Fishing in Beirut

May 19, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 22)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:42

Frank and Aria spent the afternoon at Allee des Synges, sitting on a bench, watching the water. Before leaving they wandered down to the Statue of Liberty, and stood staring out at the calmness of the Seine. Frank told her it was his favourite view in the city.
They held hands lightly, fingers gently kneading. An easy breeze played and danced with their hair. A tourist cruiser rounded the jutting walkway they stood on, returning towards the Eiffel Tower and the place it would berth. A pretty little girl waved her hand and they both waved back.
Aria pushed a piece of gravel over the jetty’s edge and smiled at the plop. She looked down at the dirty, clouded ooze. There was all manner of contaminated rubbish probably buried there, bottles, cans, condoms and long disintegrated bread. The water made a lapping sound against the stone.
Frank was going to look at her but stayed looking at the water. Their hands were barely touching, so light that they tickled. In another second maybe she would gently pull away from him. He felt electricity in his fingertips and down along the sides.
The sun shone strongly on their faces, and she squinted. It was Bastille Day, the 14th of July. The evening would bring fireworks, drinking, a celebratory disruption of routine. Austere parts of the city held hostage by noise.
Aria walked over to the statue, and sat underneath. She was half in sunlight and half shaded. Her hair fell across her face and she seemed to Frank a stranger. For a split second he had no idea who she was.
Her left eye was hidden, her lip curling upward. It was an angle, an expression, completely new, transforming and surreal. He stared and she noticed him, and then she broke the spell by smiling.
He walked to her, sat alongside. He knew she didn’t want to touch him, not in that moment, and that was fine. He scratched the back of his neck where he thought maybe he’d been bitten.
The sun pierced through a cloud, unsettling, stabbing. He felt suddenly afraid, utterly alone. He turned to look at Aria, and she was looking at the ground, her hair falling down, her hands placed neatly on her knees. He became aware of his breathing, and was crushed in deep sorrow.
Would this ever fully go? Could it always return to unnerve him on a whim beyond control? Awareness, negative focusing, impeding the ability to just sit, stand, walk. Perhaps it could only be accepted, his reality when it came.
She threw her arms around him. She just slid over and embraced him, holding him tight. He started crying, and laughing, his body reaching for hers. She caressed his face, sweet water from his eyes on her wrist.
His arms were around her waist, her back, Frank desperately trying to communicate more than he could. To hold, squeeze into life what words couldn’t say. In the sunshine, in the summer, at the foot of a statue in Paris in 2004. He wanted some gesture or motion that said nothing but love.

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May 18, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 21)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 10:36

He stared up at the clock. A gentle sun was hitting the face, the white gleaming beneath the numerals. The rising grandness of the building was pompous, but amusingly so.
Pigeons rested on the roof tiles, gliding towards the ground to scavenge for food. Whenever one found some, an enormous fight would start. The flapping of the wings and the pecking was upsetting, but he didn’t know why. It was an ugly spectacle to witness, to be so close to.
Johnny tuned his guitar and gently touched the strings. He had placed the case out before him on the tile. The place de l’Hotel de Ville was busy but peaceful, less frenetic and fast than the piazza Beaubourg. Today, for the first time in his life, he wanted to sing to them.
He started quietly, feeling into things, never having played here before. Rising confidence raised the volume, and it began to feel natural. Soon coins were dancing in the guitar case, fifties, ones, even a five euro note. It seemed to him he was singing clearer than ever before.
His fingers pushed down the strings, new strings he had bought a week before. They were settled now, no longer slipping out of tune. He felt so centred, making chords, changing, the notes he was producing from his body and his guitar tangled up together. He glided one finger down the fret board to harmonise.
A few business types stopped before him. Three men, two women, smart suits and briefcases. The interest of two of the men was the reason they had stopped. The others fidgeted, hoping by a collective leaning motion to move the party on. After a moment it worked, the interested two showing disappointment.
Johnny moved his legs, keeping time and dispersing energy. His head rolled, and his shoulders kept tightening and releasing. The sun grew stronger, bathing the square in beautiful light. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose.
He felt the buzz of a text message in his pocket. Then another one, or maybe the sender had sent it twice. He looked up at the sky, a plane flying high overhead.
But Johnny wasn’t going anywhere. He let himself imagine what it might be like to be on that plane, travelling somewhere, excited. The tingling anticipation of coffee in another land. What was the use? He was where he was, a guitarist on a Parisian tile square.
He stood up and stretched in the sunlight. He massaged his neck, then pushed his shoulders towards his ears. He could hear the clicking of muscles bunched up, feel the strain of freeing what was used to being caught. His body was so hunched, so constantly bent and folded.
He thought he’d stay playing for perhaps another hour. He’d recently been toying with the idea of getting a job. Nothing too big or stressful, nothing intolerable, but dealing drugs was no longer where he wanted to be. It was depressing, all those fuckers with their jittery eyes and limbs.
He started another song. A slow one. His hand changed chords without him needing to think. He strummed and picked, singing loud, but gracefully, not barking it. The birds and pedestrians were sought out by his voice in the air.

