Fishing in Beirut

April 1, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 11)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:26

It was the 15th of November. Soon another year would end, 2004 would usher in, and he would still be here, dissatisfied. The exile alone on the square.
He spat on the ground and a wing flapped. Pigeons could be eaten if boiled. He thought of this for a second, boiling all the pigeons in the streets. They were bothersome and utterly without merit. He swiped his arm angrily to disperse them, a movement which he felt defined his life. Another week and he’d retire till the springtime.
Johnny was not conscious of how much he missed his homeland. Sometimes, at two or three in the morning, he became so. But that was different. That was half-awake, murmuring, maybe in someone else’s bed. It was unreal and forgotten by daybreak.
The night before he had dreamt of Michel’s girlfriend. Of following her down the street and watching her undress. Was this unwholesome owing to her blindness? He was more concerned by this than the fact she was with Michel, and he thought it funny he should think of her when he’d only seen her twice. Not for a year or more either.
He stood up and the years echoed. The history of his endless routine. He stretched, yawned, scratched at the back of his neck. He would grow old performing these functions.
The wind started blowing, carrying flecks of rain. He ran/walked to shelter under the bowels of the building, huddling near two security guards who sentried the Pompidou elevator. One of them nodded hello. Johnny took out some cigarettes and made a half-hearted gesture to offer them. Both men declined. He lit up, shielding out the wind, and dragged passionately. There was very little else he could do.
A Dior bag blew across the emptying piazza. A well heeled woman clattered after it. Her shoes clopped like a horse’s hooves , her skirt riding up her leg. Johnny watched ambivalently, aware the guards did also.
She recovered the bag with her hair all aflutter. Her highlights needed to be redone. Johnny dropped the cigarette and spat onto the tile. He was disgusted by his callousness in watching her. A part of him had delighted in her predicament, her exposure and mishap, and he wondered why this could be, why it was his attitude. The guards started talking about her legs.
He left the square and went to the movies. He paid in an abundance of change. Five and ten cent pieces, lining the pockets of his jacket, were handed over for entry. The ticket girl rolled her eyes. It was a film by Michael Mann. Heat starring Robert de Niro and Al Pacino, all alive with the mystery and beauty of the world. A heavyweight meditation, masquerading as criminals and cops. It was profound, breath-taking, cool and neon blue, a soundtrack like a soul humming. Destined to be revered for generations.
Johnny watched in solitude, aching from the images. Loneliness and the drive to be lonely. He rubbed at his eyes and pretended he was nowhere, a floating being unburdened, left in aesthetic contemplation. Would his body let him continue feeling this way?
Afterwards he departed gingerly. His psyche had been breached or brought to life. He drifted down the streets feeling different and much younger, a part of him quite certain that the future wasn’t dead. It just needed gentle coaxing.

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March 31, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 10)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 07:56

Laura left the flat to go to college. She crossed over Republique and was soon at the Pompidou. She took Pont d’Arcole onto Ile de le Cite, and stopped for a moment beside Notre Dame, craning her neck until it hurt. The sparrows up above looked unnatural.
The Sorbonne stood between Saint Jacques and Saint Michel. She entered through the main gates. Passing through corridors and hallways, with multi-national students everywhere, she felt a buzzing in her head, and forgot what she’d meant to remember. There was something to do after this.
The classes were uneventful, taking her up to four o’clock, and then depositing her back on the street. She looked at CDs in Gibert Joseph. The alternative section was pretty good, well stocked if heavy of price tag. There were bands she had never even heard of.
One of these, The Death Monsters, had a picture of a girl being tortured. A guy pushed alongside to study it. Was he a rocker or a Goth, a nu-metaller or a punk? She found herself laughing at these labels.
She moved over to the F section, bands called Fugazi and Fish. Fugazi were D.C. punks. She picked up the record, read the song titles, and saw she knew most of them to sing. This was an album a friend had. Leaving without buying anything, she remembered what she’d planned to get done. It was too late now to accomplish it.
She met Lukas by the river. She was homeward bound again.
“It’s a difficult game for the first time writer,” he said. “You have to write the book with all your heart, and then sell it like a used car.” She hadn’t seen him in months.
They spoke briefly as the wind blew, him flicking his hair and looking iconic. He was depth and mystery until you knew him. She wished him luck with his work regardless, although he’d never let her read a line. She left, sensing he didn’t want her too.
She didn’t look back, but was aware he was still standing there. Watching. She tied back her hair as she went. She crossed Place de l’Hotel de Ville. Pigeons scattered in front of her, cooing and flapping their wings. Their droppings were drying on the stone.
In time they would harden and disappear. Laura felt her ponytail on her neck. She went up rue du Temple as the light fell, crossing and then recrossing the street. Pavements were being dug up and drilled at. This street was so familiar, this Paris life permanent now. It was strange to believe she might one day leave it. There was a Chinese man dragging a mattress, scuffing it up and down kerbs. His face didn’t register exertion. She wondered should she help him, and actually made a first step towards doing so, but the aloofness of his calm put her off. How to initiate proceedings?
She walked on and soon was home. She turned on the light by the door. The neighbours were preparing something spicy and exotic, the smell entering the room as she did. An unwestern concoction of musk. She hung up her coat and sat down by the cooker, observing its rust and small cracks. She was starving to make something great.

