Are You...?


kent_icon.gif tamara_icon.gif

Scene Title Are You…?
Synopsis Kent never quite finishes the question, but he gets an answer anyway. Right? Wrong? Who can tell?
Date October 15, 2008

Thomas Jefferson Trailer Farm, East Harlem

Before the bomb, this was Thomas Jefferson Park. Some of it still is, stretches of grass and trees that far fewer people visit than once did.

Some of it is not.

Faced with the sheer number of people displaced from their homes after the bomb, but too stubborn — or without the means — to move from Manhattan, this is one of the many places the city and various federal agencies have given over to shelter the refugees. As such, what was once meticulously maintained greensward has been turned into dirt road and trailer lots. The grass has been worn thin by the repetitive passing of hundreds of feet. Trailers sit all but side-by-side, with room only for a car and perhaps a few chairs to be parked in between. Younger children run around underfoot, seemingly undeterred from their games; older ones might slink behind the trailers with hungry eyes, resentful of those who have more, while the adults seem more heart-weary and worn-down than not. These are the people who have nowhere else to go; some have jobs, but many do not, surviving on as little as possible. Alcohol and drugs are common; so is suicide, for those who have passed from desperation into surrender.

Dusk is an evocative time of evening, or so fiction will lead us to believe. Here, it's basically the same as any other hour, if quieter and colder - but still always crowded. A place where it's easy to be anonymous. Equally anonymous trailers are lined up, one of which - a particularly old, rundown looking thing - has its door open. And on the doorstep, booted feet planted against the trodden dirt and grass just outside, sits Kent. He's hunched over a notepad, but by no means furiously writing - he seems more inclined to draw aggravated stars in the margin than to actually add to the words on the page. He's dressed warm, a thick scarf wrapped about his neck, glasses slid down to the end of his nose.

Crowded. Noisy. Bleak. The soft gleam of twilight does nothing to ease the harshness of the trailer rows, the poverty of the people who live in them. Tamara fits right in, with her forest-green sweater (might as well be black, at this hour), a crimson scarf, black jeans, and dust-brown shoes. The left shoe is threatening to become untied, and the whole ensemble is definitely secondhand. The teenager flops down to sit on the ground near Kent's doorstep without so much as a by-your-leave. "If it's dark enough, do you think they'll start shining?" It's an honestly curious question, not an attempt at a verbal poke, prod, or jab.

"Excuse me?" Kent looks up from his work — then down again at the teenager who's come to sit near his feet. His pen lifts from the page, which is glanced down to — the stars are a spiral on the page, and his mouth twists into a smirk. "Well let's hope so," he says, casting a glance upwards at the sky. "It's gonna get overcast so we could use a few more. Um." He seems to remember that he doesn't actually know this girl, and hesitation draws lines in his forehead. "Do we know each other?"

Tamara studies Kent with an air of perplexed curiosity. Like he's handed her a puzzle she's not sure how to go about solving. Or perhaps of whether it can be solved. "Sometimes, I think. Did we need to?" But she doesn't wait on the question; leaning back rather far — perhaps precariously so — the teen stares up at the sky. "It is very dark. But it doesn't stay that way all the time. That's good."

Out here, it's not so hard to run into unusual people. It's more common to run into broken people, granted, but. Kent lifts his gaze from the girl to glance around — but no one seems to be looking towards them, or even really noticing their presence. Perhaps he was expecting a— a family member of hers to come looking. A carer. When no one seems to be forthcoming, Kent looks back at her, fingers toying with the edge of his notebook. "Well we know each other now," he offers. "I'm Kent. Do you live around here?"

The person who holds that unenviable position is nowhere near here, through no fault of his own. Tamara looks up at Kent as he peers around, smiling softly. It might be interpreted as a knowing expression; regardless, it's not unkind. To the question, the girl lets one shoulder lift and fall in an easy shrug. "Here is where the shadows are, for now. Like yours." Blue eyes study Kent. "Are they planning on staying long?"

"My shadow?" Kent repeats— well, gets wrong, but perhaps the general jist all the same. Or misses the point entirely. Either way, he answers the question, pen coming up to scratch along his somewhat unshaven jaw with the blunt end. "You mean like here? In this park? I don't know. I go a lot of places, you know?" And the pen descends back down to the page, adding a word or two, though not to dismiss the other girl as he adds, "I guess that means you move around lots as well."