May 17, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 20)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:44

Karen smiled at the memory. The sound of a cruiser brought her back to the present. It was early June, she was by the river, but she’d been in Chicago in a daydream, a birthday party long ago. She felt the slightest tickle of spray on her face.
Sunshine, sympathy. Paris was promising gentle delight until August. She’d go home when it grew stifling, although it would be in Chicago too, and then return afresh in September, rested. Already it seemed like the days were rolling as one.
She heard a recorded announcement from the boat, an explanation. This bridge is this, is that. It’s age, significance, did Hemingway ever spit off the side. The same spiel was trundled out in French, then rehashed en anglais.
She leaned back, her hands on the cobbled quayside. She knew the exact distance from her outstretched legs to the bank. The sun was warm on her face, but there was still a coolness seeping through underneath. A suction heaviness, tiring and deadening her limbs.
She shifted position. The movement brought warmth, but then the coldness once again permeated. She was fixating on it, letting it ruin her afternoon. The feeling in her calves, her thighs and buttocks, was the dominant one, the alpha sensation informing all the rest. What she heard, smelled, all were filtered through this.
She stood up. Another cruiser could be heard approaching from the west, the battleship hum increasing in volume. It was fascinating the way the water was methodically ploughed. It was a pushing certainty, the slow movement of the boat fixed on its task.
She felt a one euro coin in her pocket. Something inside her said she’d been keeping this for a reason. She rolled it over between thumb and forefinger, not removing it from her jeans. Then she knew – it was to have exact change for a trolley in the supermarket.
She had hunger for a crepe, the butter, the sugar. Lemon juice maybe. She began walking east, along the quai. She passed under that urine soaked bridge at Saint Michel, the reeking one with the little steps down and back up again. She sensed the presence of homeless people, and heard a dog.
She eventually found herself wandering in the Jardin des Plantes. She’d decided why not, knowing she could get a bus back. The smell, the feel of plants and foliage was everywhere, a thick density of growing, feeding things. She listened to the sound of the gravel as her feet pressed into it.
She walked around, twice having to ask people for her bearings. She did this matter of factly, at ease. She had long ago learned that the manner of asking determined the response, a simple, direct question giving a corresponding reply. It was only if she made a fuss that the other grew flustered.
She came back around by the main quayside entrance. The one she had entered through, the way she would leave. A guard bid her good day as she passed under the gate frame. Without thinking she turned her head and did the same. This is what people should do in a place they call home.

May 16, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 19)

Filed under: Character : Frank, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 10:35

