Fishing in Beirut

March 4, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 14)

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

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

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.”
“OK.”
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.”

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.

March 1, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 11)

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

He kept on sending letters. Aria was at the kitchen table, the clock at half past one, and she read through once more, slowly.
It was wrong. She could not continue this correspondence, though she knew he meant her well. It was all too long ago. Placing the letter down, she clasped her hands together, stretching. A page swept off the table.
He was a guy she’d met in LA. Visiting some friends there, in her 16 year old summer, she’d met this English DJ and told him all her thoughts. They’d held each other’s hand. They’d written for a while, but then she changed her mind. Things became difficult in her life. Since she moved to Paris, he’d got back in touch.
This letter today was the sixth. The first had come in March, after a silence of two and a half years. It had been exciting, and she’d replied instantly. Told him all her news. He knew nothing of the trauma, the pictures or the pain, but that’s not what she mentioned, because it was the past.
And this was exactly the problem.
How to talk to someone who doesn’t know you now? She guessed he must be 23. Did he not understand this? You don’t drive a nail into the empty sky. She had stopped writing after the third letter. It just seemed better that way. She picked the fallen page up, and placed the whole thing back in its envelope. She smoothed the tiny creases.
Today was easy sunshine. It was the middle of June, the 18th. She poured a glass of water. She leaned out the window and looked at the trash cans, spilling a few drops as she did so. Today she was free from work.
She went for a walk by the canal. She watched the rippling water. A Twix wrapper struggled for life, ducking under and re-emerging, and Aria on the bank smelt smoke from a cigarette. She stopped and stood in silence.
This neighbourhood felt real to her, her flatmate and her flat. The bakery, the streets. Rue Bichat, rue Alibert, rue Saint Maur. A taxi motored past. She sat down by the water, and trailed her finger in the flow. She knew three different bakeries, and they varied greatly in quality.
Why was he writing now? Should she be scared or not? She felt probably not. She flicked her wet hand, and water splashed on the concrete. It made a peculiar design. It might have been a troll’s face, but there is no such thing as trolls. She made another pattern alongside it.
There was something she wanted to feel. A definitive reaction to these letters. She wanted to feel a definitive reaction, and know her mind, unequivocally. What did she think of him writing?
Later she went to the movies. It was enjoyable how so many in Paris went on their own. All these small cinemas, no popcorn, no lights, and you sat comfortably with strangers, happy in the dark. She was mid-way down, sharing the space with six others.
It was a Spanish movie. Hable con Ella. Parle avec Elle. Talk to Her. Aria watched with full concentration – crystal images, Spanish words, French subtitles. Music from hearts that were lonely. She tied back her hair.
The film was low and gentle, the kind you’d like to speak of with a stranger in an airport. The silence of a coma. She cried a little, with the music and the pulse. She smiled. There was a woman somewhere sniffling in the gloom, talking calmly to herself. It wasn’t annoying at all.
Aria saw this film as being about belief. A belief some might find intolerable perhaps. It was bubbling up with truth. When she left the cinema, which was just off rue Beaubourg, she walked over to the piazza and sat looking up at the Centre Pompidou. There were tourists all around.
She got up suddenly and left. Crossing rue Beaubourg, she entered le Marais, and strolled easily down rue Rambuteau. There was a cranky old man selling strawberries. He shouted gruff obscenities at passers-by, insulting both his customers and those who ignored him. Aria was among the latter.
She reached the intersection with rue du Temple. Turning left would have pointed her homeward, so she went straight through. Why go home when it’s sunny? The streets were clean here, the moneyed and tourists mixing freely. Catty men leaned from extortionate boutiques.
She was on rue des Francs Bourgeois. There was sunshine on the street. She walked its length, arriving at Boulevard Beaumarchais, and turning right onto Place de la Bastille. Over the far side, skaters were practising.
A man laughed easily, sitting outside a smart looking café. His companion took his hand. She rolled it softly in hers, and Aria saw this in passing, all the tiny moments of the moving, living mass. A dog inspected a lamp post.
She sat down for a while, and watched the skaters. This was all the boys ever did back home. They jumped and rolled and tripped and crashed, and there was padding, and a lingo. She was sure there was a French lingo too. She flicked a fly from her trainers.
Traffic kept occasionally obscuring her view. Whenever one of them completed a manoeuvre, he immediately engaged in a complicated handshake with all the others. White boys, with their slaps and chest thumps. They nodded and kept their cool, balancing and failing, and starting once again.
“You are American, I believe.”
A man sat down beside her, lighting a cigarette.
She shifted, startled a little, this thick French accent taking her by surprise. Her body folded and curled.
“Tell me your name, American girl. Beautiful American girl.”
She went to get up, but his hand touched her arm.
“Beautiful American girl.”
She froze for a moment, but then turned to look at him full on. A smoker’s face, searching eyes. He coughed twice, and she thought he must be in his forties, a sleepy rumble in his chest. His hand went to brush her hair.
She was walking quickly. She was conscious of nothing, just her movement on the street, and all her tingling senses were honed in on this act. The muscles were tight. She dodged pedestrians, rounded bends, kept her body streamlined as she cut through gaps and space. Eventually she began to slow, and finally stopped and shook.
The energy expelled, and she knew she was alright. She smiled in sweet relief. No, she definitely wouldn’t be writing to that guy from LA.