March 29, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 9)

Filed under: Character : Djinn, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:31

Djinn was in the supermarket. He held a basket with fruit inside it, and read from a tin. Did he want to eat this or not? He decided to take it, placed it carefully next to apples, and continued. An old woman stepped to one side.
In the second aisle he studied the sauces, tomato and curry and others in jars. He scanned the top shelf for rice. He wanted cereal as well as this, and walked quickly around to locate it. He avoided the brands made from sugar.
When all was bought and he was back on the street, one of his bags burst. Apples rolled drainward bound. He hated himself for his stupidity, feeling undignified scrambling about, and looked up frantically, making sure no one had seen. A little girl smiled from a window. He clenched tight his jaw, furious.
In the apartment he checked the bruising, the apples discoloured and cracked. He binned them in another wave of fury. This country, its weather and people. He ran the tap to wash juice from his fingertips, kneading the joints together to remove the sticky mess. The soap he was using was useless.
He left after lunch again, stalking the streets of the 14th arrondissement. The air was chilly and sharp. On rue Didot he felt a pain in his side, and leaned against a lamppost, gasping. A dog moved out of the way.
He ventured down roads and alleyways, weaving toward the tower he planned one day to hit. That day was so close he could feel it. At last he stood underneath, staring up at the rooms full of lights. There were people in there so oblivious. He watched the traffic on the place alongside, the stopping and starting, and the people in throngs. It was like his own movie. They came towards him, didn’t see him, were replaced by others in an endless urban dance. They were all just the same and all stupid.
He smoked a cigarette and ignored a scavenging beggar. He spat on the ground to dismiss him. Smoke curled around, escaping from Djinn’s mouth, at Montparnasse, in Paris. A woman eyed him malevolently.
There were dark clouds overhead now. It looked certain it would rain. Others sensed this also, scurried to shelter in time, but he didn’t. He waited and then it began. Massive globular drops descended, attacking him, rendering the concrete world a river or reservoir. He stood there impassive and unflinching.
“Monsieur,” someone called out. “Monsieur.” Of course he ignored this completely. Soon all sound was drowned out by the rain, the passing cars and rumbling chatter unheard. He could feel his sensations shutting down. He clenched his fists and gripped his teeth with his tongue, urging feeling to return so he might suffer longer. His elbows involuntarily shook.
Whenever this rain stopped he would stand for another hour. He decided it there and then. Whenever the water ceased and the world again resumed, he would stand one hour more in this place. Society or conscience wouldn’t move him.
He rubbed at his face as the water thundered down, feeling stinging on his cheeks and nothing in his hands. “Monsieur!” he heard again, as from a distance.

March 28, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 8)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 12:20