Frank put the gathered nail clippings in the bin by the door. His fingertips tingled, and he ran them under warm water, a post-cutting trick. He always kept his nails so short people asked him did he bite them, but he didn’t, never had. He looked at his fingers, the right middle one bearing a scar.
On Pont de Bercy the world had been frozen. Sculpted, hardened, and left hanging for him. A gap in the chaos he had left and the girl he was going to.
He sat down and stared at his manuscript. It was growing – moving and shifting, the relevant and less so pushing for space. Is a person on a page automatically a character, immediately imbued with this status, and changed. Can writing about something alter it, make it less real?
He wasn’t equal to these questions.
He made a sentence and deleted it. Various alternative constructions began swimming in his brain. He had cleaned his room thoroughly in the morning, getting up early to do it. Now, at the stroke of twelve, he was rooted to the desk.
A glass of hour-old water sat beside him. Tiny bubbles floated toward the top, but slowly, ponderously. He saw the smudged imprint of his lips in two different spots.
He went to the window and leaned out. Writing is unconscious exercise, because any movement will do. Stretch, yawn, jump up to do nothing, or walk around. Anything but force those words on that mocking blankness.
One of those sci-fi cleaning vans arrived, scuttling down the road with a hose attached. There was a man attached to the hose, walking along the path spraying the ground, and from Frank’s position it looked like this man was leading the van. His green and yellow dog, out in the fresh midday.
The picture grew more detailed as they approached. The hose, the umbilical cleaning apparatus, writhed and rolled from the vehicle to the man. The water cracked and splashed on the butt-strewn pavement. Frank could still not make out the van’s driver, and he tried not to look, lest he shatter the illusion. Pedestrians took refuge on the street to avoid getting soaked.
Frank went back to his desk. He fiddled with an odd piece of string protruding from his wallet, a straggly end where the lining had come loose. He looked at a picture of himself on a piece of ID.
It was what to say, it was how to say it. It was letters in lines that might hopefully touch someone else. The facilitation of eye movement across static words on a page. The endless belief that it was good, and then it wasn’t, and then it was.
He rotated his ankle. Muscles were caught, and there was clicking, and pain. He rubbed it slowly, methodically.
The sound of a circular saw skewered the silence. A pinpoint sound, like an opera singer in a bad mood. It darted out, finding Frank in his room. A swordfish vibration, a prickly, stabbing, blast.
He tried to describe it accurately. Even if it didn’t make the scene it would be useful to do. Take the senses and filter them through the fingers, put down what is heard, what’s seen.
He wanted clarity. Precision, lucidity, economy of expression. Words on the page because they’d staked a claim to be there.
The wind blew the curtain and the camera drifted out of the bedroom. This is what could happen, a handsome young actor playing Frank. We leave him with his writing, and move maybe skyward, or fade to black.

May 15, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 18)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:40

Aria pulled up the shutters and unlocked the door. The place had an unusual aura first thing in the morning, unsullied by customers and motion. She flicked on the power, and started warming bagels.
The mirror along the wall was sporting a smudge mark. She must have missed it the day before. The warm bagel smell hit her nose as she rinsed a cloth, and set about easing the smudge into a memory. She ran the cloth over the tables, straightening crooked napkin dispensers.
While the coffee machine shuddered into wakefulness, she wrote on the blackboard and placed it at the door. The guy across the street in the flower shop nodded hello. She heard the coffee percolating, and paused in the morning sun, half-inside, half-outside the café. Coffee while it’s forming is called percolating, but God only knows why.
She raised the blinds and the sun crept in. It stretched a quarter of the way across the first table, and she smiled when she thought it would slowly fill more of the room. Its gently increasing advancement would accompany her through the day.
Dust was visible in the air, catching in the rays and dancing about. She was going to swish it with the cloth, but left it act naturally. Already it was May, and she had been in Paris over a year. Whispers of trauma were almost inaudible in her soul.
She replenished the fillings running low or whose appearance was unsavoury. Red onion, olives. The cookie jar looked a little grimy, clouded, so she emptied the biscuits out and gave it a wash. The chewing gum and lollipops in the corner spied on proceedings.
The sun was now a little further. It was in possession of the first table, and had begun serenading the floor. Unfortunately the brightness was revealing more marks and spots. Aria checked her watch and there was still time before opening. Enough to restack the chairs and mop the floor. Bubbles fizzled in the bucket as the mop plunged, clinging to the tentacles and sploshing down on the tile. She chased them dry with a brush, and re-set the furniture.
She expected the owner in today but didn’t know at what time. Because of this it was awkward to invite Frank for lunch. It had happened before that he’d been halfway through a sandwich when she’d arrived, glaring suspiciously and clicking her tongue. Frank had had to pay, handing over fives, tens and twenties.
Karen was a customer who’d recently started visiting. A blind girl, American also, from Chicago, Illinois. Aria found her easy to talk to, wise and with plenty to say. It was impossible not to marvel at her strength despite a total lack of vision.
Aria never said this of course, but couldn’t help thinking it. To be so worldly and competent and yet unable to see. She suspected Karen knew she thought this, even from their minimal customer-waitress relationship. Karen’s movements were all so flowing and defined.
They had never spoken about the bombing or it’s aftermath. Karen had been in four times, twice post-explosion.
With the floor dry, the tables clean, the bagels warm and the fillings ready, Aria stood back and looked at the perfect café. In five minutes time it was officially open, but if someone came in now she wouldn’t make them wait. A breeze pushed through the door, and ruffled one of the specially printed napkins.

