Fishing in Beirut

April 12, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 21)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 09:11

Johnny was cooling on his film fetish, having exhausted the Pariscope of material. The problem was the films never changed. He divided the coke into wraps, and placed these little balls into a drawer. He reached over lazily for the guitar. He certainly had more luck with women than B strings, cause the damn thing had snapped on him again. He strummed a chord and it sounded dead without it.
The other day Michel requested information about women. The how, the why, and the where.
“If you give friendly compliments, you’ll get friends,” Johnny had told him, “and if you praise them like they’re goddesses, you’ll get sex.” Michel had rubbed his chin and thought it over.
Johnny pulled out the drawer and counted how many wraps there were, and then slid it shut. He leaned out the window and spat onto the street, watching the saliva trajectory, and the impact.
He continued doing this for the next five minutes, uncaring of the attention of the old woman across the way. He spat till his mouth was liquid free. It’s an addictive thing – constant spitting prompting more spitting, and then finally you just have to stop. You’d dehydrate and shrivel up and die.
He went back inside to get some water. He opened the drawer and counted the wraps again. There were eleven. Eleven fucking wraps, no more no less, and no need to ever count them again.
The day was threatening activity, a foreboding unknowable something promising drama of some kind. He felt it unquestionably in his bones. He stretched his arms and yawned. Sleeping was a thing of stops and starts now.

That night he went out and picked up Claire. Some English girl who spoke good French. Worked in an office and wanted out. Of the job and of the city. He listened to her hard luck story and she brought him back.
She had an elusive quality he’d seen plenty of, a passive kind of taking it. It was empowering and the opposite at once. For him and for her and for them. He wanted to be gone when he was sated, but she held him coldly, with strength. They lay there and their breath intermingled.
His nerve began failing him. She was staring into his eyes. He clicked his tongue but she was unfazed, and it seemed like an excavation she was conducting for his soul. Not born of warmth but of stoicism. He looked back angrily, undressed and with many tables turned. This girl was a mistake and a killer.
Eventually she slept and he didn’t. He wanted to leave but could not. She wasn’t holding him, he was physically free, but he kept looking at this fucking woman, who had him because he had her. She was right without saying a word. He got up with much effort, staring at her as he dressed, and was back on the street.


April 11, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 20)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 11:40

Aria packed her bag economically. It was only two weeks, she had clothes and cds at home, so she removed a few items and put the bag on her back to test weight. It was light enough to carry on the metro.
She was nervous about leaving Laura, after what had happened last weekend. They had arranged that Marie would take Aria’s bed, Marie’s old one, during the time Aria was away. Still, maybe the guy would come looking for her.
Aria didn’t know if she should ask Frank to check in on them. If Frank would like it, or Laura would. He could just call once in a while or text Laura’s cell phone, but she hadn’t asked him yet, and might not bother. She threw her bag in the corner and stood up.
It was going to be great to see her family. Ten months was like forever, and she couldn’t wait to see her sister in the doorway. Her mother was sure to make a fuss. She hadn’t made it home for Thanksgiving, so this would be a double event – turkey, cranberry, the lot. She had presents for everyone from Paris.
She put on some music from Lhasa de Sela. She sensed into her body as she swayed. The voice and the rhythm were intoxicating, spellbinding and heavy with thought, and Aria felt the floor, through her feet and her legs and her chest. To be holding herself as the world turned.
There was definitely a Christmas feeling in the air. It was more than just lights and consumption. When she walked in the streets there was a magic of some sort, a tingling anticipation of warmth or relief. The promise of nursery shelter.
She checked the flight time just to be sure. Re-calculated the right time to leave for it. It was fine, she would make it OK. She remembered that guy who used to curse them from outside, and for some reason he didn’t come round now. Here’s hoping he would never come back.
The clock on the wall had long ago stopped working. Aria never tried to fix it, because the ticking she could do without. It interfered with the rhythm of music. She went over to it now, the hands inert and functionless, and took it down and shelved it away. If Laura liked it there she could replace it. Then Laura returned and Aria said this to her, and Marie appeared through the door. She held a bag and a sheepish expression.
They ate dinner together, Marie shy, but the girls chatting to ease her. She was painfully conscious of her face. She had developed a way of letting her hair hang over it, but this required her neck to bend forward, and made her awkwardness even more apparent. She was gentle like a kitten or a child.
Aria watched her discreetly, feeling tears in her eyes as she noticed the tightness and fidgeting. It was searing to see such symptoms in another. Marie extended and re-clenched her fingers, her eyes looking up and down, seeking invisibility. Aria took her hand and held it tight.
Marie stared at her, startled and unsure. They’d never met before in their lives. Aria squeezed her fingers. For an instant the light flickered, then came back on stronger than before. Marie started crying. Laura looked shocked, but Aria was not, smiling imperceptibly to see the shaking in the limbs. Her hand grew warmer around Marie’s.
Marie cried for a long time. Twenty or twenty five minutes. She sat there in her chair with the dishes on the table, shaking and sobbing and biting at her lip. Aria just wanted to hug her.

