road to the other side, and remaining at the midway point, they stood in full view of the Eiffel Tower.
Laura took out her camera, and Aria stood in an alcove commemorating something she couldn’t read. A light wind took up, the sky and water grey now, and her hair was fluttered gently.
“So here’s your big Paris photo,” said Laura, the camera strap catching on the belt around her waist. A siren somewhere softly dopplered, and the American girl was snapped before the monument, in the sweet year of the Christian Lord, 2003.

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.

January 27, 2010

Part 2: Aria (scene 3)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 2 : Aria — fishinginbeirut @ 08:36

“C’est vraiment degueulasse ca,” said someone, as Frank pissed between two parked cars. It was very hot today, and he was very drunk. The offended girl swivelled onwards, talking rapidly to a colleague. Frank eyed their departing posteriors, pincered in the impotent rage of drink.
The heat shimmered in the air. There was dust and fumes. He walked purposeless, the can sloshing in his pocket, foaming. There was a tightness now within him, but he couldn’t pinpoint where.
On he went to nowhere, hot and ill at ease. The sound and presence of other people caused disgust and irritation. Solitude brought mindless rage, and uncomprehending terror. He hurt most of the time. He hurt, and jittered. He walked the streets in agony, propelled forward by a hostile distant body. There was no wholeness or unity, because something had been breached.
Jackhammers ripped pavements, and dust and noise were constant. He was on rue Beaubourg, and up ahead was the enormous Centre Georges Pompidou. A jutting piece of Notre Dame lay further, across the river, scaffold-covered. He spat, and coughed, and spat again. Reached into his pocket and gulped messily. He took a right after Hotel de Ville, and walked riverside to Pont des Arts. Descended to the quai and pissed again, thirsty, sweaty, and hot.
Maybe Frank could cure his own disease. Maybe nights in Buddhist temples, and the endless peace of a vast Aboriginal desert. Maybe this is needed. But this is all external, as distant as falling leaves, or perfect lovers. As untakeable as time. Frank’s problem lies within. It isn’t even really a disease.
The sun burned, next to Pont des Arts. He was directly in its glare. Two girls asked him for a light, and he was rude and didn’t know why. The cruisers hummed past, and the water rolled like heaven. Homeless men climbed down from the beams that were their homes, and went to forage. You could see their sleeping bags and cardboard – makeshift domesticity, sentried by ravenous dogs.
Frank lay down, and tried to be still. There were people sunning themselves all along the right bank quai, and he eyed them gingerly. They didn’t seem nearly as hassled by this glorious weather as he was. They didn’t seem hassled at all. He stretched, and shifted. He knew that whatever was wrong was getting worse. Some days he felt so excited he just babbled randomly at strangers, but most days were so rotten he could lash out at a post-box. He stared skyward, and sighed.
He half-heard someone laughing, and his heartbeat suddenly quickened. He sat up abruptly, some memory reflex triggered, with it the damp feeling of nerves on a sunlit dental Tuesday. He probed his pocket for a tissue, and instead came out with a map of the Berlin U-Bahn. It was crumpled, and frayed. It had parted from a lover, and he’d kept it ever since. Monica, from Italy. The stop names were familiar, but eerie too and foreign. Bismarck Strasse, Friedenau, Markisches Museum, Neukolln.
He looked at it carefully, following train lines, blinking in remembrance. The U7, the U6, the connection between the two at Mehringdamm. The Innenraum. Frank was hot and uncomfortable, but nostalgia was granting merciful relief.
He sighed and cried a little. Days before this torture, and awareness of futility. He blinked and sniffed, and attempted to relax his facial muscles, his shoulders moving up and down as he fought to align his breathing. He saw a seagull on the water. All the vacant dreams he had, and the dead weight of knowing they’d stay in his head. The U7 gets you from Neukolln to Blisse Strasse, and he’d made that journey one time, with flowers in his hand.

