Autumn in New York


sf_brynn_icon.gif sf_nova_icon.gif

Scene Title Autumn in New York
Synopsis A question asked to a friendly stranger sparks a conversation about art and the beauty in the world.
Date November 16, 2020

Central Park, Manhattan, New York City

The Wollman Ice Skating Rink is hardly a quiet place to study, but it’s the spot Nova has chosen to do some reading for one of her exams. The trees surrounding the rink are just starting to lose their leaves, and most still wear most of their autumnal colors, oranges and russets and golds creating a striking contrast with the bright blue sky, as well as with the skyscrapers looming above the trees on one side of the rink.

The music student sits at a vantage point where she can see the rink and its teeming skaters while she reads, a lime-green highlighter in hand to mark certain passages in the heavy tome that sits in her lap. Airpods in her ears suggest she’s listening to music. Now and then she looks up to watch the skating, a far-off look in her eyes as she taps the highlighter’s un-inked end against the page.

Although most come here for the skating, Brynn is not here for that today. Instead she's got a camera that she's using to take photos of the brilliant autumn foliage and the skyline. Some of skaters as well, but it's the unique blue of the sky against the flaming leaves that you can only see in the autumn that she's more interested in. The slender brunette moves with caution along the path just in front of Nova's seat, and as she watches the skaters for a long moment, she seems to wobble in place just before she sits down on a lower tier of the seating area.

Letting her camera drop to hang around her neck, she brings a messenger bag around from her side and opens a bottle of water to take a sip, but her gray eyes flicker around uncertainly. She glances up toward Nova and waves to catch the other girl's attention. "Uhm, excuse me? I'm sorry … I don't mean to interrupt your studying. Could you … maybe answer a quick question for me?"

Nova turns at the motion of Brynn’s hands, and reaches up to pull one of the Airpods out of her ears with a smile — like most college students, she’s not too disappointed to be interrupted, and let’s face it, she wasn’t in the middle of reading a difficult paragraph but was instead lost in thought — and Mussorgsky.

“Hey! Brynn, isn’t it?” Nova recognizes the Petrelli anyway, but is more aware of her due to recent events. “I can try, but my areas of expertise are pretty limited. I meant to check on your sister after the hub-bub at the marathon last month, but mid-terms and rehearsals sorta took over.”

The words tumble out quickly but amiably, before Nova realizes she’s off on a tangent. She smiles apologetically, closing the book with her highlighter serving as a bookmark. “Shoot.”

Brynn chuckles. "Jac is fine… and yeah, it's Brynn. I'm so sorry, I don't know if someone said your name that day." Her words, for all that she's had voice therapy for years now, still carry some of the flatter sound and cautious volume of someone who can't hear themselves speak. "But you looked familiar, so it's nice to meet you again."

Glancing toward the ice skaters briefly, she toys with her water bottle before she speaks. "This sounds weird, I'm sure, but are they playing clangy music over there?" Her gray eyes come back to Nova with a sort of self-conscious grin as she asks.

“Nova,” the other supplies easily enough.

She takes off her other Airpod and turns her attention over the rink to listen to whatever it is they’re playing, then shakes her head. “I was going to say ‘probably’ because a lot of music sounds clangy to me, but it’s something pretty light, piano, no drums — at least at the moment.”

She tilts her head, narrowing her eyes a little, squinting past the treeline to the street beyond. “I think there might be some construction on Fifth. That might be throwing you off a bit.”

Moving her book bag to the ground, Nova loops its strap under her boot so she doesn’t end up a victim of a drive-by robbery again. “You can sit if you like — it’s a pretty good view here. You’re a photographer? I love how the oranges make the blue sky seem all that much brighter. I think it’s prettier even like this than when it’s snow, really, but snow has its perks too.”

Shooting Nova a grin, Brynn says, "Yeah, sometimes it's hard to tell where things are coming from." Scooting around, she climbs up to where Nova is sitting and looks at the angles from there.

"Good spot," she agrees. "The oranges are my favorite too. You only get that shade of blue in the sky during the autumn, but it's so hard to capture in pictures." Brynn pauses and adds, "I dabble a little in other mediums, but photography is something I hope maybe I can make a go of. What about you?" She nods toward the book. "Got a particular field of interest?"

The glance at the textbook earns a grimace from Nova, and she shakes her head as she glances down at it — Introduction to Psychology is printed across the cover, with a few author names and an an abstract painting of a person in cheerful colors. “This is just gen-ed stuff, but I’m also studying here,” she says, tapping hear earlobes, now sans Airpods.