Karen told Michel they had a problem. He was crying when she hung up the phone. She had got right into it, her suspicions and her fears, and she knew by his reactions that she’d caught him unawares. Had ambushed him.
She cried a little herself, re-casting her mind over the conversation. She thought she’d been quite harsh, tetchy. Still, it was killing her. Drugs was a subject foreign to her, irrelevant really, but the change in his energy and mood was devastating and weird. Once she’d noticed it, it was everywhere.
He had protested meekly like an infant, had pleaded with her, but she could tell. What kind of drug was it anyway? She knew of cocaine, speed, and these were fast and kinetic – was it one of these he took? She hadn’t asked, hadn’t wanted to right then, but now she did, now she wondered. He put this stuff in his body.
She got up and went to the kitchen. What was her next move from here? He would call of course, but how to handle it. She didn’t know who might advise her.
She drank some water and thought furiously. Her mind was racing around. The water enveloped her tongue, its coldness bringing clarity, and she took deep breaths until her brain had quietened. She heard a man laughing.
I’ll just let things relax, she thought. I’ll just have to see where this one goes. The man laughed again from wherever.
Sitting on the couch she felt all stressed again, so she got up and rolled her neck. Then she kneaded her fingers. These little exercises never failed to produce results, putting her back in touch with herself, and her priorities. Worry was counter productive.
She felt the air in her nostrils, the softness of it, and she moved her hands. Her wrists bent. Her left elbow cracked as she extended her arm, feeling power and calm. Her neck grew warm and she sensed it. The hairs on her head came alive, the muscles in her calves went tight. Then her hip shuddered.
She went loose, weightless, and the pain passed. Slowly she commenced again. Her knees and thighs braced, bearing weight while she pivoted. Her spine was gently aligned.
As anxious energy vanished, she surrendered completely to the movements. Her mind didn’t think or create. It was empty, hollow, a space alive with peace. The tempo of the world was slower. She stretched and swayed hypnotically, or that’s the way it seemed, no separation of her consciousness. She joined with the nothing outside.
Michel would call when he was ready to. Then she would know what to do.

March 27, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 7)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:48

There were two people from London on the Metro.
“Awwight you cunt?” said one.
“Smashin’ you cunt,” replied the other. This went on until Aria reached Goncourt. She could still hear their conversation as she walked away.
In her apartment with Laura, they prepared the evening meal to music. Aria chopped onion while Laura buttered bread, and the pasta bubbled slowly. They had plates and glasses set out, and wine waiting patiently on the counter. The onion tears started.
They ate and spoke of eating, dishes they should some day attempt. Laura dipped bread in the sauce. There was steam in the kitchen from the boiling pasta water, and Laura got up mid-sentence to let in air. The chill made her soon change her mind.
Aria glanced at her, and knew immediately she wanted to steer the conversation. Towards Frank, towards nosiness. Her smile was challenging, playful.
“I don’t know what you’re smiling at, cause I’m not saying a word.”
Laura pursed her lips up.
“I’m not,” repeated Aria, laughing without meaning to.
Someone slammed the lid of a bin.
Frank texted after an hour perhaps, and Laura watched, as Aria thought of her reply. He was alone in a bar watching soccer.
They talked about him then as the bottle emptied, the red wine from Bordeaux easing wordflow. All about the mystery of his look. Whatever she felt, it was new for this guy. He had a quality unencountered, a stance. He’d be alien in San Jose.
The night ended and they were tired. They brushed their teeth side by side at the sink. Climbing up the ladder, Aria shuddered with joy, this guy who breathed also, sending lines to her.

March 26, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 6)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 08:37

Frank watched the wall assembled. The keeper screamed inaudibly, moving the four men left, and then halting them. Guti, Beckham, Raul, and Figo placed their hands over their balls, and braced. Ronaldinho hovered, bug-eyed. Giovanni Van Bronkhurst whispered something in his ear.
The free kick came in and Casillas parried it, Salgado thumping it forward, defenders clearing their lines. Salgado seemed to be hobbling. Frank took a sip from his glass, Belgian wheat beer Leffe, and leaned a little back on his stool. The bar was deserted.
The ball went out over the Barcelona goal-line, skidding off the head of Puyol. Helguera trundled forward using elbows to gain space. Raul and Ronaldo darted and shimmied, as Luis Figo stepped up to take the corner, with two centuries of Portuguese melancholy etched into his face.
Frank ordered another. The set piece came to nothing, the game unsurprisingly tight. El Clasico. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, a big event in Spain, and all over the world. Loyalty, passion, and once a severed pig’s head. Zidane did some tricks at the by-line.
So it was two weeks knowing Aria, weeks where the ground wasn’t there, and he ate from the free bowl of peanuts, dreamily. Her smile made him want to do right.
He got up to drain some beer, and returned to the spectacle of Raul Bravo doing the splits. Xavi had gone down from this unorthodox challenge, and Raul Bravo didn’t seem to be able to get up without assistance. Saviola scuttled about.
Frank wanted Aria to experience this with him. They could share each other’s interests, joyfully. They had already spoken at length of their lives and their frailties, but they each had something extra, which they hadn’t mentioned yet. Time might provide the occasion.
He sensed into his body and felt some tension in his shoulders. He rolled them slowly around. Tendons stretched and muscles were loosened, and something gently cracked. His hair was warm on his forehead. He watched Raul give out pointlessly to Figo, as it was he himself who was playing badly. Figo batted him away.
Frank sent her a text at half time, and then sat staring at his phone for the reply to come. Seven minutes later he was satisfied. She was at home hanging out with Laura, tired as a dog after work. He imagined them there in the kitchen.
He’d first seen her apartment a week before, and she had yet to see his. Next week. He would ask her down and try to cook something, and he could meet her off the bus and drop her back. Laura was still unknown to him, and often meeting friends is the hardest. The girl’s close companions, who scrutinise.
Madrid emerged from the interval galvanised. The game was taken to Barca in the glorious Camp Nou. Figo sprinted down the right to boos and jeers and whistles, and fired a cross to Ronaldo, who thundered it off the post. Beckham did his best to look pretty. Guti and Xavi battled for midfield supremacy, using whatever questionable methods might gain the upper hand. Ronaldinho bounced like a schoolboy.
Frank felt some pain in his ankle. He could never play this game again, even for fun in a courtyard, and although he hadn’t been good the loss nevertheless registered. It was restriction, lessening. He finished his beer and let the game finish too, and left. It was dark with some frost on the street.
Some guy shouldered past and demanded cigarettes, but Frank ignored him, oblivious. It was sweet to know Aria’s name.