May 14, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 17)

Filed under: Character : Johnny, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:43

Johnny sat there, tuning. It was an empty square. He assumed they were all spooked by that explosion, tourists and natives alike. The sound of the strings echoed off the concrete and glass.
He had only heard about the bomb two days afterwards. He’d been sick, huddled in bed, some ugly spring flu. It wasn’t until he’d ventured out on the streets that he’d seen the newspaper headlines. He’d been cocooned away, oblivious to the splash and its ripples.
Perhaps it was this absence that significantly lessened the magnitude. He’d missed the initial shock and terrifying reports. Thus, when he finally became aware, it was not so overwhelming, not so strong. Montparnasse was an area he rarely if ever visited.
He strummed a C chord, but the B string was still out. It needed to be flattened by the slightest degree. He played a progression of C, G, Fmaj7.
There is a town in North Ontario,
Extreme comfort, memory, despair.
And in my mind, I still need a place to go,
All my changes were there.”
It was fascinating to sing this song to absolutely no one. A piece of paper skitted along the ground. It blew closer, and revealed itself to be nothing. Just a torn off segment from the classified section of some rag.
Suitable apartments had been ringed in red by the owner. He stretched out, picked it up, and scanned the page. Various pricey possibilities were circled and ticked.
Johnny let the paper blow on again. It rested for a minute beside him before crawling down the slope. He massaged his forehead with his fingertips, moving down to rub his eyeballs and the bridge of his nose. His cheeks felt coarse, like unpainted brick or sandstone.
Lorena once said melody is human duty. The rhythm in your step and the lilt in your voice are your own. It’s impossible to live unmusically, so therefore a choice exists between flowing purity or low atonal drudge. Johnny considered it a fanciful idea, but not an irrelevant one.
Curious noises became audible, like a hacking cough. He listened carefully, this desperate bronchial sound shredding through the air. It rose and fell, stopping and starting, wrenched misery escaping from a stranger’s soul. Somebody in the neighbourhood was doubled up getting sick.

May 13, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 16)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 09:05

A week after the event it was still the only news item. The death count had become an official tally that was fluctuating less. 1,410. Of course it was conceivable more bodies would be found, but Karen knew it had stayed at this figure for two days already. She knew also that a letter had been sent to Le Monde.
The sensation caused by this discovery was refusing to abate. It had arrived in the paper’s offices on Friday 23rd, which made it late according to its postmark, but service had been disrupted. The letter provided the bomber’s rationale, and was splayed across the front page. Every other newspaper reprinted it as soon as they were able to.
Karen had heard its contents read out so many times. On the TV, the radio. Every day she took five calls from her mother, pleading with her to come home. She wasn’t sure why, but the event had seemingly hardened her resolve to stay.
She’d made sure Michel was OK, not thinking, just phoning automatically. This was on the Tuesday, twenty-four hours post-attack. He’d sounded so down, but no, he hadn’t been near the blast. The conversation ended when he launched into a speech about needing her.
“I just wanted to make sure you weren’t hurt,” she’d murmured, saying goodbye.
It was strange how occasionally she could forget everything, doing the ironing, dusting. For perhaps a five minute period there had been no bomb. Then she’d pause, and it returned. It was such a hard-to-gather-together alien thing.
Terrorist war in New York and now in Paris.
She had immediately seen it in global terms, speculating. As bad as Chirac was, surely he could avoid the mistakes of Bush. The government noises had been dignified and appropriate thus far, but what they might lead to, who knew. Often, failing to sleep, she pondered various likely and unlikely outcomes.
She hadn’t stopped walking, because she didn’t see any reason why she should. From the subdued streets, it was obvious many others did. At normally busy times of the day there was a pronounced hush, striking on a bustling thoroughfare like rue de Rennes.
General uneasiness remained in the city ambience. The buying of goods and services had a mechanical feel. The tone of life in a shop or park was one of abject confusion – the atmosphere of a wake following a genuinely unexpected death. Laughter was conspicuous by its absence.
Karen began tuning out of the endless news bulletins. It was clear how in actual fact nothing was being said. Theories, ideas, no more or less informed than her own. She took sanctuary in her everyday routine, exercising, working, and understanding the event for what it was. It was not the apocalypse. Life was still happening in Stockholm, Beirut, and Lyons.
On a bus she heard a conversation between two old women. This is what happens when we let those people live here. What people she was going to ask, but why bother. Such an attitude lives to snatch at reasons to exist. In the aftermath of September 11th, Americans grew both anti-Arab and anti-French.
Chirac said calm was necessary. Raffarin said much the same. The streets of Paris were morgue-like and uncertain, and most of the citizenry simply stayed in doors. Birds and rodents never had it so good.

