Fishing in Beirut

February 22, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 4)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 08:32

Karen dreamed in colour. She woke up and tried to remember, but couldn’t recall any images. Just colour. She got the bus to the office and fielded calls – handling enquiries, patching people through, talking to clients from Boston to Bordeaux. She liked the feeling of the swivelling chair.
For lunch they went to a local café. The food there was generally more pleasant than the waitress. It was just Karen and Claire, a workmate and a friend, and they ate and talked of Julie, who’d gone to Amsterdam. The waitress messed up the order.
Back on the street they walked in silence, digesting, taking a moment before work re-commenced. Karen never minded walking alone, but it was better with two. A pair of eyes at hand. They crossed the road and took a right.
“Maybe we should take another way,” said Claire, “there seems to be some kind of demonstration up ahead.”
They turned and retraced steps. Karen loved Claire’s London accent, possessing as it did a delicacy she felt hers lacked. She was sometimes conscious of being an American, in light of the roiling world.
“What did it look like they were protesting?” she asked.
“Non a la guerre.”
“That stupid fucking war.”
The rest of the day went by in a blur. The feel of the office was one of random chaos. Later that night she remembered pausing once to drink some water, and, in her memory, that moment seemed to take place in total silence. All the bustle and din temporarily ceased, and she was separate and detached, magnificently.
It’s funny how time can do this, create aching perfection from seconds long past. We slow down, speed up, alter unconsciously shaping events, and all to make things function, a life as a narrative. Karen in midday silence. When the water touched her tongue, it was like she could remember every other single time it had done so, clearly and distinctly. From birth and maybe before. It was remembering so as to forget.
Today Claire had told of how she’d miscarried aged 21. Seven years in the past. Karen had listened in sadness and shock, wishing then she could see her face in that café, and not merely touch her tears across a table. Claire had never told anyone before. There isn’t much to say with true pain, the loss of a child that was never a child. There isn’t much to say or to do.
“Non a la guerre! George Bush non!” The chants and screams of peace, another little memory.


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 20, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 2)

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

Frank lay in bed. He didn’t want to get up today, but he knew he’d have to, eventually. Hunger and thirst would prevail. He could hear rain outside, the swish of passing cars, and he curled foetus-like into himself, against all without and within. The room was dark, a gloomy anytime darkness, but he felt it was around midday, and was depressed by this fact alone.
He remembered the moment of impact. It just came to him suddenly, and he physically flinched and tightened. His breathing and heart rate increased. He lay on his back with his jaw like a bear trap, clenched and protruding to the point of definite pain. The room swam momentarily.
He got up and made breakfast. He didn’t want to shower or sleep. He ate quickly, anxiously, and didn’t bother washing up. Then he changed his mind and did so. He suddenly had to leave the flat, and rushed about, dressing, grabbing keys, and checking he really had done the dishes. He cracked his hip off a chair and cried out. He made sure the oven was off, checked the water in the toilet wasn’t still running, and scrambled out the door. On the rainy street he relaxed.
He slowed his pace and walked northward. He passed the Metro station for Porte de Vanves, right next to his flat, on the southern edge of the city.
“Rather the rain than a train,” he said aloud, feeling better now, and smiling at the stupidity of this. “Rather the rain than a train.”
He turned right, went down Boulevard Brune, and took a left onto rue Didot, again heading north. This street was calming for some reason. He slowed further, and felt happy now, his hands warm, despite the cold rain. He smiled, feeling genuine relief. Three workmen were gathered around a truck, and, as he passed, one of them accidentally knocked against him and excused himself. Frank felt a beautiful tickle somewhere in his head, and it’s impossible to describe how comforting this was.
He walked on, feeling light and almost crying, squeezing his fists in sheer unbridled joy. So much energy inside. He came onto bustling Avenue du Maine, and up ahead was la Tour Montparnasse. A Parisian skyscraper. There were lights on inside, piercing in the midday gloom.
Newspaper shops stuffed with pornography were scattered around and about. He entered none. He came to the beginning of rue de Rennes, leading straight and true to Saint Germain-des-Pres. He bought some roasted chestnuts, but the idea was more interesting than the taste.
Halfway along rue de Rennes his ankle gave him trouble. He stopped, grimacing. He leaned against a bus stop and eased it gently back and forth, hoping to click it free again. This sometimes took time. A few passers-by were looking, but he was used to this, and besides, there were many others who just politely minded their own business. It popped free, and he gasped in sudden pain.
He continued north gingerly, and it loosened further. The cold and rain never helped. He was shivering now, drops falling from his nose, and the cold and congestion were dampening his spirits. Car horns and shopping bags. A dog pissed against a bank machine, a door-cloaked security guard eyeing it with distaste.
Frank reached the Seine, and sheltered under Pont Neuf. There is something inexplicably cosy in standing under a bridge in the rain, despite the fact that you are cold, soaking, and there isn’t even anywhere to sit. The river was misty, and had risen slightly. A cruiser went by, practically empty save for a few downstairs, and one lunatic braving the elements on deck. Foamy waves rolled outward. Frank rubbed his hands vigorously, and sang softly to himself.

