Fishing in Beirut

April 25, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 12)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 11:03

There was a gig to be done before leaving. It was in a beer garden by the river, with a wooden stage and tokens for drinks. Each band member got three tokens to use whenever.
Frank’s strings were so worn it was difficult tuning them. They’d have served better purpose as fishing line. He wound the pegs in the sunshine, knowing his time in this city was nearly through. By nightfall he’d be bus-bound towards London.
An unusual assortment of patrons drank and ate schnitzels and currywurst. Kids, old people, Africans with dreads, expats. In the corner by a pool table Turkish girls showed off their thongs.
“Remember,” said The Behanser, “we’ve got to do three fucking hours here, so no amount of solos or breaks can be deemed too long.”
Pd had disappeared to smoke and use the phone.
“I was just saying there,” said The Behanser on his return, “take your time on this one. If anyone wants to try anything it’s all part of the song.”
Dev scraped his nails along his bodhran saying it was good for the skin. A child wandered over to investigate and ran back to her mum.
“And a one, two, a one, two, three, four –
Oh come over to the window my little darling…
They started as they always did, So Long Marianne by Leonard Cohen. It was one of those songs they never got tired of playing. Frank felt he must have done it more times than L. Cohen himself by now, and watched his hands make the chords, not thinking.
One tune followed another, with extended instrumental parts, and more beer breaks than the tokens warranted. At one point a Rasta with his own drum joined them on stage.
“I hope he doesn’t think he’s getting in on the cut,” whispered The Behanser.
“Well if he does we’ll just break it to him gently,” said Pd.

They took a rest at four, stretching out on wooden benches and rolling grass. Frank had broken a string but was unconcerned. The crowd was shifting before them, people drifting in and out and maybe staying for a while. It was a no-pressure gig – just make a constant sound and the money was theirs.
“This next song is for all the ladies,” said Pd, not realising his fly was undone. The Turkish girls in the thongs ignored them like flies. Unperturbed, they stuck with it, sweat on their brows and lightness in their hearts. The song for the ladies was actually a folk song about death.
The owner appeared to one side, her arms folded, but a smile on her face. Some people in the audience were clapping and so was her son. Frank sensed another string about to go, and then it cracked loose and whiplashed outward, the short part attached to the peg, the rest trailing down. The Behanser beefed up his strum to compensate if he could.
In the end, they got paid and went drinking. There was a bar boat docked on the far side of the bank. They walked across, the river sparkling.
“So here’s to you Frank,” said Dev. “Sure we hardly knew ya.”
The others raised their glasses to toast his last day. It was a sad and hectic experience, the knowledge this part of life was over. Everything was so fast, and so blurring, and so gone.
How long he had been in Berlin he couldn’t say. It was a fantasy camp, a dream, a story ending. He felt a tear in his eye and finished his beer. Berlin when day broke was the reason God gave him breath. The sun in the sky and the ache in his soul. The hope that his hope would never desert him in conflict.
The water was rippling gently down below them. He was noticing details now, the sound of traffic in the distance. A bee landed on the table, paused, and flew off again.
“It’s at nine o’clock the bus, yeah?” said The Behanser. “Sure you’ve plenty of time so.”
They played cards and remembered stories. The day of departure brings a softness no other can match.

It was evening, the moon visible but the sky still bright. They were camped around Zoo Station at the terminal. A beggar with a McDonalds cup faded and reappeared beside strangers, requesting money in a whispered, alien tongue. His hair was matted and congealed like a wet dog’s.
The hum of bus engines and the smell of petrol was familiar. Drivers stood around talking, passengers smoked last cigarettes. One or two kids loitered to watch bags loaded on.
“There’s loads of fuckin’ nuns around,” said The Behanser. “I wonder are you goin’ to be travelling with them.”
“You can give them a good seeing to,” said Pd, smiling.
Frank showed his ticket to the man. It was last call, most already in their seats now. The lads all shook his hand and folded their arms.
“We need smokes,” said Dev to The Behanser.
A tyre squealed in the traffic. There were people all around – tourists, Berliners, who knows. Frank had Monica’s U-Bahn map in his shirt. With one final nod he turned to the door, and looked up at the driver, his hand on the wheel. It was a long old journey, from pleasure and strangeness to the unknown.
He grinned. He was safe in the knowledge he could always come back. The city would still be there, forever. Frank gripped the handle, and got on the bus.