February 28, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 10)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 11:32

Karen and Michel were walking. Michel described the scenery, in English, until she asked him not to. He held her hand instead. They were in Parc de la Villette on a Sunday afternoon.
“There are very huge trees,” said Michel, unable to resist, and she squeezed his hand and he stopped. Someone rolled by on a bike.
Michel went to the bathroom, and came back soon after, slightly hyper and more alert. He rubbed and touched against her.
“Relax,” she said. “Today I want to relax.”
They walked on slowly, and she could feel the strain as he tried to keep his fidgeting to a minimum. Sometimes she wondered whether…but always dismissed it as silly. She didn’t know what she was talking about anyway. She could hear birdsong and distant voices, and then the sound of two bikes passing. A woman called out to a man.
Later they made love, and she stroked his hair as he lay breathing against her. His breath massaged her skin. His day’s energy was spent, and nothing else remained now, save a promised sleep. She put her arms around him, shielding out the world.
“Your English is really good now sweetie. You’ve improved such a lot.”
He murmured something inaudible. They had not made love in his apartment for some time. She relaxed into its feeling.
She knew he was asleep now, the breathing and the weight, and she let his body lie there, a human stone. Her legs were warm and tired.
Sometimes she worried about him. She knew he worried for her. Sometimes she wondered what his life was, and did she actually know him at all. Other times she deemed this ridiculous – a banal conceit, applicable to anyone when in a certain mood. She sighed in warm contentment, her lover’s skin her own.
His behaviour today in the park. Was today the first such occurrence of this, or maybe the fourth or fifth? The nineteenth? Was this a part of their life, unnoticed until now? She struggled to recollect. The change in his mood, the tension and speed. Was she aware of this always, unconsciously?
He coughed and was still once again. She squeezed close her eyes in defence. She must think uninterrupted. A foreboding something flicked through her body. Maybe she’d only created it; brought it on through worry, not discovered a dormant dread. His weight was strong on her chest now.
The tension and speed, the package she’d got. She didn’t know what she was talking about anyway. She rested her cheek on his hair.
Michel woke up and they spoke about nothing. She avoided all questions and doubt. He asked about use of the conditional, and she tried to remember herself. Thinking of these things can drown out your knowledge.
Within an hour he was back asleep. On her breast as before. She slowly pushed him off her, turning on her side and curling inward. The warmth of the bedclothes spread. The conditional is “would”; yes, she’d said it right. Possibility.
Michel began to snore, a bee-like droning hum, and her shoulder now was tickled, by the out-push of his breath. He was sleeping, and she loved him.

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 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.