April 10, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 19)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 07:49

Djinn squashed the fly in prickly annoyance. It buzzed for a further five seconds, and died. He picked it up and studied it on his fingertip, two legs still twitching, but the soul already in the air.
He scraped it off and flicked it out the window. The groundward rush separated it into parts. Some school children scampered by excitedly, multicoloured bags rattling lunch boxes as they bumped. For a second he thought he was still in the heat of the Lebanon.
But no, to think in such a way was a mistake. He would never be returning, would spend his last earthly days right here. Take as many as possible to a punishment deserved.
It was hard to kill time when he wasn’t working. Walking the streets was an option but it brought no relief. He stretched his aching back muscles gingerly, the bed before him a miserable resting place. The sooner this day would arrive the better for all.
The light was getting caught in the open window pane, making colours like a rainbow. He watched a purple and blue blob dance. The pain had moved from his upper back to his lower, snaking down and twisting inside, and he did more stretches until something clicked.
Just at the time of the click, the bell rang. He stood still for a moment and went to the door. A small man of about fifty waited in the hallway, eagerly introducing himself as from the electricity company . They were doing door-to-door checks, some safety procedure.
Djinn let him in reluctantly, and waited impatiently for his departure. He was gone in less than two minutes. The silence returned to the room, the man’s energy banished by the draft. Djinn closed the window and killed the refraction.
Then he himself left, feeling there was nothing to do but walk. The neighbourhood was now disturbingly familiar. Without realising, he had mapped out walks here also, and unconsciously took different routes that he varied day by day. There were even some sights he looked forward to.
This morning he crossed over to Paris, hovering on the bridge for a time to observe the Boulevard Peripherique. The sign said the traffic today was Fluid.
He went up rue Didot and crossed over rue d’Alesia. There was a little playground with some children. They were very small – too small for school on a Monday, and one of them hugged another and resumed play. He almost smiled but remembered these people were killers. Their mothers and fathers, and their mothers and fathers were animals.
So he came once again to the tower, drawing him like a magnet or a tide. He looked up and thought through the plan. Yes it was going to happen, no sentiment would intrude. Burning flame would carry him to Allah. A dog ran across the road causing motoring consternation, and perhaps this was a small presentiment of the chaos he’d induce. The world would be turned upside down and would not spin right again.

