Fishing in Beirut

March 20, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 13)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:42

If you invite pain and suffering into your life, they will come running. Don’t invite them, just deal with them if they come.
Djinn had seen his mother raped. In the kitchen, near a chair. He’d been young, a child only, watching wide-eyed and unmoving. When their business was finished they left. He’d run to her, held her, cried as she cried with him, on the tile floor. This was long ago.
He stands by the window on this French suburban street. He is in the town of Malakoff, next to Paris. A car goes by at a slow speed, two smiling children in the backseat, their mother driving responsibly. Djinn rubs at his eyelids.
Over in Beirut he had the sounds that helped to mould him. The familiar floating noise. Here he feels unmoved by it, the music of daily life, taking nothing from the French cars, voices, bird calls. He wishes he could block them out.
He has been living here a month. It is the second of October 2003, and he feels like he’s been here forever. The days are long and tedious. He has tramped the streets and consulted maps, pinpointed useful locations. Has surveyed the site many times. He has looked from every possible angle, calculated distances, ascended often as a tourist. The Tower of Montparnasse.
He knows it like a body part.
On their buses he stares out the window. On their trains he looks straight ahead. He ignores their old people, their words, their sinful immoral girls. He prays. On the streets his tension hurts him, muscular folds tightening in the shoulders and the back. He stretches his joints in the evenings.
Once a woman asked him the time. He acted like he hadn’t heard her. If he caught someone’s eye he would glance at the floor, or away, anywhere. It made his head sore. The weather was harsh on him also, filling his soul with anger and fear. Making skin crack.

He reads from his Koran and recites his prayers turned eastward. He eats silently. To control a plan one must control oneself, and this can only be done by adhering to routine. If a bird sings audibly he denies the occurrence, struggling to banish the memory of a simple, once pleasant event. The tea they sell here distresses him.
The clock is ticking on and the time is fast approaching. Patience will offer reward. In the gathering of material and the straining will of same, he senses something massive, far beyond his scope. French cars, French people, French steel and glass and skin. All will crumble, melt, burn in holy flame, just like a prophecy. Djinn feels tired suddenly.
He lies on his bed and stares at the ceiling. There is a crack with an insect upon it. The creature follows the line of the fissure, almost exactly, creeping upside down with no knowledge of the world. Djinn follows the creature with his eyes.
He will sleep later, dreaming of death. To dream of death is important. It means his heart is pure, his mind focused, his soul is free from fear. It means his will will carry him. He has to die too of course, in the building he will light. His soul must mingle with the others. He turns off the lamp in his bedroom.

March 19, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 12)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:37

Karen met Michel at her metro station. He had bags of Christmas presents bundled in his arms, and she offered to carry one but he refused. He asked her to accompany him northward.
On the train they spoke about Christmas time, and Michel said it was his favourite time of year. The carriage rumbled and shook them. He wanted to go to Chateau Rouge, saying he had a present for a friend there. After, they could walk in Montmartre.
When they got to the station they pushed up the stairway, Michel guiding her with his voice. One of his parcels touched against her for a second, and he apologised, sounding out of breath. They emerged into bustle, and walked noisy, crowded streets at a slow pace. She knew this was near her attack site. Michel apologised again, saying it wouldn’t be much longer, and then they were stopped on the pavement, and he was shouting up at somebody.
A gruff voice answered, and came down to open the door. Karen heard a rustling interplay, the giving of the gift presumably, and then Michel was introducing her, saying this was Johnny. Johnny asked her nationality, and spoke English out of courtesy. She didn’t bother mentioning she spoke French. Michel did, saying he couldn’t understand, but Johnny ignored his pleas for a language switch, and talked so much Karen couldn’t hope to initiate one. They chatted about the weather.
She felt comfortable in his presence, temporarily forgetting Michel, and concentrating on the voice. It was rough hewn, scraped, story-filled. He said he was Senegalese, a musician, and the harsh Northern weather had sandpapered his skin. She asked where he learned his English.
“It’s like gravel my skin, can you feel it?”
Before she knew it her hand was raised, touching his face, unknowing as to whether it had reached or been placed there. She traversed his cheek.
Michel coughed out of awkwardness.
“Tu veux partir, cherie? Il est tard.”

They left. They journeyed back to St. Sulpice, neither saying very much, and she wondered in her head what fire she was feeling. It was otherworldly. Michel gave her some presents to carry this time, and they ventured up the stairs into the night.
Later, alone, her mind returned to his face. The feeling of the skin. In his voice lay authority, mystery, desperation. She had wondered then how his eyes were, and had never really dwelled on this in meeting someone before. She had learnt it didn’t matter.
She turned over and tried to sleep, and did so after a spell. But the lurching of her dreamscape awoke her. She sat up in her nightdress, the covers half falling, permitting stabs of cold. Muscles ached from positioning.
Life was the thrust of the everyday.
Death was the shrinking from life.
Rest and good food lead to peace.

March 18, 2010

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

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

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

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

March 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?