January 26, 2010

Part 2: Aria (scene 2)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 2 : Aria — fishinginbeirut @ 10:09

Johnny sat there at Piazza Beaubourg, rocking back and forth, his voice reverberating off the Pompidou glass. A group of Belgian teenagers were amassed before him, boys and girls alike awed by his singular presence. “Jah!” he shouted wildly. “Jah!” He bashed that guitar with all the fire in his belly, the ancient strings buzzing and falling short of pitch. His beer spilled and trickled down the paving stones, and he didn’t even notice.
He had developed a singing style of broken reggae harshness, of a living booming instrument. The buttons on his coat scratched the pavement as he rocked, and he whistled through his teeth and clicked his tongue between phrases. This was the performance of the believer, of exorcism and total involvement. His head moved, his legs moved, his dreadlocks danced about like a mop in a plug socket. He mixed English, French, and pure soulful scat. He shouted, he spat, he felt his shades press the bridge of his nose. He was doing just what he was doing.
The Belgians watched entranced. The boys and girls sat wide-eyed, and teacher sensed this was not an appropriate moment to herd them onward. He wracked his brain to find an educational aspect to this lunacy, but, finding none whatsoever, decided to simply enjoy the sunshine instead, and leave his charges at it. His charges were in raptures, and were giving this bizarre African gentleman more attention now than he himself had received in over twenty years in the pedagogical profession. He smiled and de-fogged his spectacles.
Johnny finished the song and beamed widely. Glorious sunshine on his face, beads of sweat tickling. Where was this weather coming from in February? He’d abandoned the Pompidou early the last December, as had become his custom during the winter, and hadn’t expected to make a return till mid-March. But this – this was superb. The past two days had seen him leaning out the window on rue Leon, spitting down below and not believing the sun on the streets, until this morning he’d finally taken the plunge, concluded these splendid conditions were no illusion, and leaped over the Metro barrier guitar and all, Beaubourg bound. None of his associates were around when he got there, but, feeling the energy in his bones once again, he just started singing when he found a place, in love and alive to the glory of the voice, lifting.
The Belgians left. A few of the girls tried to give him money, but he didn’t want it or accept. They were only about fifteen, but pretty. He felt the burdening awareness of sex and beautiful women, noticed the spilt beer can, and struck up another tune. Pigeons were around him, portrait artists too, but Johnny was again removing himself, eyes closed behind the impenetrable shades, the lust-heat of the physical ceding to the sound.

January 24, 2010

Part 2: Aria (scene 1)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 2 : Aria — fishinginbeirut @ 11:08