February 19, 2010

Part 4: Causality (scene 1)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 4 : Causality — fishinginbeirut @ 10:20

The car pushed through the world, in darkness. The girls were happily drunk, talking and laughing in the back seat. Aria knew she was going to get hiccups. The taxi flashed down the Right Bank Expressway, and she craned her neck around to see the Eiffel tower. At night it gave her goose bumps.
It was April. The car ascended, and began moving northeast towards Republique. Aria fumbled for the fare, not wishing to delay the man when they got there. They were dropped at l’Hopital Saint Louis, and walked home in two minutes. Laura started making toast.
“Do we have any of that wine left?” she asked over her shoulder, scanning the fridge for butter. Aria saw a half bottle on the counter.
“Yeah, there’s lots.”
They drank and ate, the light flickering softly, the bulb nearly gone. It was cooler now than in February, especially at night. March had been fine, and now April had taken this little dip. Presumably it was temporary. Aria worked in a café selling Swedish bread, American cookies, and overpriced French supermarket soup. Very rarely did she misunderstand an order, and Laura was amazed by this. Two months is not long, when you’re trying to pick up a language.
Laura always said it was to Aria’s advantage that she’d never done a French course, but Aria wasn’t sure about this. Whether it was true or not, not a day went by without Laura cursing her Sorbonne study. “Je deteste le grammaire,” she’d shout, screeching and laughing at once. The windows would shake when she did so.
They had jam, butter, wine and bread. They spilt crumbs everywhere. Aria loved this French wine, its simple, correct taste. Red wine in the evenings was lovely.
They heard a noise from outside. There was this guy who kept coming around, shouting obscenities about American girls. They heard the sound of a trash can being kicked, and knew it was him. He called out now about American foreign policy, and the treatment deserved by degraded American girls. He cursed and swore. Aria hated this, much more than Laura did, and she was terrified to even look out the window. It made her feel sick.
After a while he left. It was probably only five minutes, but it felt longer. Aria rolled her shoulders. Laura peered out to check he was really gone. It was bad enough having strange, silent men eye you malevolently on the Metro, without feeling trapped in your own home. They drank some more without speaking.
The evening had been fun; out in a few bars, exchanging a few glances. They tried to dwell on this part, rather than the other. Why wouldn’t that jerk just leave them alone? The toast was only half-eaten, and it was cold now, and Aria felt sad and ashamed just looking at it. This guy dug up her past for her unwanted, and the fact he didn’t know what he was doing was slim consolation. She felt small and unsure.
Soon after they went to bed. Someone was revving an engine, again and again and again, and Aria lay in silence, listening. She pulled the blankets tighter, and thought of her mother and sister. Two months was the longest she’d ever been away, and a little sentimentality can be excused now and then. She cried softly, and felt warmer.

« Newer Posts

Create a free website or blog at