March 25, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 5)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Character : Karen, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 10:35

Michel took a hit to get started, leaving the flat more immune to the day. He felt he could easily go to the post office, post the letter, get the bus to Chatelet, and buy some credit for his mobile. He clenched his fists and sensed that confidence arriving.
On the bus after that post office thing, which he handled admirably with a minimum of fuss, he watched his right leg jumping and couldn’t make it stop. He heard a baby babble behind him. The other passengers included an old man and two old women, and they looked to him so happy, touching each other’s arms as they spoke. He watched with his natural discretion, and wondered in awe whether they were always like this, or had something incredible happened for them today. It was nice to believe in the former.
At Chatelet he got off, and the air-hiss let the door close. The engine revved and was distant. He stood on the street and then entered a tabac, emerging afterward with phone credit. He could do with another quick snort.
He was very near the Pompidou, and he debated dropping by Johnny or leaving it till later. Maybe leave it until later. He walked north up rue Saint-Denis, and pushed through the curtains of one of those outlets, their gaudy facades and porn-strewn windows rendering him helpless. He went straight to the toilet, snorted, and began browsing.
These were girls with elastic bodies – stretched and contorted and their pubic hair cropped. They were many, but the same. He picked up and replaced magazines and videos, and you could only tell the difference by the colour of their hair. There were all kinds of tastes accommodated.
Other men shuffled around him, maybe ten in the shop, and it stretched back a little. It was easy to pretend they weren’t there. He hadn’t looked at any faces, hadn’t noticed any items of clothing, and he was comfortable in the knowledge that they were likewise aloof. He took a quick peek at the sex-toys.
Later when he did go to Johnny, he approached him from behind, and startled him by sitting. He drew up alongside, coughed, and flopped down. Johnny had broken a string on the guitar, the B string he was saying, and Michel watched as he unhooked it, throwing the two parts away. They were all coiled up and fraying.
Johnny strode off to replace the missing string, his weird charisma still present when he was not. Michel was fatigué on the piazza. He scanned lazily about, the scenery essentially a constant, some other tourists replacing the last day’s group. He thought for a time about Karen.
Johnny returned and popped a champagne bottle, a far from quality smell escaping when he did. They drank and the cold liquid made them shiver. Johnny shifted and some condoms fell out of his pocket, and he hissed in annoyance as he quickly placed them back. Michel was going to laugh but then didn’t.
“I recall in the summer and we did the English.”
“Of course you recall,” spat Johnny. “It was only a few fucking months ago.”
He had bought a whole new set of strings, and he was busy ripping out the old ones. Michel watched him discard them.
“Yes, in the summer and we did the English.”
Johnny raised his eyes up to heaven.
Michel stood and yawned theatrically, and Johnny turned the pegs to stretch the new strings. They’d wander out of tune for about two days now. He listened to the ascending pitch, wrestling the pegs around, so caked were they in rust. The instrument rattled and moaned.
“I’m like a bird,” sang Michel. “I don’t know where my home is, I don’t know where my phone is.”
Johnny stared at him, horrified. It sounded like a cat in a blender, and those weren’t the lyrics anyway. Plus, he couldn’t remember what song it was.
Michel continued singing, and Johnny tightened the strings. Together the sound was unbearable. People were gaping with pained expressions on their faces, and a beggar who was passing stuck his finger in his ear. Pigeons took off in a hurry.
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, screeched Johnny. Like a motherfucking bird.
He twisted the pegs and clawed at the strings like a lunatic, a cacophonous racket blundering into being. Michel kept singing as he had been. They now had the attention of probably everyone on the piazza, no one particularly welcoming of this din they were inflicting. A dog began howling like a wolf.
They kept at it for about five minutes, and, when they stopped, the silence was total and eerie. It was life with an absence of volume. Gradually, people started moving and speaking again, looking in their pockets or playing with their phones. For that five minute period of noise pollution, Michel and Johnny had controlled the square. They smiled and returned to their drinking.