"Shadows," Tamara corrects absently. She looks past Kent, her eyes briefly unfocusing. "Yes. Just — watch the bulldogs, you know?" she remarks, attention centering on Kent again. Or at least Kent in the here-and-now. "I don't think they liked you keeping the stars." Picking idly at the grass beside her, shredding the blades into little bits as youths are wont to do, the girl shrugs again, smiling crookedly. "I go where the shadows did."

Speaking of shadows, they're already rather long as night starts to draw the light away, although this doesn't urge Kent to go back inside, or shoo the stranger away. He's talked to his fair share of people that don't quite make normal sense, in any case. "Shadows," he says, accepting the correction with a hint of apology, even if it is to humour her somewhat. "What are the shadows, exactly?"

She's harmless, at least — or seems that way. Just another person whose thought processes diverged from normal operation somewhere along the line. "They aren't," Tamara supplies, oh so very helpfully. And she is trying to answer the question. "Not until you step on them; then they weren't shadows anymore." She slowly tilts her hand until the bits of shredded grass fall off its palm, pushed aside by the faint evening breeze.

"I think you got your tenses mixed up," Kent mutters, eyes going back to his page which is pushed aside. Start afresh. "You're not where you're supposed to be, are you?" Take that as you will, but maybe it takes one to know one. His pen starts to scratch against the page, close to running out of ink though he doesn't notice this, in the semi-dark.

The puzzled look reappears, this time deepened into a thoughtful frown. "Words are tricky," she informs Kent. "Slippery like sea lions." Drawing her knees up and folding her arms about them, Tamara regards her companion steadily. "It's all the river. The current pulls and the glass drifts. Not always where it wanted, but the river doesn't care." A beat of silence follows. "Here," she says abruptly, fishing a replacement pen out of a pocket and holding it out to the the sometime writer and artist.

Kent glances up when the word 'here', such a direct and sense-making diversion, gets his attention. "Oh, no, I have a pen," he says kindly, perhaps a little too condescendingly - but it's about then that the ink runs dry, making only indentations in the paper. There's a blink, before the dried up pen is set aside, and the replacement is taken from the teenager. "Thanks." Though he's not about to write anything down soon, watching her carefully. "Yeah I can— see how words might be a problem for you. Are you— ?" He doesn't even know what he's asking, really, question cutting in half and into silence.

Tamara beams at Kent. "And now you have two," she proclaims. Because two pens are much better than just one. Especially when the original pen stops working. At the unfinished question, the girl tilts her head, one corner of her mouth tugging back in a soft, lopsided smile. There's something about her expression that suggests she knows what wasn't spoken — but maybe that's reading too much into it. Maybe she's just mad. "Everyone is."

As confusing as it might be, that draws a slightly quirky smile from the writer, pale eyebrows lifting and he shrugs. "I suppose so," Kent says, fiddling with the given pen now trapped between two fingers, in the way someone might hold a cigarette, flicking it back and forth. "You know, where I came from? I knew someone kinda like you. But that was because there's something wrong with them." Well, that's debatable, but there's a way he says that, an irony that the girl here may or may not catch. "You seem to know what you're doing."

The girl tips her head the other way, considering Kent. Considering his statements. "I didn't know," she remarks. "And I don't. But even the broken mirror still reflects," Tamara concludes. "What is, is. Or it isn't, and then it didn't matter." That's her opinion. Opinion stated, she stretches out her legs and pushes herself back up to her feet, smiling at Kent. "You didn't need to know what you were doing to get there. Just that there was."

He doesn't stand up either, content to be hunched over at the doorway of his trailer as Tamara makes to leave. "You're probably right," he says, then gives a soft laugh. "From what I can make of that, I guess you are." He glances around, then back to her. She does seem like she fits in with this place, but all the same, "Are you okay to get back— home?"

Another small, soft smile. "The mirror was always okay when it mattered." Tamara turns away, waving to Kent as she does so. "Are you?" And her dark shape fades away into the shadows, steps quiet on the grass.

Obviously not a question she wants an answer to, as Kent watches her move off into the nighttime shadows and corners of the trailer park. Or not an answer that's for her. After a moment, he glances down at his notepad, and draws one last star with the pen he was given. A moment later, he seems to flicker out of existence, leaving only the wind to shut the emptied door way.

October 15th: And Jesus Brought a Soapbox
October 16th: Out Of The Jaws Of Death
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