The airport in San Jose is called Mineta. She sits there waiting, her hand luggage on the seat beside her, the rest already checked in. She keeps bouncing her foot, cause that’s what waiting is all about. It’s a daytime flight to New York, then an overnight to Paris. There is waiting before take-off, and waiting between flights.
The humming artificiality of airports affects people unknowingly. There is stress in travel preparations, stress in morning crowds, in electric lighting when it’s clear and blue outside. In baggage, queues, insanely loud gum chewing. In theatrical personalities standing right behind you.
But there is beauty too. Aria is more excited than nervous, and she no longer falls prey to common external stressors. She has a sweet soul. When you sit near the enormous windows you can see the planes taking off and landing, and the tiny men in orange jackets somehow directing the chaos. You can see birds, sun, and the endless expanse of runway. You can see your city’s buildings, a distant glinting skyline.
You can find calm within the hum, and embrace how you feel right now, sitting on this chair. You can see yourself at five and you were splashing in the ocean, and on this airport chair feel that tingling in your legs. You can carry all your heartbreak, that time your father touched you, that man you trusted so completely, and you just didn’t know what to think or what to say.
On the plane the stewardess pointed out the exits.
“In case of emergency, inflate the lifejacket by pulling firmly on the cord.” Aria listened attentively. A big fat man two rows in front stood up too quickly and whacked his head off the air conditioner adjuster knob. “Jesus Christ,” he muttered, and the stewardess bade him be seated.
The population of San Jose is 1 million. Aria lives outside the city, near the coast. Many people speak Spanish as their native tongue, and many others learn it in school. ¿Donde esta el Ministerio de Defensa por favor? The summer nights are warm and balmy, so often children just sleep under a simple cotton sheet, wearing nothing at all. Peaches, apricots and other fruits are grown for business and pleasure.
She sleeps and wakes up in New York. Missed the aerial descent, missed the glaring absence of the Twin Towers on the Manhattan skyline. The fat man’s laboured breathing as he fished a bag out from the compartment above her head woke her upon landing. He generously got hers while he was up there, handing it to her carefully, and they all filed off together.
“I do not know what to make of this place,” he told her as they shuffled up the tunnel, emphasising the ‘what’ like a Texas cowboy rancher. Perhaps that’s what he was.
There was a five-hour wait for the Paris connection. She spent it by the window. Once she turned around and spied the cowboy, way over the other side of the terminal, sitting down eating a sandwich, until he was eclipsed by six extremely animated Asian women, all wearing matching white jumpers. It grew dusk, and then dark. There was so much talking among the throng of people in the place it almost seemed like there was silence. People swirled around, telling jokes, reporting to companions on boarding time updates, looking nervously about for toilets. Night-time now, and she felt she might be too tired to sleep on this final journey. Crestfallen momentarily, she suddenly looked up happily, and remembered she was going to Paris.
There was minor turbulence halfway through the flight. It woke her as the dawn broke. It was untroubling to most, but one woman began hyperventilating. Rapid gasping could be heard towards the front, as her body dragged in extra air not truly necessary for this experience. A paper bag and a soothing touch helped restore the oxygen imbalance.
Aria officially turned nineteen ten minutes after. February 6th. She placed her hand on her abdomen to feel the gentle rising falling, and smiled. So this was her nineteenth birthday. Clouds formed God-like formations out the left-hand window – heartpiercing endless death white, crystal heaven sun stabs. It was nearly too much to look at. The aching destined blue of the uninterrupted sky, stretching out unending till the rational explodes. The space, and the calming airplane breath hum, that sends you half to sleep.
She read the in-flight magazine, and drank some water. Time passed. Somewhere someone coughed, amidst the low scattered chatter and the intermittent toilet traffic. There was an article on Berlin, “Europe’s City Of Wild.” It said the whole city centre had been undergoing rebuilding for some time, around Potsdamer Platz. She looked at a picture of a crane filled skyline, and thought it beautiful.
Flicking through the magazine, she was hit with credit card advertisements, fold-out perfume samples, a black and white photograph of Vienna. She returned to the Berlin article. The writer mentioned an abundance of drug use in Berlin. He attempted to speak knowingly of this for a paragraph, but then returned to detailing tourist attractions. The Memorial Church, the TV Tower at Alexanderplatz, built to facilitate spying on the West over the wall. The Brandenburg Gate. She looked at little pictures of these, all backed by a sky that seemed too poetically pink streaked. Enhanced tourist-baiting mood shots. She got up and walked the length of the aircraft slowly, cause what is that blood disease airplanes give you now.
Later more drinks were brought, and she had orange juice. Her legs were restless and tired all at once. She could see the ocean down below, minute seagulls darting, sea-spray. The radio on the armrest had a station playing reggae, but only her left headphone was working. She was getting mostly bass at the expense of treble, and the system was fuzzing under the strain.
Paris was growing nearer. A snake of excitement wriggled in her back, liquid-like, momentarily. She sensed into her body on the seat. A baby started crying, but then changed its mind and laughed. It gurgled and cooed to itself for reasons unknown, and Aria couldn’t help smiling. Was this a boy or a girl she was hearing?
Someone started using a discman, and a stewardess ran frantically down the aisle in search of the culprit. Upon discovery, she issued the hapless baggy-jeaned teen a lecture on the dire effect it could have on the cockpit controls. He flicked his fringe out of his eyes and stared at her open-mouthed. Her cheeks swelled puffer fish-like as she rebuked him. His knee started jumping, and it grew harder to feign nonchalance. The stewardess noticed this, sadistically upped the tempo of her tirade, and Aria felt sorry for the guy. She tried to smile at him when the woman left, but his eyes were boring holes into the seat in front, his body rigid.
And so the flight ended. The plane touched down, all shudders bumps and hiss, and Charles de Gaulle flicked by as they taxied. Sun shining. She stayed seated till the fasten seat belt sign had been switched off, was careful when opening the overhead compartment, lest any luggage had been dislodged. She didn’t steal the headphones. A sunlight laser shot through a far window, illuminating dust rising off the seats. It occurred to her that this much dust was everywhere, whether it could be seen or not, and she tried to breathe less. Her bag strap felt slippy in her slight palm sweat. She readjusted her grip.
Queues, passports, conveyor belts of other peoples possessions, and hers somewhere in among them. How are these bags treated by the handlers? If they could talk, would you weep to hear their sorry tales? Unnerving histories of falls and dismemberment. She saw her own swinging around, and dragged it off onto one of those euro deposit trolleys. This euro was what they all used in Europe now, right? It was a strange little thing, and would grow stranger still when she later came to see how it would dictate her life in Paris. Existence with a pocketful of coinage. She felt it jangling in her jeans.

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