April 9, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 18)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 07:40

Laura closed the door, leaving Aria and Frank by themselves. She had no destination in mind. She strolled to Belleville and bought a sandwich in a bakery, watching the woman make it with a delicacy of touch. Yeah, alright, he seemed nice – unpsycholike.
This was the first person she’d met from Ireland. He was gentle but not without energy, capable of anger perhaps. That’s the way it seemed to her anyhow. She put the sandwich in her bag to save for later.
Her old flat-mate Marie called when she was back on Boulevard de la Villette, a bad line making Laura strain to hear. Marie wanted her to come down, spend some time if she could. This sounded like a nice idea.
On the metro to Alesia, Laura watched a small boy scream blue murder at his mother. He was holding on to a bottle intended for his younger brother, his face red and bloated, his eyes upset and fierce. He was far too old for bottles and he knew it.
His mother wrestled it from him, embarrassed determined and drained, and the baby snatched it. She was raising two tiny specimens of will and greed. It can be hard not to look at such events and feel misanthropy, but they’re only children, and they don’t know. It’s kids in their twenties and thirties that make you puke.
Laura flicked out of her pondering, sneezing. Lukas was a kid and he was gone. The stops rolled by, Vavin and Raspail, and she got there. It was a two minute walk and two flights of stairs.
Marie let her in with her eye discoloured, a red and sinister mark upon her face. Laura did a double take and Marie stared at her. She was about to cry or shout or just fall down. They went to the couch and Marie began weeping, Laura hesitating, and then putting her arms around her, confused. She’d only thought they were going to rent a dvd.
Marie sobbed on her shoulder, desperately. A broken sound that made Laura feel the same. It took fifteen minutes to make her stop, and another ten to coax the explanation. It was Martin, but he was sorry.
Martin was an English guy who worked in Brit pubs. A sleazy chain for expats with bitter and darts. He was some kind of coordinator or boss, 27 years old, the last six in France. Laura remembered him from when she’d lived with Marie.
There was a knock on the door and Marie froze. Laura didn’t know what she was into here. She’d been pushed into this world, initiated without her knowledge, and now she was cowering on a sofa with a beaten and frightened girl.
“Marie!” came an English voice. “Ouvre la porte!”
The girls stayed perfectly still. A minute, an hour? It grew dark, and after they heard him leaving they refused to whisper or move. “He doesn’t have a key,” said Marie eventually. “He left it by mistake before he went.”
In the tension and adrenalin of the moment, Laura remembered thinking it was strange to hear Marie use English. Then she thought it was strange to even notice this fact. Her mind wasn’t processing properly, she was aware of that, so she didn’t question anything she felt. This was some kind of instinctive behaviour or automatic act.
She brushed Marie’s hair hypnotically, the girl prone and alert and her small fists clenched. Marie asked her to stay and what could she say.

April 8, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 17)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 09:24

“The more you understand, the more you can accept, and the more you can accept, the calmer you’ll be. And the calmer you are, the better you are for yourself, and for the world.”
Frank watched her eyes move toward the floor.
She sat still looking down, and he touched her knee.
“I agree with you,” he whispered.
She smiled and met his eyes, and leaned over to kiss his cheek. He rubbed her warm right knee through her jeans.
They were up in Aria’s place, and Frank had earlier met Laura. An hour later she’d left, and they were alone. His apprehension was unfounded – Laura was watchful, but discreetly so. There was no Inquisition Spanish or otherwise. Aria breathed deeply and Frank kissed her, holding her lip between his lips and stroking her neck. A bin was slammed outside and made them jump.
Aria stood up and boiled the kettle. Frank watched her lean to find a spoon. She was leaving in a week, to spend Christmas with her family, and he was in love with her, and wondering what he’d do. Her return three weeks to the day was distant eternity.
They drank tea on a darkening Saturday, happy to do nothing and then take the train to the cinema. It was a few hours yet before they should go.
“So what is this book going to be about?” asked Aria. “You’ll have to let me read it.”
“I’m not sure yet, I’m kinda still making notes. I think I just want to start and see what happens, discover if I can do this, and if it feels like something right. I’d love to get down stuff on Sevilla and Berlin.”
“I want to see those places. I really want to see what they mean to you. I’ve been to LA and San Francisco, and once we went up to Canada, but Berlin. I read about it on my flight over here.”
He was surprised.
“You did? What did it say?”
“Oh you know. It sounded incredible. Full of artists and incredible things.”
He smiled and said yeah that’s what it was.
They finished their tea and she made more. He helped her turn on lights and pull down blinds. He resisted the urge to just ask her to move in with him, because this impatience and haste had not been his friend before. It was a happy rush that blinded him to reality.
She went to put on lipstick and other feminine mysteries, and he looked out the window at the moon. What bastards had taken pictures of this angel? Fury rose and then subsided. It didn’t matter, it was gone. He stood in the apartment amidst her kettle and her cups, the softness of her environment.
When she was ready they left. He took her hand in the darkness, and they walked easily to Goncourt. Youths loitered outside Kebab shops, knives swished within, and Frank bought Metro tickets, a tingling behind his nose.
The train juddered momentarily, and Aria fell against his chest. He was delighted and relieved when he caught her.