April 24, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 11)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Karen, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 10:07

They went shopping on Michigan Avenue. In a coffeehouse on the corner of Monroe, Karen again felt frustration from her mother ordering for her. She knew she meant no harm, but was stressed nonetheless.
“I’m not gonna have that Mom. I haven’t even decided yet.”
“Oh, I’m sorry honey. It’s just that normally you – ”
“I know Mom, I know.”
It was pretty busy around them. A lunch time rush in the centre of downtown, and Karen felt hurried and observed, maybe inaccurately. The kinetic jolts of her mother made her painfully aware.


In a snack bar in San Jose Aria finished her burger. She drank Sprite and watched the diners come and go. She surprised herself when the straw reached the end and she started slurping. All of the ice in the world was nestled in the cup.


In a café in the 6th, the newly arrived Michel Rigaudeau from Bordeaux fiddled with his napkin. His hair needed cutting and his shoes begged for repair, but this was only because he liked them, and resisted buying new ones. The waitress watched him curiously, but not in that way.
An old man called Boulier sat at the far end, an infrequent visitor, with his hat and his cane. He occasionally came here having strolled in the park with the pigeons.


Karen and her mother left the shop. On the street they ran into Dorothy, who was complaining about Archie and the ways he drove her mad.
“I’ll leave him one day you know, permanently.”
They said goodbye and went to get the El, pushing through throngs with the office workers freed.
“Hold that fucking door!” cried someone, pointlessly.
The train rattled westward, moving through Cicero and Austin, heading home. The heat was stifling, bodies everywhere and humidity high. Karen held her stick and felt sweat on her palm.
“It’s just incredible what crowds there are. I knew we should have tried to beat the rush. I said that honey, didn’t I, that it would be like this.”
Karen agreed, yes, you said it, wanting to be back in the garden, or somewhere at least. She heard a man selling cookies like a preacher from the slum.
“Oh yes, and then the LORD told me something. He said Leroy, for that’s the name I was born with, he said LEROY, you go out and sell those cookies, for ME, and for the CHILDREN. And I am IMPLORIN’ all you good folks here today, to BUY some of these here fine cookies, and help us all spread a little love. Every little cent’s another miracle.”
Karen closed her ears to him, concentrating on her breath. Her stomach rose and fell while the air flowed. This trip would end, this day, this month and whatever was coming. She would go to Paris and be happy, and start something new.

April 23, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 10)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 09:03