March 16, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 9)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 11:30

Karen was happy on Sunday. A smoke-smell remained on the living room furniture, but Friday night’s party could be deemed a success. There was rain falling.
She’d spoken at length with a man called Michel, and agreed to give him her number. He’d told of his upbringing in Bordeaux, his hopes, his fears, and she’d been drawn in by this openness, which was not like guys back home. Neither was his evident interest in her. Perhaps because of this, or just the buzz of a gathering, she felt so light today, remembering the feel of that night. Of friendly strangers.
Janey rang and gossiped about everyone, asking Karen’s opinions and fishing for thoughts on Michel. Karen was diplomatic. The rain hit the window pane in wind-assisted swishes. Karen said goodbye and was silent.
All she heard now was this rain-swishing, a delicate brushing cadence. Then a car passing. She got up and walked about, put on her raincoat but discarded it, not wishing to go outside. A lone bird began to screech somewhere.
She got a whiff of Michel’s aftershave, from the sensory memory bank, and smiled to herself briefly, half-embarrassed to feel so girlishly young. She felt her heart beating.

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 11, 2010

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

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

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

March 10, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 6)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:39

She’d moved in the day before. It was down near St. Sulpice. She was still organising things, shifting the furniture around. Honing her specifications. She picked up an ashtray and placed it back down. Janey had friends who were smokers.
Karen was having a flat-warming this Friday night, in two days time. There was work to be done before that. Unpacking, arranging, some decoration. Home-making.
In the kitchen she drank some water, rubbing the sink-top surface. Allow all these things become familiar. She walked around on the linoleum slowly, and there were places that squeaked and places that didn’t. There was a lump near the doorway.
Janey had promised to bring plenty of people, because Karen knew nobody else. Karen had laughed at this fact. She smiled at it now, dusting a shelf, and wondered at who might turn up. She tied back her hair with a band.
She thought of the man who attacked her, but didn’t feel anything now. It was past and irrelevant. In the evening she hung her Beirut picture on the wall. It still held the soul of her grandfather. She went for a walk and returned feeling fresher, eager for newness and life. The fridge made a hum like a kid.
So this was her new city, and the neighbourhood felt right. Central. She’d lived in the suburbs back home. She was close to the river here, to its sound and its sense, and she planned on walking there regularly in peace. A fly buzzed.
She was looking forward to her job. The challenge. To the people, the experience, the simple and the strange. To everything. She was ready for all that there was.
Mom called and asked questions. It was nice to recount what she’d done. She left out the attack altogether, cause Mom would have jumped on a plane. Karen described her apartment, where all her items would go. She liked this.

When the call ended she went to bed. It was late now. Outside on the street two lovers were fighting, the woman berating the man. Karen was asleep when they reconciled.

March 9, 2010

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

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

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

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

March 8, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 4)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:37

Aria was late for the lesson. She ran down the corridor, dropping books and sheets, and her trainers made a squeaking sound like tyres or mice. She entered the classroom and sat down.
This was the last October they would be in school. Laura had mentioned this earlier, and Aria laughed gladly, not thinking of it that way. Come next June they were finished. She found the right page in the geography book, and tried but failed to relax. She had 200 dollars in her pocket.
She had come home pretty late the night before, shaking and a little bit drunk. She’d been nervous before the shoot. Some whiskey had calmed her sufficiently, and she’d posed in the way they asked, feeling a high from their stares. That super-attentive attention.
Today she felt stressed-up and guilty, and wanted to do it again. It was always like this. Her mind was a swirl full of chatter, and the teacher couldn’t hope to compete. Aria was lost in her thinking.
Later in the cafeteria, she ate about half the meal. It was nice but she just didn’t want it. Pushing away the plate, she got up and went to her locker. She put the money inside. There was a picture of her mother and Anna there, tacked to the back of the door, but Aria didn’t want to see it now, and shielded her left eye with her hair. She slammed the door.
She skipped the next class but went to the following, and it was boring and hard to keep still. She chewed on her pen as she listened.
Math made no sense in this moment, the sum totals blurring from afar. Her heartbeat was getting annoying. She jiggled her knees, but that moved the desk, and soon other students were watching. She fidgeted.
“You can leave if you won’t stop that moving.”
She stopped. This was a stupid way for a teacher to address a seventeen year old, but it shamed her into inertia. She scowled at the math on the board.

“I’m doing this for you Aria. For all of you.”
At home she lay in her bedroom. She was getting more tired each day. Her lips twitched, and her limbs jumped occasionally. She struggled with imagery unwanted. This was not a great life, she knew that. Something was definitely wrong, but maybe this work could correct it. She felt it might wash it away.
The room seemed to swim momentarily. Her head throbbed. She sat up and her fists clenched, and she inhaled deeply. Fuck these feelings and thoughts then. If this was how it was going to be, fuck it. She didn’t have a clue what was wrong with her, and slumped back down in a heap. Her shoulders and neck felt so stiff.

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