February 25, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 7)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 10:02

Aria was at work. Customers came and went – coffee, bagels and currency, blurrily changing hands. She sighed and wiped her brow. It was another two hours before she finished, and she was feeling stressed today, being the only one on the till. Someone was looking for banana bread.
She explained it was gone and he didn’t understand, and she had to explain again, feeling stupid and pretty pissed. “It is gone?” he said in faltering English, like they always do, when they just won’t listen to your French. “Yes,” she answered. “That’s what I already told you.”
The owner came in, and observed her, hawk-like, from a distance. She was paranoid about staff giving so much as a biscuit to a friend. She hovered in a corner, fingers clicking, and pursed her mouth as if trying to remove a gum-trapped morsel. Aria tried to ignore her.
The smell of the bagels was sick-sweet. In the beginning, she had loved their taste and smell, but now they made her queasy, and she never took one herself. Still, the job was fine and untaxing, and if it didn’t feel that way today, at least she was aware this was an exception. She tied back her hair during a free moment.
“Hey,” said Laura, brandishing a student paper. She’d just walked in off the street. The owner visibly stiffened, Aria noticing out of the corner of her eye. She contemplated giving Laura a whole pack of biscuits, and giggled in her mind. Laura had made page six of the paper.
“Look,” she said. “It’s that thing I wrote about Lorca. I really didn’t think they’d print it.”
Aria wanted to read it, but unfortunately she couldn’t right then. It would have been tantamount to biscuit-giving in the eyes of some. A guy wanted to pay for a cappuccino, and she clanged open the cash register and deposited the change. The owner left abruptly.
“Read it to me,” said Aria. “I want to hear it, but I just can’t read right now. Go on, there aren’t too many customers.”
“OK,” said Laura. “It’s not too long anyway.”
She folded the paper and cleared her throat. Aria laughed, and Laura started reading.

“Garcia Lorca and the Children Still Unborn,” she declared, “by Laura Taylor.”

“‘We walk on
an unsilvered
mirror,
a crystal surface
without clouds.
If lilies would grow
backwards,
if roses would grow
backwards,
if all those roots
could see the stars
and the dead not close
their eyes,
we would become like swans.’

– “Earth” by Federico Garcia Lorca

“Lorca was…” Laura began, and then the owner cut her short. “I don’t pay you for this,” she said in English. Aria coughed and apologised, and Laura stepped back in surprise. Neither of them had seen her re-enter. Aria messed with her hair, and Laura moved towards the doorway. The owner exhaled dramatically.
There were no customers to deal with in that moment, so Aria was forced to busy herself doing nothing, while she was silently rebuked. Needless to say, it was a long moment. She heard a car horn from outside, and the yell of some irate pedestrian. A DJ yapped on the radio.
Eventually the owner left again, skulking away like a creature of the night. Aria relaxed, and rolled her shoulders. She felt like a scolded schoolgirl, and fiddled with a sugar packet as a distraction. Nobody in the café now. Very soon this day would be over, or at least this portion of it. She would not be regretting its loss.
The sun spread out on the tile floor, revealing dirt patches she thought she’d cleaned. She turned off the radio abruptly. The bagel smell wafted round her, and all the other smells and sounds. The coffee, the coffee machine. She looked at the mop in the corner, at the tea towel on the counter. “As long as there is people, there’ll be sun and death and rain,” said a sign on the wall. Aria yawned in boredom.
A woman came in and ordered soup, and so it was Aria and this woman together alone, the server and the served, like a woodcarving or a sketch. Supermarket soup, at a price to make you blush.
“Oh, c’est delicieuse,” exclaimed the woman, beaming.
Aria thanked her and smiled.
“C’est vraiment delicieuse,” the woman repeated, the type of woman who would never buy supermarket soup. “Mmm, mmm!”
Aria went back behind the counter, and asked her if she wanted the radio on. She didn’t, and the silence was sweet. They each went about their business in the afternoon, the woman eating, and Aria cleaning absently. She dusted and pottered about.
The clock wound on, and then she could finally close the shop. The metal shutters rolled down, and she was free for the day, and happy. The sun hit her pupils, or her retinas, or whatever part increases the seratonin levels and gives you that smiley something. She passed down the street like a leaf.
She made a detour by the river, and leaned against the wall on Pont Neuf, watching the sparkling water. There were readers and strollers on the banks, and a tourist cruise ship lay berthed to one side. A queue was forming for the next sailing, and she wondered what it was like to see the city in this way, and whether any queuing tourists would mistake her for a native. Une vraie Parisienne.
She started heading home, cutting across the square at the back of the Pompidou Centre, down rue Rambuteau, and up rue du Temple, to Place de la Republique. It was about a twenty minute walk, all in all. She felt that big-city lull and comfort – a peace in the eye of the storm sensation. Millions of dreams and thoughts, all around.
She crossed over Republique, and took the back streets to the canal. Here she paused again on one of the hump-back bridges – slow, placid water, perfect underneath. Two old men were fishing to her right, and a guy working in a video shop over the other side had stepped out for a smoke. The water caught the setting sunlight.
As she reached l’Hopital Saint Louis, she turned her head to the left, and a jutting piece of the Sacre Coeur shone between the buildings. It was illuminated already, though the sun had not completely sunk. Aria rounded the corner and the view disappeared, and now she was on her street, with the old and battered cobblestones. She would be home in less than a minute, and was dying to read Laura’s piece.