They rang at the door but were turned away. The Madame peered out from the gloom, shook her head quickly, and the slit they could see her through was gone. They were standing on the street at 4am.
Frank, Dev, and Martin were desire’s captives. This part of town had red neon and mirrored facades. It held promises of sin and swollen lipstick.
They turned down a side street and were beckoned by a doorman. “Good deal,” he said. “Beautiful girls.” The man was Turkish and overweight, in his fifties with a lime-green shirt. Martin spoke in German to better negotiate.
Inside, an ancient piano propped up a wall bedecked with sparkles. Girls sat at the bar, an older woman served. Through a half-open curtain they saw an obese German with two whores astride him, his tie on the floor beside a bucket with champagne. The speed they’d taken earlier was wearing off.
“Whiskey,” said Frank. “You know, fucking whiskey.”
“Ja, ja, I know.”
The barwoman busied herself mechanically, pouring Wild Turkey and, before they could stop her, adding Coke. Frank curled his lip and refused to go near it.
“What, “ she snapped. “You say whiskey I do fucking whiskey. Drink, drink.”
He gave her the evil eye but took it nonetheless.
A girl approached each of them, and before Frank was clear, he was on a stool with a hand on his crotch. The other hookers watched them, bored.
“So tell me your name, and your country.” She rubbed him and he rubbed back, the drink so foul.
“Ah, Irish. I love the Irish music.” From the corner of his eye he saw Martin stroke a dark girl’s hip.
“Yeah, Irish, and where are you from?”
“Potsdam,” she said. “Are you going to buy me drink?”
Frank said he had no money. She looked at him coldly and he swore he really had none.
“You won’t buy me drink?”
She turned away from him. She was still beside him but it was like he wasn’t there. Her eyes were dead and his talk echoed into nothing. The other girls did the same, Martin and Dev declining also, and the bar was now a frozen den of hostility.
“What the fuck are you doing?” said Martin. “We were promised a show.”
The barwoman stared at them bitterly. Dev looked at Frank and they were almost going to go.
“We were promised a show,” repeated Martin, louder.
A wizened little man appeared from somewhere. “Make show!” he ordered. “Make show!” He clapped his hands and grabbed roughly at the black girl, and she stood up and walked towards a pole. “Make show!” he said again, and music began.
She swayed, comatose, her body forming shapes but her eyes not there at all. Frank drank more Coke and nearly wretched. He pushed it away and watched her naked gyrations.
A mirrorball hung above, purple and blue light catching as it spun. Frank noticed how her shoes were so worn, battered silver sandals holding hard-skinned feet. She caressed herself like a zombie.
“Lets go,” said Dev. “Fuck this.”
The old man hovered over them, imploring them stay for more booze.

They sat in the Schwartze Café with cream coffee. Martin was talking about artists who made paintings from shit. It was an hour since the brothel, fully light when they came out, the sun climbing. The streets populated by cleaners and staggering drunks.
“Yeah, yeah, seriously boys. Their whole manifesto is art from bodily fluids. Shit, blood, semen. They work in warehouses and squats, and this stuff sells big time in markets.”
Frank began to feel queasy, unsure.
Dev spilled sugar all over himself, some patron doing that trick of leaving the cap unscrewed. He cursed, but the waiter was laughing.
“Machts nichts,” he called over, uncaring.
They got the U-Bahn back towards home, Martin leaving at Gneisenau Strasse. On their balcony Dev and Frank composed poems of that night.
“The fuckin’ eyes in the place,” said Dev. “They hadn’t seen light in twenty years.”
Frank drew a picture of the girls and threw it down to the courtyard.
They had a bottle of what the label called ‘Breakfast Cider.’ It was a strange, fizzy, non-alcoholic carbonated applejuice, and they guzzled the whole thing with pastries.
“I’d love a fucking sausage roll, or some chicken,” said Dev, dropping crumbs.
It was ten o’clock. A bright, hot mid-morning, the snores of Pd and The Behanser carrying out through the bedroom window, droning softly in time. Like a detuned accordion clogged up with gunge.
Frank whacked his knee with the empty plastic bottle, and a bird squawked and took off from a roof. The sound reverberated around hitting concrete and windows.
“One should always seek out the quiet parts of a new place,” said Dev. “The quiet parts can make even an old place new. It’s like when we went to that Jewish Museum. Just the design made the area around it more complete. Silence is like that, stripping away the noise and the panic. An unbroken silence is the same all over the world.”
Frank couldn’t argue with that. And so he didn’t, and they drank the rest of the juice in silence.

April 22, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 9)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 09:03