March 24, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 4)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 08:39

Laura dusted the apartment. It was a cold but sunny morning, and she lifted and replaced glasses and CDs, getting at the nooks and crannies with her duster and cloth.
She was happy but apprehensive for Aria with this new boy from Ireland. Aria spoke like she’d known him forever. Laura had yet to meet him. She paused for a second letting dust float around, and then resumed cleaning while a bird broke into song. There was a radio from somebody’s window.
Two weeks before, Aria had come home so happy, full of joy from this Frank guy. They’d met and then gone to the movies. Laura was suspicious of anyone who spoke to Aria, though she was careful not to show this, wondering whether they sensed the same sweet vulnerability she did. In bars, did she protect or stifle Aria? She wasn’t sure, but felt her intentions were good.
She dropped the cloth and knelt to pick it up, spying one of Aria’s socks half-trapped beneath a chair leg. God she felt like her mother. She fished it out and threw it in the wash pile, and laughed at herself, 20 going on 40. She suddenly felt dowdy in her flip-flops.
She was a beautiful girl and they made a good pair, out on the town getting noticed in the clubs. Aria’s French was so good now. Laura watched out but thought sometimes she needn’t, although the knowledge of what Aria had been through made her instinctively. She had been hurt, and she was younger.
Laura was the girl who made you laugh to show she loved you, but the boys she’d met thus far tended to view such girls platonically. Lukas was an exception. Her self-appointed shepherding of Aria didn’t help either. She was popular with boys, could punch and mock them easily, but sometimes there were moments when that didn’t seem enough. She’d found it hard to get closer.

That night she worked on a college assignment. The paper was due the next Monday. She yawned and stretched and started writing again, a girl in a window with a lamp and a desk. She heard bins being opened in the courtyard.
The paragraphs came easy, and it would certainly be ready for Monday. She took a break and walked slowly round the apartment, eyeing the areas she had earlier cleaned. It looked bigger with the dust gone.
She had liked Lukas, but he turned out a fool, the male equivalent of those girlies who just can’t ignore their hair. She’d been tricked by his eyes blue and beautiful. The exotic newness of his speech and his style, the detached intelligence of the Scandinavian mindset, had led her to believe she’d found a soul of depth. All she’d found was the seashell.
She sat back at the desk and drew a space monster, a small boggle-eyed creature in the corner of her notes. She gave him fur and a nose and whiskers. He smiled up at her, and she coloured in his fur with a purple felt-tip pen. His eyes got light blue irises. Settling back to her schoolwork, she would glance at him occasionally. Then laugh and resume writing.
When Aria came home they could drink wine together. The bottle sat on the shelf with the cork half jammed back in there. Laura opened the window feeling air upon her face, and then the sound of Aria’s key in the lock made her smile with joy and loosening. Her baby was back from her travels.

March 23, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 3)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 09:53