April 7, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 16)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 07:39

Karen wanted to call him. That old clichéd something stopped her each time. Perhaps it was his failure to call her.
The first week of December was drawing to a close, dragging the year along with it. Cold and rain had assumed its ownership. The streets were slick treacheries, her skin frozen and wet. It was like they’d made a pact to further her misery.
It was difficult not to dwell on things with conditions so inclement. Hard to not submit to mental strife. All she could do was juggle theories on his silence, and why she shouldn’t make the call instead. All she could do in effect was wait.
She spoke to Claire on her lunchbreak, looking for reassurance or guidance or a lie. They discussed it and their coffee grew cooler. Karen drew little rings on the table with her finger, making them bigger, smaller, on each lap. She bumped a little chip in the smoothened surface.
Claire was teasing out ways of possibly prompting him, but Karen wasn’t interested in that. It was going to have to take the course it took. They ordered more coffee with the time still on their side, and changed the subject.
“I’m not sure how long I’m going to stay here. This job, this city.”
Karen was surprised to hear such a thing.
Claire had seemed quite settled, longterm, but maybe something had happened, or she’d simply had enough. Of offices, or France. Karen asked why, what is it, but Claire fell suddenly silent, the energy changing. The topic had retreated as it had come.
It was quiet too as they returned to work, Karen unsure of Claire’s mood, or how to engage with it. She heard familiar sounds of kids and motorbikes. They took the same turn where before there had been a protest, but today continued onward, unobstructed. A breeze announced itself and brushed their hair.
Back in the office Karen felt Claire slip away, not really saying anything, just departing. Karen walked to her own desk, and sat down. She knew Claire was across the room, settling back again also, taking off her coat and preparing to work the phone. There was chatter and the buzzing of machines.

April 6, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 15)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:23

Johnny got up very early. He’d been going to the movies for a week now, checking the guide and travelling through town. Hable con Ella, Scarlet Diva, La Haine and City of God. Every great film made him want to see another.
This morning, on the southside at Balard, they were showing Once Upon A Time In America. The full, uncut, four-hours. He guzzled his coffee and left.
On the Metro, standing, rattling along between Chatelet and Cite, he was reminded of a trip once taken. He had spent a day in London in his youth. There, he’d spied what he took to be Cosmo girls, revelling in their natural habitat. Pretty mid-twenty year olds, tottering about the high street in search of bags and shoes. These were women with make-up and highlights, armed with enormous sexual vocabularies. Their love lives in reality consisted of lying still like cadavers, wondering why the fool on top wasn’t making the earth move. They were sexy and empty at once.
Anyway, he was in no mood for thinking of them, and eagerly awaited the film like a child on Christmas morn. He paid for his ticket and entered. The theatre was very small, maybe 12 rows of red seats, and he slipped in mid-aisle near the back.
When it started, with a phone endlessly ringing, he noticed there were only two other people present. He hadn’t been aware of the fact. They were both closer to the front than he was, a man and a woman, not together. On the screen a soft breast was exposed.
There was a break after two hours, and he stood outside with the others, smoking amidst small talk. It was a funny moment, the three of them in the middle of the day, sharing smoke and conversation in a quiet part of the city. The day was cloudy and still, no hint of sun rain or wind, just a slow and gentle day, with a chill to it.
The woman had Christmas shopping to do afterwards, an MP3 player pre-paid for to collect. Johnny didn’t know what that was. She told him and then he remembered, it was just he’d never heard of the name.
The next two hours passed quick, spent in the company of gangsters and deceit. De Niro and Jimmy Woods had their differences. Johnny scratched a shaving cut around where the jugular vein was, or at least where he’d always thought it was located. Maybe his anatomy was shaky.
He let the credits roll out before leaving, the amount of people involved in film-making unreal. The construction of a movie took an ant colony. He read the names of hundreds whose remit he couldn’t fathom.
Every other moment leaves a distant one forgotten. Every other name does much the same. They scrolled past, Mark this and Sarah that, and he understood quite clearly that a life was nothing more. Seconds blazing in your consciousness, and then lost.