Johnny smelt crepes wafting over. Tourists in the sunshine with food and drink in their hands. It was packed on the piazza today, hardly room to swing a dead guitar. Pretty girls and moneyed boys and cameras.
A portrait artist to the right had ensnared an American girl on his stool, and was painting her flirtily while she laughed and messed with her hair. Her friends were all standing around with ice cream and soda cans.
Johnny watched the scene easily. Their legs were tanned but too young, and he wrinkled his nose. They had bouncy ponytails, and a burgeoning awareness of feminine persuasion. They were gradually learning how their glances might come to be used.
He stood up and rubbed at his eyeballs. His teeth joined together and his cheeks squashed into his nose. To be active on this day was a superstar endeavour, and he had no intention of moving in the deadness of the heat. His boots were stuck to his socks which were part of his skin now.
He played a song and briefly attracted attention. Not from the girls but from a hobo scouring a bin. The man paused for an instant, training himself on the sound and then resuming. He talked in a fast hiss to no one and unearthed some bread.
Johnny took a call from Michel, a nervous new client recently arrived from Bordeaux. He’d met him through Lorena. Lorena was returning to Sevilla within the fortnight, feeling an urge to be back in her hometown, temporary wanderlust sated. Paris est trop she said, too stressed and too much.
A man offering shoulder massage set up a complicated chair to the left, a dentist-type apparatus with a hole for breathing as you lay. The plan was to entice customers to lie on their stomach with their face through this hole, and he would ease away their aches and pains with his muscle rub. Johnny strongly considered it, but what was the use?
The first customer pronounced the service excellent. He was an Indian portrait artist, a regular on the square, and he lay down like a dead man, relaxing into the experience and emerging revitalised. Johnny was envious, but couldn’t bring himself to approach.
Instead he went to the supermarket, picking up crisps, bread, and cheap champagne. The pop of the bottle was like the start of a party that never was. He chugged it down and broke off some bread, using the alcohol to ease the dry food down. The flavour of the crisps was not what he wanted and he dumped them.
Back on the piazza the masseur was gone, and a guy making paintings from oil had taken his place. This was real, car engine oil, and the odd black creations were spread out on the pavement for punters. Everyone looked, but nobody reached for their cash.
Johnny guessed he’d been gone for an hour and a half, wandering around at Les Halles and stretching his legs. This guy was churning off these pictures like an assembly line. One would get finished and he’d start another, his face covered by a mask for the fumes of his material. They were all much the same, and his jeans were soaked in the dark stuff.

April 21, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 8)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 07:38

Aria brushed her hair in the mirror. The sun came through the window and onto her desk. She didn’t know why, but she always brushed her teeth in the bathroom and her hair in her room. It was a ritual or routine and it stayed because she liked it. The card with the number had been stored in a drawer to her right.
Staring at her own eyes in the mirror, one of her giddy spells came over her; a fuzziness, a rush. She jumped up, the feeling frightening but familiar, registering her breath spasmodic and short. This frightened her further. She ran to the door and then stopped, thinking frantically as to what had caused it this time. It was like she’d had a sudden recollection of something, now lost.
She went downstairs. Her mother was at work and her little sister was at summer camp. She sat on a chair in the back garden, the air bringing relief. Her body was shaking slightly, and she really didn’t know what brought it on this time. It was an unsettling stillness followed by suddenly remembering to breathe.
The shock she got began to go down slowly. Voices from the neighbourhood were soothing, carried lightly by the wind. As a child her mother would protect her after these episodes, wrapping her in her arms and stroking her hair. She stroked her own hair now to replicate that feeling.
There was a prickly sensation on her skin. Around her stomach and chest, it felt like tiny scurrying ants. Her legs were heavy and dead. She didn’t like this, the thought and touch of it, and jumped up again, scared. Now she had to let it go down again.
These episodes came and went. Her mother called them her giddy spells. It’s just a giddy spell Aria, you’ll be fine. The child had had them as long as she could remember. Aria sat down again, stroking her hair and thinking of something else. It was easier to do this when her mother was in the house.

She went for a walk. Out on the street took her far from the introspection of inside. She walked and felt much happier in her neighbourhood.
A dog ran along the road with a squeaky toy in its mouth – a black and white dog and a red toy. Whenever he swallowed the jaw movement made the thing sound, and Aria laughed, trembling, all fuzzy but in a different way now. He disappeared around a corner and was gone.
When she got back to the house everyone was home. She’d timed it so it would be so. She came around the back way and entered the kitchen, her mother at the sink and Anna drawing in a book.
“A cat is what I want for Christmas,” she said.
Mother and older daughter laughed.
“Christmas is not for a long time honey. Tell Aria what you got to do at camp.”
What Anna got to do at camp was make Batman out of cardboard, a wild mutant creation with pink painted legs and only one eye. His left arm was raised like he was waving.
“And the teacher said that mine was very good.”
They all sat down to dinner with Batman included. Fresh salad was slipped onto Anna’s plate, in such a way that she forgot this was unusual. She ate it, oblivious to her aversion, and Aria and her mother smiled but didn’t let on. Aria couldn’t recall her nerves from earlier.