May 12, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 15)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Character : Frank, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 07:45

There was a massive explosion at Montparnasse. Frank heard it from his room, but he didn’t know what he’d heard, and only later found out. He was in the middle of detailing some Berlin mini-adventure, when suddenly a deep and terrible boom sound brought him to a halt.
It was mid-Monday morning. April 19th 2004. He sat frozen for a second, the adrenalin rush giving him a fright, and then went to the window. The neighbours began poking out of flats below and opposite, all heads craned in the direction of Montparnasse.
“C’est les terroristes!” cried an old woman. “Les terroristes!”
Frank looked across and saw her peering from behind a curtain.
Pretty soon, after a few minutes, a burning smell hit them. It was evil and nasty in the throat, and Frank saw smoke rising in the sky to the north. His view was obscured, but he immediately thought of the tower.
La Tour Montparnasse was never visible from Frank’s apartment. He wasn’t that high up, and buildings blocked the way. Nevertheless, he knew exactly where it was, and the thick smoke lifting looked to be spot on. He got a phone call from Aria, fear in her voice.
She was at Saint Germain des Pres with Marie, and had seen straight down rue de Rennes to Montparnasse. The tower had collapsed just like the ones in New York. He could hear how terrified she was, a soaring sense of panic evident and making him chill. He wanted to be there or to transport her quickly to him.
On his own street now there was pandemonium also. The sound of sirens and screams carried through the air. Fire trucks, police, ambulances and the CRS, all careening towards the scene or heading off crowds. Frank told Aria to go home and ring him when she got there.
He didn’t know if she would. Immediately afterwards he tried to call her back, but the signal was busy and then died. He kept on trying, wishing they’d never hung up.
Why had he been so stupid? He should have kept her on the line until she was safe. Three, four minutes passed and still no connection, and he cursed how careless he’d been to allow the call end. There was sweat on his forehead and hands, a bad taste in his mouth.
He left the flat. This was pointless, futile, but he wasn’t thinking. No sooner had he arrived on the street than a cop pushed him back. “Rentrez!” he shouted. “Rentrez-vous!” Frank tried to explain that he couldn’t possibly just go home.
The policeman was distracted by a scream and Frank charged away. He got up onto rue Didot and the scene was unreal. A stampede of people was hurtling towards him, office workers, residents, children dismissed from school and couriers with bikes. Cars and vans were blocked in the roadway, some abandoned, others holding frazzled but impotent men. The police were ordering the evacuation of all vehicles and shops.
He tried Aria again. He couldn’t even hear a tone, but the screen said no link. He saw with dismay his battery was running low. The physical mush of bodies was oppressive, everyone hyped-up and wild. Children with their mothers were terrified, chaos all around.
Frank finally made contact. He ducked down rue Morard, and when he heard her voice his immediate panic subsided. She was ok she said, they’d been herded the far side of the river.
Barriers had been put up at Chatelet, and this is where they were, the CRS with bullhorns attempting to manage the mob. Somebody whacked against Frank and he nearly dropped the phone.
“So you’re fine?” he shouted in the receiver. “You’re really fine?”
“I’m OK,” she said. “We’re gonna try and get home.”
“I’ll make it somehow. It might take forever but just ring again when you’re there. OK? Promise me.” Her voice was drowned out as a police bike screeched to a standstill.