April 5, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 14)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:59

The ice on the ground was unpredictable. As he slipped and nearly fell, Michel cursed and grabbed a railing top, steadying. He was in Jardin du Luxembourg, having just been turned down for a part in a play. It wouldn’t have suited him anyway.
He’d arrived for the audition early, taken a quick snort and rehearsed, but he knew the lines were no good for him, the character impenetrable and cold. Nevertheless, he’d attempted it.
It was six months since he’d found any theatre work, and he wondered sometimes was he foolish to not audition for ads. Was it still selling out if you had to? Borrowing money from his parents was getting harder with each visit, his mother clucking and fretful, his father dismayed by his son. It might nearly be easier if he was angry with him.
Michel sat down, rubbing his hands and shivering. The expelled performance adrenalin had him horny. He could never think of Karen in this humour, feeling it a betrayal of her to do so. Instead he would settle for a magazine, or recall some skinflick once viewed.
There weren’t many people in the park, and those that there were weren’t idle. They were moving from one thing to another. He felt savagely depressed in that moment, cold and alone on a bench, while the world carried on unaware of him. He gripped at his hands and his elbows.
Only his bones made him move again. They were aching and stiff, and so he stood up and walked to relieve them. He left by the south exit, and crossed over Saint Michel. The cold was stinging his cheeks. He jumped on a bus that was heading back north, grateful to just sit and be carried. Some gangsta’s slouched on and didn’t pay.
The bus wound its way toward Bastille. It was arrested in traffic near the quai. Michel bit his fingernails and watched the people, crossing the road and scurrying along the path. What was that phrase from the English, a ratrun or something like this. He knew what was meant by it anyway.
When he got off it was growing dark. He walked from Bastille to Belleville, and on to Colonel – Fabien. He entered his apartment and sat down. He’d left a razor blade on the coffee table, and he stared at it in quiet loathing. It was making him look like a fool.
Washing his face in the sink he started crying, the low and useless bulb a witness to his tears. He saw himself as a ghoul or a sleazebag, a creature less than nothing, his weakness without end. He hit at his face with a dirty towel. His need, his lust, his unfulfilled ambition. He was a twenty nine year old loser.
He climbed into bed and then climbed out again. He stood there clenching his fists. It was freezing, he was just wearing his T-shirt, and he tensed up his body to inflict some more pain. His useless fucking body.
He spat on his own floor and once again was crying. He didn’t even have Karen now. Of course she’d left him forever, of course there was no way back. Who would want a fucking loser like him. He punched his own stomach, his chest. To even go to that audition was a mistake. He threw the blanket from the bed around himself. He went out to the coffee table, and used the razor blade to make lines.