April 20, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 7)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 08:53

Monica was her name. She was watching an unruly musical display, and he went over afterwards and sat down. Performance of any kind provides strange confidence.
She was from Bologna she told him, over here studying.
“I like the way the songs all opened out,” she said.
He agreed, and wasn’t sure in that moment exactly what she meant. When he said his name was Frank it made her laugh. He was ‘Frankie’ for the evening, in the pub and on the bus and in her place. That night they made slow love and he went home.
The lads were awake in Bohmische Strasse, drawing upside down crosses on the wall. Pd was laughing hysterically. He’d been presented with a full Black Forest Gateau earlier by a neighbour, and had scoffed it all mercilessly in front of the others. The plate and fork and some napkins were strewn about.
Frank rolled a joint and the buzzer shocked him. Minutes later Martin bounded in.
“Jesus Christ boys, I’m after spendin’ all me money on two Russians. I’m all worn out and I think I need a drink.”
He sat down, sweating. The tale that followed left everyone mute. Two 25 year old blondes had made the Belfast pianist a believer, with the aid of ropes and feathers and their own God-given secrets and curves. Pd had to head for the can.
When he returned, the smoke had thickened. He fought his way through it and sat down. Frank strummed a melody on his guitar, and squinted around at the bizarre crosses on the walls. Dev poured whiskey on the floor and lit a fire. Blue flame danced for an instant, and then went out.
“With the lights off that’d be brilliant,” said Frank.
Indeed it was, flickering and writhing, shadows jumping and alive, smoke seeming thicker than natural. All of them were transfixed in the raging glow.

An hour later a helicopter flew overhead, and in their state they were sure it was coming for them. Frank covered his face with a towel and ran to the balcony to investigate. The chopper was circling menacingly, and he watched it in fear.
It was growing light now, the blue-dawn reality that was their lives. A time when things cemented and got lost when you slept again. Frank stared up at the helicopter, its red body and black wings, the whirling rotors like the charge of some coming apocalypse. He fell asleep on a chair with the towel on his head.

“Get up!” someone shouted. “Get up! There’s money to be makin’ on the Ku-damm.”
Frank couldn’t see for a second, and then remembered the towel was blocking his view.
He removed it, shivering in the air, his bones aching and cold. It was probably one or two but it could have been anytime.
Martin was gone, and The Behanser was striding about with a cup of soup in his hand, marshalling the troops for another day’s slog. From the bedroom Frank heard the groans of Pd.
“What the fuck,” said Dev, stepping onto the balcony and stretching. His hair was knotted and face creased. He yawned and spat down below, dredging up phlegm and depositing it. The distant concrete was too far for the splash to carry up.
They milled around the kitchen, banging into each other and picking at food. They grabbed the guitars and left.
The Mexicans were nowhere to be seen, so they were probably down the far end. Occasionally one of them disappeared and was replaced by a lookalike. The same belly, the same moustache, the same instrument. Another compadre allergic to the factory floor.
Dev sat on the ground and fondled his bodhran. Frank could hardly be bothered playing today. He formed chords distractedly, allowing the others bear the brunt.
Pd slapped his thigh as usual, keeping a rhythm entirely separate to that of the song. The fact no one could hear Dev rendered this moot. The music was greeted with hostility and appreciation in equal measure, and when Pd went round with the boot the collection was average. “Thank you, but no,” someone said. “Your music has not pleased me.”
After hitting the majority of the restaurants, they packed up and moved towards the tram. The short journey to Prenzlauerberg took them past Hackescher Markt and Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. .
Jason was on the square, drinking sangria and talking to himself. “Alright boys,” he said when he saw them approach. They sat with him and smoked, and it became obvious they weren’t going to play that night. They went to a shop and bought beer and jumbo skins.
It grew dark and the night was beautiful. Lorca-longing and the sweetness of what you can’t have. Frank lay back and closed his eyes, his head spinning. He breathed deeply, and thought of hope.
Jason sang a song, an ancient blues from the cotton field. The way he howled and shook he was Johnson or McTell. He convulsed back and forth, his head and body jerking, the strings besieged but holding strong. He spat on the ground and his ponytail worked loose and came free.
Oh woman what have you gone done to me?
Oh woman what have you gone done to me?
Well you took my lovin’ and then you cut me free.
The stars hung above, and the sound rose up to meet them. Speech wasn’t necessary, and drink was in plentiful supply.

