Fishing in Beirut

March 7, 2010

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

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

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

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

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


March 6, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 2)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:43

Karen got lost on the Metro. She was sure she had counted correctly, but maybe there was something she’d overlooked. Things were tricky in a new town. She had seemingly emerged at Barbes instead of Anvers, and she could hear the sound of some type of market.
A fist dug into her back. He was saying something, scouring her pockets, tiny flecks of spittle flicking on her cheek. She froze, motionless. His other hand rifled her jacket, her jeans, and the fist pressed spinally inward, alert.
A whore, a bitch, he was calling her these names, and while she understood it, she couldn’t form a reply. Her mouth refused to move. His free hand punched her hip, and in that moment she was aware of letting go of her stick. She felt her fingers open, but didn’t hear it fall. Saliva prickled her neck now.
This man behind her smelt of aniseed. His arm around her waist now, his fist still in her back. His right cheek touched her left one. Then he was gone, or maybe he was gone for a moment, before she realised. Her body was shaking and taut.
She shook and sobbed, and felt her skin grow warmer. Not just her skin, but beneath it. Her tears were warm on her face. She cried and shook convulsively, the world receding and gone. Then the everyday life sounds were audible again – cries, shouts, buses. Somebody’s dog sniffed her leg.
She moved to her left and leaned against a wall. She wiped at the tears on her face. The sounds on the street were now clear as a bell, the scuffing of shoes, the coughs. Karen was totally alone. She felt in her pocket and her wallet was gone. Her money and forms of ID. A credit card from home now needing cancellation.
She started walking. She returned to the Metro confused but determined, and moved down the passage in what she hoped was the right direction. She asked someone near her on the platform. On the train she started relaxing, knowing that she’d left the scene. Janey had warned her about this area. Barbes, La Chapelle, Chateau Rouge. Watch your bag, and your person.
She got off near Janey’s apartment, at Ternes. She relaxed further amidst opulence. Remembering the turns to be taken, she reached rue Fourcroy, and entered. Janey was still at work. Karen got some water and sat down on the sofa.
She felt sensations of him touching her. Her elbows and forearms grew tight. She braced herself on the couch, and trembled some more for a while. Warmth spread. Janey returned and they spoke of the ordeal. Karen cried a little.
“I know some people who’ve had stuff stolen up there. Let me ring the bank and cancel the card, so that’s one thing you don’t have to worry about. It’ll only take a second.”
Karen let her do it. She suddenly felt extremely tired, and the prospect of moving at all was unwelcome. She heard Janey’s voice from the bedroom. Karen had made contact with various companies online before travelling, and the response to her resume so far had been good. As soon as she signed a contract, Janey said there’d be no problem finding an apartment.
She settled back in the softness, dozy. Her body was concrete or lead. It was good to be here, despite today’s fright, and she sensed in her heart that the future was strong. Karen was in Paris two weeks.

March 5, 2010

Part 5: Natural Light, Oct 2001 – Jan 2002 (scene 1)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 5 : Natural Light — fishinginbeirut @ 08:38

The leaf is the tree, and the tree is the earth. But still they are separate. Frank is in Grant Park, with his crutch beside him. Skyscrapers lunge upward in the downtown city hub. Clouds scurry to avoid them. Frank is in a morphine haze, the medicine supplied by doctors to combat dreadful pain.
To his left is Lake Michigan, to his right the Windy City. Around him trees and grass. It’s morning. He walks for as long as he is able these days, and has taken to sitting in this park. It’s near water. Homeless men drift about, and sometimes they talk to him or wave. If only the pretty girls would do the same.
The previous Tuesday down on Washington, he’d given five dollars to some woman. A beggar, a bum, whatever the term. She could have been forty or eighty. God bless you son she’d said to him, his eyes moistening from a draft. His ankle throbbed with pain.
He has memorised a number of intersections, battling to get to grips with the sprawling city grid. Street names are useless, it’s intersections that give bearings.
His body feels light and tingling; he has more drugs for when it doesn’t. Morphine, codeine, whiskey. The prescriptions for the first two are legal and correct, but the dosage for the third is one he wrote himself. The sweet Kentucky cure.
A leaf blows directly in front of him, skipping. It settles, then takes off again. He follows it with his eyes, his gaze resting on his discarded shoes and socks, placed on the grass in the sunshine. He slowly moves his ankle.
He is plagued by ideas of a perfect alternative life. He gets lost in constructions and conceits. Other places, perfect people. Things hidden. Maybe it’s just the injury, the morphine and being alone. Maybe it’s just today. He feels that in his life he can never say goodbye, can never leave to drift what is meant to float away. His fingertip rubs his forehead.
A group of school children walk past. Boys and girls, laughing pushing, perhaps five or six years old. That was Frankie one time. He clicks his tongue in disgust at this mawkish sentimentality, drugs and pain or not. He puts his shoes and socks on.
Walking back across Madison Avenue and into the city, he feels a shudder at the corner of Monroe and State. His right leg buckles for an instant. His arm grips his crutch, his entire torso leaning, shaking against it. Somebody stares in alarm.
Frank stands still, recovering from the shock and relaxing his muscles. It’s cooler here, with skyscrapers blocking the light. He sees a man get off a bus, his left leg severed at the knee. It makes him feel pathetic, and snaps away his self-pity.
He hobbles down the steps of the subway station, passing through the ticket barrier. The blue line will take him to Jefferson Park. There are crowds on the platform, and he’s self-conscious and totally alone. He feels that his jacket is ridiculous.
The train comes and they shuffle aboard. No vacant seats of course, and he hopes he won’t fall and embarrass himself. Somebody would get up if he asked them, but he wants this even less.
It rattles and shakes through the tunnels, leaving the Downtown area and emerging overground. It’s northwest all the way. Soon he will be home, in tree-lined squirrel suburbia. His aunt and uncle’s house. A deaf man passes out key rings, as the train lets off at Belmont. Four more stops to go.

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