“Rentrez! Rentrez!” This was all they could think of instructing the public. Go home to your houses, get out of the streets. Frank started heading east, away from his apartment.
At Tolbiac things were quieter, although all Metros had stopped operating. He was trying to move very fast, before roadblocks were in place. On a couple of occasions he skirted cops angrily chasing him, and the pain in his ankle shot through his leg like a bolt.
He crossed the Seine at Pont de Bercy, after an hour. Right there on the bridge you could forget there had just been an attack. He found progress easier on the other side, taking a wide route towards Republique. He was asked for his address, but simply gave Aria’s flat. Within another hour and a half he’d arrived at her door.
The four of them together made the sense of shock less overwhelming. The burden of total confusion could be shared around. Frank realised he’d walked for three hours in a daze, a blurred adrenalin momentum it would be difficult to replicate. He remembered pausing on the bridge, and thought it utterly surreal. Aria played with a small silver ring on her finger.
The body count was increasing, 2,000 people missing or presumed dead. The TV spoke of blood streaking the pavement. Frank’s sense of time was horribly askew, and he no longer had any idea of the sequence of events. How long after he’d heard the sound before the madness in the streets. His mind contained a jumble of imagery, flashing sirens and faces locked in fear. He still felt he heard the cries and shouts in his ears.
It seemed like the city had been stolen. The magical swirl of darkness and light spirited away. In its place stood a war zone of barriers and entrapment. The notion of going to a café had been rendered absurd.
Frank watched repeated footage of the tower surroundings. He was already certain these pictures would permanently remain. No one had captured the explosion itself, or at least no one so far discovered. All that could be shown was rubble, corpses, and smoke.
“I can’t get through to my family,” said Laura. Frank had never seen her vulnerable and fragile before. Sitting in a chair with the phone cord round her wrist, she was like a child, an innocent. Of all the things he could have thought in that moment, why did he think that?
“It’s the system,” he said. “It’s just that it can’t cope with so many calls.”
He told her to try again in a few minutes, but she didn’t, and redialled immediately.
Aria looked out the window at the courtyard and bins. TVs in other apartments showed the same as hers. She knew now she was lucky to have caught her mother a little earlier, even though news of the bomb hadn’t yet filtered through. Aria had had to tell the whole story, explaining she was fine.
The TV speculated on possible perpetrators and motives. It was odd how quickly they jumped to an Arab link. Talk of September 11th, Bin Laden, Afghanistan training camps and Islamic extremists. They didn’t have a shred of information or fact. The news anchor reminded viewers of previous terrorist threats in the nineties and before. For a second he seemed to flirt with the notion it could be ETA or the IRA. Then he returned to the Muslims.
Marie asked to turn it off for a little while. Frank wanted to stay watching, but the girls did not. In the silence they heard the newsreader on someone else’s set. The muffled voice continued to struggle to make sense.
Frank felt totally exhausted. It swooped down over him, and his body slumped in the chair. His eyes closed and his mind went on stand-by, ears not accepting external stimuli anymore. The last thing he remembered was Laura saying who wants tea.

May 10, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 14)

Filed under: Character : Aria, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 11:44