April 19, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 6)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 07:53

Karen balanced the toast on her hand while buttering it. Her fingers and her thumb and the bread made a perfect triangle. Her mother entered the kitchen and said good morning, an open window permitting sounds like the chirping of birds. Karen listened to their singing carefully, six little arias blending to make a bigger whole.
She finished and stood up, washing the implements, and replacing them. French grammar and syntax were in her brain. This morning she’d learnt the future for I will and I’m going to. Future forms were actually easier than those for the past. She had homework to do for tomorrow’s class, sentences to construct and read out. She worked with the aid of a dictaphone.
In the garden she sat with her walkman. She drank some iced water and ran her fingers through the grass. It was so strange to know she was leaving, every phone call to Janey an oddity in itself. She’d hang up and remember she wasn’t kidding.
Her mother came out and sat beside her. Karen took off her headphones having heard her over the sound. They talked of the flowers in the garden, her mother saying the sunflowers were as high as the fence. A lawnmower from a yard in the vicinity hummed benignly.
Her mother had picked up a summer cold, and coughed occasionally, excusing herself each time. She voiced her concerns over Paris. The lawnmower stopped, giving an initial eerie quietness, the kind that arrives when people are unconsciously talking very loud, and then the reason for this evaporates. They realised they were shouting, and laughed. Karen heard her mother scratching at her face and exhaling.
“I really do wish you’d reconsider. You don’t know that city, and at least here I know how you are. I worry for you, and I’m not sure how much you appreciate that.”
“I do Mom,” said Karen. “But I have to do this for myself.”
There was a pause and her mother continued.
“I don’t think it will be good for you. I mean going to Europe alone. You’ve never done anything like this honey. And your father never trusted those French.”
Karen laughed out loud, a laughter flecked with sorrow, and told her mother to stop. She was going and this was ridiculous. It’s still a few months away she said. Are we going to have this conversation every day? Her mother was silent, batted away until the next time, which could be tomorrow, the next day, or this afternoon. Her persistence was the key to her personality.
Karen went inside and entered the bathroom. She brushed her teeth and hair. She knew her mother was worried, and sometimes this worried her too, but come on, it was fine. She was intelligent, capable, and, you know, Janey would be there to meet her. She sighed and reached for some floss.
“Have you had your breakfast yet honey?”
Her mother was shouting from the garden.
“Yes,” droned Karen to herself. She felt hemmed in and cramped by this scrutiny, and it strengthened her resolve to depart. She slammed the bathroom window in frustration.

April 18, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 5)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 10:17