Karen was sure he took something. The summer feeling had not gone away, and by August she’d decided that her boyfriend was on drugs. This certainty played havoc with her sleeping.
She was at work with her mind elsewhere, tossing and returning to her thoughts. She spoke on the phone to her clients. Ever since she had banished doubt from the equation, she’d tumbled permanently into a stale pool of possible options. She flicked through the same thoughts, repeatedly.
Could she help him if she left him?
Would he hate her if she tried?
Did she know what she was talking about, and know what she was feeling, and was it really dreadful if her boyfriend took some drugs?
These were crashing questions often.
She walked by the river keeping distant from the bank, along the cobbles. She could hear the Right Bank traffic. The water made aching lap sounds, salivating against the rock slope, below her. She smelt the smoke from a cigarette.
Passing under a bridge with the echo of her steps, her foot struck something solid, and she stumbled for an instant. Recovering, leaning heavily on her stick, she was hit with a blast of pungent urine odour, the harshness overpowering in her throat and in her nose. She staggered shakily through the tunnel.
Out the other side, sweet air on her face again, she moved to her left to lean against the wall. She felt with her stick for a concrete bench she knew must be around somewhere, and, finding it, sat down. Her strength returned quite quickly.
“Il fait beau aujourd’hui,” offered someone.
“Oui,” she echoed back. “Il fait beau.”
She heard his footsteps receding, as he ventured on with what sounded like a small dog in tow. The water licked and sluiced.
She returned the way she had come, ascending from the quai to the roadside, and crossing at the nearby lights. She walked down what she knew to be rue des Saints Peres, took a left onto Saint Germain and a right onto rue de Rennes, and was nearly home. Two more turns until her building.
She boiled water for tea in her apartment, and realised with a start she hadn’t thought of Michel the entire time. She wished this forgetfulness would return. Trying to forget would initiate the old dance of wanting something and failing because you wanted it, so she concentrated instead on the tea-taste in her mouth. If Michel had returned than so be it.
The tea was delicately scented, a fruit and herb aroma that could clear her mind at once. She sat back and drank it slowly. Michel and her Michel options swam within her, fading, repeating, making more and less sense. She tried imagining exactly what that Beirut picture looked like.
Her cell phone rang but she ignored it, knowing today it wouldn’t be Mom, and not in the mood to talk to anyone else. She heard the buzz of a text received, someone having left a message. She finished her tea, swallowing the last of it, just the taste and the smell quite faint but still there. She placed the cup on the side table.

March 22, 2010

Part 6: Things As They Are (scene 2)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 6: Things As They Are — fishinginbeirut @ 08:47

Aria saw the graveyard boy on the subway. He saw her too, but she didn’t know that. She found herself looking repeatedly, which was strange, because since that day she hadn’t thought of him at all. He looked fuller, more whole now.
She gently made him notice her, watching until he had to glance up. She wanted to show she remembered him. He remembered her too, trying and failing to conceal this in his eyes, and she studied them, and knew.
They got off the train in slow motion, her from one door him another, and sat down on Metro benches, silently. They were twenty metres apart. The station emptied like sink-water, passengers gurgling and spilling through the gates, and finally Aria’s trainers made echoing squeaks as she jigged. Frank watched her minute nervous movements.
“Tu parles francais ou anglais?”
“Les deux.”
“But English is how you were born.”
“Yeah,” she laughed, finding the sentence amusing.
He stood up and shuffled much closer.
When he was standing before her she smiled at him, and he smiled back without fear. Her beauty was anything but frightening. He wanted to feel how her nose felt, but you can’t just do this off the bat. God will grant it if it’s meant for you.
Some people appeared on the platform, scattered randomly along, and Frank and Aria stood up and passed though the exit. She was aware of her hair and her jawbone. Their arms touched as they moved into daylight, accidentally, or not. Both felt so strange and so calm.
The station they’d emerged at was St. Sulpice, and they sat on a bench on the church square, while pigeons inspected them for sandwiches. A man tuned a violin in the sunshine.
Frank and Aria listened to him – the half-escaping notes, which he would soon turn effortlessly to music. The instrument whinnied and conformed for him. He commenced a lilting waltz made from sorrow and rain, an inappropriate sound when two lovers have met. It bound their first encounter with finality, reminding of transience, and endings. It didn’t bother them in that moment.
Later in a cinema, with Aria drinking Coke and Frank ablaze with new care for her, they let their knees touch one another, through jean fabric. The actors emoted on screen. They sat by the river after, lost in the eyes lost in their eyes, while tourist cruisers passed. All was maintained by the light falling.
“So you think you’re going to stay forever?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I can’t see any reason to leave.”
The purple sky wrapped the day up in night-time, leaving the American girl and the Irish boy to stand wordlessly, and depart the quai-side. A dog barked from under a bridge. Frank took Aria’s number carefully, writing it precisely, and clarifying twice. She smiled and her lips held him spellbound. As he walked home southward and her northeast, the dog by the river found a sandwich in a drain. He wolfed it hungrily, stale lettuce splatting on the cobbles. He sneezed from pepper mixed with dried mayonnaise, rubbing at his snout with his right front paw. There was a used smack needle lying next to him, under a leaf.

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