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?”
“Yes.”
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 23, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 5)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 10:12

Aria went to the graveyard. Laura was studying, so she walked there alone, a grey-cloud sky impassive overhead. It was a twenty minute walk, heading eastward.
Pere Lachaise cemetery is a city of the illustrious dead. You can eat ice-cream and stare at Balzac. Maps are easily available, celebrity locations highlighted in red. On its leafy, peaceful walkways, one feels detached nonetheless, and to say that it is morbid gives quite the wrong impression. Aria felt light and kind of sad.
She was looking for Jim Morrison, and was excited to be doing so. A curious, simple moment awaited. She followed curling pathways, the map held at her side, sweet anticipation for something so mundane. The headstone of a famous man, the inscription.

Frank stood, reading. On the back of Oscar Wilde’s tomb lay a quotation from The Ballad Of Reading Gaol, a paean to Oscar’s separate status, and the sorrowful life of the outcast. “Good man yourself Oscar,” said Behan upon Wilde’s death. “You had it every way.” Frank smiled in pity, and compassion.
He had never made the trip to Pere Lachaise before, and had often wanted to. Today was as good as any. A dirt-grey sky, a rain-threat. He felt safe in the company of Oscar.
Frank had never really cared about The Doors, but maybe it would be interesting to visit Jim Morrison’s grave as well. His final resting place, after a lurid, bloated life.

Aria stood in wonder. This was fascinating, the simple, unadorned headstone, just James Douglas Morrison – no graffiti, nothing. A guard hovered nearby, making sure it stayed that way. Someone had placed a feather and an arrow on the ground. There were a few tourists circling, and then a young, scruffy guy arrived on the scene. His body language was uncertain, ill at ease.
He looked to be in his mid-twenties – tall and thin, but really not her type. She turned away. Now he was looking at her. She flicked her hair and swallowed; not feeling uncomfortable, just standing still. Yes, he was watching her all right. The guard’s radio crackled alive, and she flinched for a moment, and her eyes met this stranger’s, briefly. She saw his flickering pain.
Frank gazed at this beautiful girl, her long hair and gentle dark eyes, and thought himself desperately ugly, and blinked. His head lowered, and he coughed.
Aria smiled in kindness, but he didn’t see this, and then he turned his back and walked away. It was all too much to believe there were girls like this right now. If he was never going to touch what he held in his dreams, it was best not to fall into such reverie. Things just happen, eyes meet.
Frank left the graveyard, and descended into the Metro station. He jumped the barrier after an old man, kicking the gate to pass freely through. When the train came he boarded quickly, his stomach rumbling now, his nose cold. The carriage rattled, steadily.
Back on the surface, Aria wandered round. She passed writers, artists, and whole families with German names, all buried equally, in the soft tended earth. She paused in thought on a bench.

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