Johnny and Lorena carved a melody. She was a Spanish girl who came here sometimes, sitting beside him on the piazza and tuning up. Their guitars wove in and out and intermingled.
Her lines were clean and fluid, Andalucía tinged creations complimenting his, drawing out their sweetness. When he sang she underpinned with fills and flourishes. He leaned back and clicked through his teeth, his tongue flicking out as he hissed to complete a rhythm. Lorena murmured something meant for no one but herself.
Her hair was pulled back tightly, clamped in an almost aerodynamic ponytail. Her eyes danced about and her legs jumped like shivering. She’d once told him smiling that calm would not be found in her dictionary.
The sun shone on the Pompidou glass, and across the far side from Johnny and Lorena, an African wearing a loincloth was folding himself through a tennis racquet. His sizeable audience whooped and cheered when he emerged. He bowed and made some reference to his skinniness; they could see him indicating his bone structure, and drawing a laugh. He climbed onto a tiny bicycle and pedalled around.
Johnny abandoned playing. She continued, forming chords high up the freeboard, creating a high and beautiful delicacy, as she changed with little hammer-ons and runs. Her nails flicked the strings with her thin right hand.
He watched her, rolling two cigarettes absently. When they were ready he placed one on her knee. The body artist folded himself into a crab shape, and scuttled across the smooth tiles at speed. Little kids and their mothers observed agog.
Lorena told him of a dream she’d been having, where all the people in the world somehow knew each other. They didn’t know that they knew, but a chain existed connecting everyone alive, built on physical contact, mental interplay, and the lightning rush of desire. It was a dream in black and white, with bursts of colour.
“Out of sex and guilt I have filled an ocean,” she whispered. “All my dreams of an alternative, perfect life.” She used the Spanish for ocean and alternative, and French for the rest. She often left castilian endings on similar words. She smoked the cigarette he’d earlier made for her.
A dead bird came hurtling out of the sky. It fell directly in front of them, the violent impact creating a mess. Lorena flinched and stared at it, the beak and feathers mixing with blood and tissue. The internal organs and claws had become inseparable and blurred, a pulpy mass of outside and in. Johnny found himself wondering had it died before landing.
They got up and left it there. There was no means or incentive to scrape it away. They walked down to the Seine, descended to the quai, and sat along the bank with the water below them. Lorena was visibly shaken, shivering.
The tourist cruisers rolled past – the sun on the water, the tourists up on deck. Johnny saw a girl wave and returned it lazily. He didn’t mind seeing that bird die, not the way Lorena did. It wasn’t a tragic event but merely an act. She curled into herself and clenched her fists, and he was going to put an arm around her but declined. The spray from the engine of a boat found them on the shore.

April 17, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 4)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 07:49

Karen closed her eyes and thought about sleeping. Thinking about it makes it hard to bring it on. She could hear her mother in the next room, not settling down yet, opening drawers and presses. The spirit of her one year dead husband might never let her rest.
From the street outside someone bleeped-on a car alarm. Karen heard whoever trudging up a drive and some steps. Porch door opened, hall door, and then both closed, re-ushering silence. She guessed it was Jackie or Bill, some neighbour working late.
This summer night she had decided to go to bed early. It was a way of taking stock of her life and of feeling like a child. Lying on her back with the top window open, she listened to laughter and traffic, the occasional intermittent sounds of the American night. Oak Park in Chicago Illinois in the house she was born.
Bill or Jackie came back out, and called to someone, and she knew it was Bill. She picked up strains of conversation about the Bears and how they sucked. Beer cans were popped in the warmth of the soft July evening, the men standing on the pavement, probably longing to raise the hood of the car and check the sparks and stuff worked. Karen lay in bed and was awoken to memory.
She thought of her father – how quick he’d be out to join them, ignoring the calls of her mother and barrelling down the stairs. He’d mosey on over and say My God and it’s a wonderful evening.
She turned on her side to invite a different subject, leaving her father and the boys by re-positioning herself. Her mother closed a drawer and then opened it again or a different one.
Karen sat up. She crossed her legs yoga-like, cupping her hands and letting the thumbs lightly touch.
Bill’s companion said loudly “I reckon I’d a caught that.” She breathed deeply to the count of ten, the air filling her lungs and expanding the abdomen. It was easier to think less when the rate of the breathing was slowed.
A motorbike roared past, swallowing Bill’s conversation, and leaving a silence after it was gone. Had the two men been startled by its suddenness? Momentarily they resumed again, but it was only to say goodnight, the violent sound having killed the encounter unconsciously. Karen lay back down and this prompted her to sleep.

