Shortlisted for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition 2012, Anna Wallace-Thompson is a Middle Eastern contemporary arts journalist who grew up predominantly in Dubai. Writing for Canvas, The Art Newspaper and Frieze, and featured in the anthology Des Autres/Of Others, she is working on a collection of short stories inspired by the region. Anna Wallace-Thompson’s short story Taxis pour les Galaxies was published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2013. Read an extract from Wallace-Thompson’s short story below.
Taxis pour les Galaxies
By Anna Wallace-Thompson
Des taxis pour les galaxies
Et mon tapis volant dis?
When you land in Beirut, the plane descends through a blanket of white clouds, entering a giant basin, a colossal satellite dish of a city, lined on three sides by white and grey buildings reaching up the sides of the mountains, adorned with a
tangle of TV antennae and cables. It is an ink drawing of unbelievably stark lines and clear spaces. The sky is bright blue with clouds and the breeze is so fresh and clean, you breathe deeply, clearly. We dropped our bags, hugged and screamed in happiness in front of the airport. Two girls embarking on an adventure, returning to Beirut with the ease of returning to an old lover who treated you well.
Leena, my Eddy, may I be your Patsy? I can? How Ab. How Fab. Then let us explore Beyrouth together. Darling, darling, sweetie-darling. Eddy, Eddy, Eddy. Prêt-à-porter, prêt à tout, pass the Bolly-Stolly and let’s go.
To describe the ecstasy of a lazy afternoon walk cannot do it justice. The streets are lined with small shops no larger than closets. Street cafes serve strong coffee and crisp white wine. The streets are chock full of cars. The grey pavement is cracked, uneven. Beirut had us for five days. For five days we lived in a parallel universe. The stonework of AUB bathed in the late afternoon sun and the twisting streets between Hamra and Centre ville. Armed guards and tanks on the occasional street corner. Little boys selling chicklets. How everything and everybody has a sad story. Are we spoilt? Bilaaks. Maybe. Traipsing down the roads with our Costa coffees and designer handbags? Peut-etre. Perhaps. Winding roads up and down hills, bougainvillea falling in lazy cascades down walls covered in graffiti. Humour, anger and sadness, plastered on the walls of Beirut. You see the same walls in Pompeii: A human continuum of communication, the human heartbeat from ages past. Beirut is buildings and bullet holes. Houses that are falling apart, about to be demolished or shiny and new. A forest of buildings piled one upon the other amongst church and mosque, prayer calls and tolling church bells. I am oblivious to the city’s intricacies, floating above its subtle tensions in a cloud of conscious naivety.
Our first evening begins with fits of giggles in a hotel room. How can two women make a room look as though a hurricane has descended, mere minutes after unpacking? Do we need all these creams and perfumes? Crumpled clothes in rainbow colours, lipstick, shampoo, anklets, hair brushes, fans and flowers. It leaves you breathless. We are like warriors armed with face paints and weaponry, ready to greet the night in full plumage, a pair of brilliant hummingbirds seeking honey.
There’s still one month left to enter the Creative Writing Competition 2013. Submit your poetry or short fiction for a chance to win £500 prize money, publication in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual and a selection of inspirational books from our competition partners, Bloodaxe Books and Vintage Books.
Find out more about entering the Creative Writing Competition at: www.aestheticamagazine.com/creativewriting
1. Chloe Lelliott, Halcion Lounge Courtesy of Chloe Lelliott and Aesthetica.