Aria stood by the water. The day was monkishly still, death-like, very little traffic on the river or the streets. It was Sunday afternoon, two-thirty. She had the strangest feeling something was imminent.
There were no birds, and they often congregated along the bank. There were no tourist cruisers or pleasure boats. Instead what existed was a foreboding buzz, an energy crackle neither obvious nor sweet. She was aware of heaviness all through the muscles of her legs.
She walked along towards Pont Neuf. The water echoed under the bridge as she approached. The lapping was menacing, a child’s nightmare storybook lap. The monstrous stillness was crushing with the urine smell.
She hurried forward. Back out in the air, stopping, she looked across at the Ile de la Cite as it neared the tip. She turned around towards home to get out of this atmosphere.
The flat was empty. The night before Frank had taken her to a gig. She was a little tired, dozy, and fell onto her bed still wearing her shoes. She thought she probably wouldn’t sleep, but just lying might be enough.
An unusual sense of impending persistently remained. Her eyelids fluttered involuntarily. Her mind hovered above, watching her curled form, seeking out the plateau between asleep and awake. She gave a shiver or a start and stretched out her arm.
A tender breeze whistled through the skylight for an instant, but it failed to relieve the static nature of the day. If anything it served only to exacerbate the doldrums. It was a reminder of the absent alternative, a more lively, active world, and turned a spotlight fully on the choking humidity. Aria placed her hand on her stomach and breathed slow.
Her abdomen rose and fell slower and slower. The more she became aware of it, the fuller her breaths became. Maybe peace is only real as a contrast to the lack of it.
In time she fell asleep with her hand still resting there. A part of her was conscious of the lifting motion in her dreams. She dreamt of seeing that LA boy enter a clothes shop, and of running after him in vain. She didn’t catch him, and forgot about it after she woke up.
With Laura and Marie she ate dinner. The three of them around the table as a self-contained whole. There was caesar salad in the middle and bread to be torn off. Aria drank a little wine, still tired but content.
Marie was complimenting the cooking, having only arrived moments before. Laura batted away her praise and told her to eat. Aria wanted to speak of her feelings by the river, but they weren’t so pressing now. There was more of a lull in her mind, a calming hush.
She tore off more bread. It was fresh, warm, broken easily. Given a few hours it would crack and spray shards of crumbs. The chicken was seasoned, the rice light. Nothing tasted in any way different than it should.

May 9, 2010

Part 8: Te Quiero (scene 13)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 8 : Te Quiero — fishinginbeirut @ 11:10

From the practical viewpoint, Michel was in trouble. He had no money of his own, and the rent contribution of his parents had gone up his nose. In more emotional or spiritual terms, his predicament was no better. The loss of his girlfriend had allowed all his confidence slip.
This confidence desertion was compounded by his poverty, because no money meant no coke. Cocaine was all he had without the warming sense of comfort brought by Karen. He had used it sparingly back then, more sparingly than recently anyway. He hadn’t seen Johnny in he couldn’t remember how long.
Six weeks? Possibly. It was the middle of April, and it was raining. He lay in bed and shivered, not sure if he could stop if he tried. The sound of a drill hummed outside.
Under the covers was hot, in a stifling, clammy way. He didn’t want to stay, but couldn’t surface. The drill pierced into his head, almost feeling like a rattling of his skull. The sweat on his hands was alarming him.
He was often tempted to ask Johnny for credit. He knew the answer in advance, but dreamed it anyway. Still, it was more than this imagined refusal that stopped him going. He didn’t want to see him, and had felt so for a while.
He propped himself up and looked around the room. His clothes were strewn about in disarray. Jeans entangled in shirts and socks, a jumper draped across a chair. He saw one of his shoes, half wedged behind a cupboard.
He got up and leaned out the window. He held this nagging insistence that Karen would call. It came and went, stronger, weaker, and it wasn’t so simple as to fade the more time passed. That morning it had been so real he was tense with anticipation.
A ladybird crawled across the windowsill and onto his hand. It opened its wings, preparing to fly. A rustle of wind kept the wings open, but the creature stayed put, its legs on his hand too small and delicate to be felt. The tiny black wing spots were perfectly round against the red.
It was Sophie who drew ladybirds, his five year old cousin from Bordeaux. She drew endless little pictures of these insects with grass and a sun. On the fridge of her family home, in her bedroom, smiling ladybirds eating or drinking tea. Michel watched the one on his arm fly off suddenly.
His nostrils itched. They were frayed and scratched and would occasionally bleed. He thought he’d rather stay at this window eternally than turn back to the room.
A queasy sensation came over him. He lurched forward and vomited onto the street. He could taste it in his throat as he gagged, the hot harshness of it. His insides stung, and the peace of the aspect was shattered.

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