April 15, 2010

Part 7: Berlin, July 2001 (scene 3)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 7 : Berlin — fishinginbeirut @ 09:30

They got the U-7 at Neukolln, Karl Marx Strasse bustling and full. At Berliner Strasse, they changed for the U-9 to the Ku-damm. The Mexicans were already playing the red restaurant on the right.
The Mexicans were the competition, two guitars and a violin. Their bellies forced the guitars to be played at chest level. The strings on these instruments were older than the street they were serenading, and flapped about tunelessly as the chords were plucked.
Frank lit a cigarette and watched them. They were sweating in the German summer heat. The Berlin sewer smell rose up violently, making diners cough and Dev complain.
They’d wait half an hour before playing here. After one performance it needed time for the clientele to change. They moved across the road and set up at another restaurant, effortlessly stealing The Mexicans next port of call.
The place was half-empty, and Frank tuned up. The Behanser wandered off during the first song, leaving him alone to play guitar. Dev sat in front with his bodhran, and Pd slapped his thigh while he sang.
Frank felt light in his head from the sun’s rays. The chords to these songs could be done without even a thought. So Long Marianne, Lime Tree Arbour, these were the set staples. Adapted to be played at cafes, beer gardens, and bars.
The Mexicans in turn leapfrogged them, and the two groups continued around the Ku-damm in this manner, overtaking one another, pausing, and doing so again. They stopped for beer on several occasions.
Stretching in a restaurant they had just hit, they laughed when The Mexicans huffed up and started playing. Frank smiled at finally catching their act. They performed for the customers impassively, staring ahead like they were dead or waiting for a bus. The Behanser let a belly laugh but it didn’t ruffle them.
As evening descended, they waited for Dev to drain his glass and got the tram to Prenzlauerberg. There was a square surrounded by restaurants, known as Kollwitzplatz. Here they shared sangria with an English busker named Jason, who told stories of Anderlecht, Paris, and Sevilla. He was maybe forty, with a scraggly ponytail and booming voice. He welcomed the company, and gave a sense of being utterly alone.
Then they started. Touring the restaurants, blasting out the same set. It was difficult sometimes to imbue it with any effort. However, it was this or working, singing or the sites, and so they sang, happily. Dev sat on the ground like a beggar or a Buddha.
In a bar at four in the morning they met Martin. An Irishman in an Irish bar in Neukolln. He was thirty-five, from Belfast, and played piano in five star Berlin hotels. The Behanser and Frank invited him back to the flat. He sat at the Bluthner grand, playing Mozart. He launched into Beethoven’s Fifth to make them laugh.
“You boys are wicked,” said Martin. “You’re brand new.”
His thick Northern accent was screaming for mimicry.
Dev tripped over a flashing lamp stolen from a construction site, reaching in vain for something but no one knew what. He just stretched out from his seat, then stood up leaning forward. He tripped on the lamp as he lunged at a shadow on the wall.
“Sit down you moron,” said Frank.
“There’s a fucking shadow on the wall like the ghost of a girl.”
They all looked, thick smoke obscuring everything, cigarette papers and butts littering the floor. There was no shadow or girl determinable.
A carton of sangria had spilled that night or previously, soaking the threadbare carpet, the smell mixing with the smoke. Dev dropped a roach in a can of Kuppers. Frank spied a pack of painkillers on the table and ate the six that remained in it. They combined with the smoke and the drink and made his body quite numb. He saw The Behanser stand up, but slowly, like underwater. Martin laughed, sounding as though from somewhere else.
“Play fucking piano,” mumbled Pd. “I’ll sing something Irish if somebody plays.”
Martin hit A minor and followed with F. As soon as he moved to G they knew what was coming.
True you ride the finest horse, I’ve ever seen,
Standing sixteen one or two, with eyes wild and green.
The Behanser removed a block of hash from his anorak.
As dawn broke they played charades, miming the titles of films that never existed. Pd took an hour and then gave up
“What the fuck was that?” shouted Dev. “What fuckin’ film were you doing?”
“If you can’t guess it, it’s fitting you’ll never know.”
They sparred back and forth for a while, each claiming the other’s turns were inventions.
The pointless exchange was finally ended with whiskey.

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