April 4, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 13)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:49

Djinn stood by his window in the morning. Sun shone through. Across the street a girl passed slowly, and returned soon after with a bakery bag. She retraced the way she’d come, looking mildly about at the neighbourhood. Her pastries or whatever swung at her side.
He stretched and stood a little longer. He smoked his last cigarette. Scratching at his close-cut beard he felt a sharp unpleasantness, and realised he’d opened a spot or cut unknown to him. A perfect circle of blood ringed his fingertip.
He left it there, feeling it drying, and walked about the room to be prepared. He’d found a job stocking shelves in a supermarket, his unwillingness to talk not a hindrance or a strain. He performed his tasks robotically, apart.
He cleaned around his apartment, washing a dishcloth and replacing it. The wet one he hung off the sill. His cutlery was spotless and in the cupboard, his knife, fork, two plates. His routine in the mornings was the same.
After, he took a bus to go to work. An Arab was staring at a white woman who climbed aboard, flicking his tongue, his eyes cold and hard. Djinn was disgusted by them both. The man for betraying himself, the other an impure bitch. He cast his eyes down in indignation.
At his stop he alighted, and strode past the guard without hello. He changed in the storeroom, the red jacket and white shirt, and made his way to the soft drinks section. Stocks were running low, the orange and lemon Fanta, and he walked quickly to the stores to replenish them. A child banged into him and apologised.
Stacking these bottles of sugared piss in silence, he accidentally dropped one, and it bounced off the floor. It was a cartoon liquid, not fit for human consumption. He picked it up, poison sloshing about, and offered it to the hapless infant, still standing alongside, eyeing the colas. The kid made a scowl and ran away.
An old woman enquired after pastis, what price it was and where it might be kept. He was less than civil and she took umbrage. Her throat bulged, puffing up and swelling in the manner of the bullfrog. Her voice was barely a croak.
He got the wretched drink. Procured it from another aisle, and entrusted it to her bosom. She gasped and her eyes grew wide. She tottered toward the checkout unsteadily. He was certain she’d complain and didn’t care.
The night he spent alone like every other. What need had he for friends? He smoked, planned, occasionally played solitaire. With a three card turnover to make it last. He had learned so much about patience, had become so attuned to its nature with time, that this game was his life in miniature, his being. He reshuffled the deck and dealt again.

April 2, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 12)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 11:12

Frank and Aria had dinner in Frank’s place. Cleaning took him hours but was worth it for effect. He met her off the bus, so beautiful dismounting. He kissed both her cheeks then her mouth.
When they entered the apartment, he felt for a second like he was on some reality dating show, but then the sensation passed. It was momentary nerves and anxiety. In that flash, he was positioned somewhere, observing them, but within a heartbeat they were seated, and he melted back into himself. He was present now and content with it.
She was wearing a red cardigan, and it really suited her. He was going to say it but didn’t. She complimented his culinary efforts, him fobbing it off and feigning indifference. He’d slaved over that stove like a fool. The wine was good and from Chile, and soon formed a wall inside which they could speak. Unguarded and uncaring.
She asked about his leg, saying she’d noticed him limping. He told her the story without hesitation. Berlin, the bus crash, recovery both body and mind, and already he knew she related, and then she told her story too.
He poured more wine, and they paused to let things settle. There was no rush, and no need for it. Frank went to take her hand, but then decided not to. They were already joined as it was.
Outside the moon was maybe a day from being in fullness. The same might be said for the lovers in its light. They slept together that night, first time, right time, and Frank was lost in pleasure like no other he had known. The bed was hardly perfect, creaking and groaning from their weight.
In the morning Aria went for croissants. He showered and after they ate. She’d had some funny conversation with the woman in the bakery, an impromptu discussion on men, and she was still laughing at the woman’s advice, which was avoidance for life. Les hommes sont impossible!
They turned on the radio and the sun broke through – crystal, piercing wintersun. An ad came on for the mayor’s office, some concert or spectacle planned. Frank smiled at Aria, how guileless her laughter could be, and he knew he was totally in love with her, her presence her soul and her past.

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