“I’m a student at Juilliard,” she explains, with a jut of her chin to the east, where the renowned school sits just a block or so away from the other side of the park from where they sit in the southwestern corner. “I play the cello. Your mom and my sister came to a performance I got to do with Lynette Rowan not long ago.”

Nova slides the book into her book bag, apparently ready to give up the task of studying now she has company. Her blue eyes return to the skating rink, watching the multitude of skaters, some barely able to stay on their two feet while others do double axels in the center of the ice.

“Does it ever weird you out to look at all those people and realize they have entire lives that have nothing to do with yours, but are just as important to them as yours is to you?” she asks.

Aaaaahhh. That explains how Nova knew Jac that day. Brynn's smile is much easier now that she has a context. She takes a moment to think about and parse the question she got asked, looking toward the skaters. When she answers, there's an almost wistful air to her.

"It's why I take pictures," she confesses. It still takes her a lot of focus to speak without signing everything, but she's trying to practice that. "I was born deaf — so I always miss parts of conversations and situations. When I started taking pictures… it was kind of like stopping time to be able to really look at what was going on in a situation. Details that I always miss at the time. It's true that a picture is worth a thousand — sometimes more — words."

Her gray eyes are thoughtful and she fails at keeping the signing hands still as she finishes, "I can see hints of people's stories in those moments. Sometimes so much more than a hint." She's never shared that much with anyone about her photography, and she seems a little nonplussed at the way the words tumbled out.

Nova listens while she watches the murmurations of the skaters across the ice, head tipping thoughtfully. Her smile blooms slowly on her face, and she turns to look back at Brynn.

“That makes so much sense,” she says softly. “I think I knew that — read it somewhere. If I’m ever talking too fast or something let me know, because I tend to never shut up unless I’m playing. Ask I-” she clamps down that vowel sound, and waves her hand as if to erase it. Nothing to see here, move along.

“I can’t really even imagine it. My whole identity is tied up with sound, with music,” she continues, her tone respectful for the difference in the two of them, but she offers no apologies or condolences. “I guess it wouldn’t be if I was born deaf.” She shakes her head slightly, bemused at the thought of a life utterly different than the one she knows. “Really weird to think about how different everything would be based on a single change — though that would be a pretty big one.”

She looks back to the skaters, then back to Brynn. “You can hear now, though, the clangy music?” she asks, remembering the question Brynn asked her at the start of the conversation.

"Implant," Brynn explains easily, her automatic reflex to sign still happening. "It wasn't something we wanted to chance until I was an adult." Kids and surgery, after all. "It's okay — most people do talk fast. I have a harder time with people who learn English later, though. They don't form words the same way. It can be really awkward." She's sort of making light of the fact that social gaffes are the norm for her — it may be why she's rarely in the gossip rags. She keeps her head down.

Realizing she's still signing, though, she moves to tuck her hands under her thighs. She's supposed to be continuing practice with no signs. "Sometimes I don't have the right words to describe what I hear." She shrugs and then grins. "Or I just think I hear stuff. Music is… a work in progress. I don't really know what I like yet. Don't be offended if I have no idea what you're talking about," she warns in a teasing manner.

Nova’s smile turns impish. “It’s okay — most people don’t,” she says, regarding Brynn’s last comment. “I listen to classical music, the deep cuts, you know, mostly, but I do like ‘normal’ music, too. I like to turn normal music into cello pieces, play them around town, subway stations, stuff like that. I mean, I did. I don’t know if I’ll do it a lot now since, well.”

Her $25,000 cello was ripped out of her hands while playing for charity. She doesn’t say it, but shrugs.

“You’re doing great. I’ve heard that’s really hard on some people, so props to you,” Nova says, snapping her fingers and finger gunning Brynn with a smile. “If you know a couple things you like, I can make you some mixes of things that are similar… your own personal Pandora or Spotify. I mean, they have algorithms, but I have insight.

"Well," the brunette considers. "It's uncomfortable sometimes. And it took a really long time to understand anything. To… you know, match up a sign or the way someone framed a word and what it actually sounded like? I still have trouble. It's… maybe like learning a whole new language or something? That might be close — I have to translate in my head what the sign or the face looks like and then match it up with sound, sign, and meaning." She rolls her eyes. "That's probably not the best description either, I guess."

She still choosing her words very carefully and it maybe is a little clearer why her speech pattern is slower than usual after explaining that. She doesn't have the 'native speaker' advantage — she's still in translation mode all the time.

Leaning on her hands to keep them still, Brynn looks curious. "I wanted to ask you that day … was your instrument insured? Cuz… I mean, won't they cover theft?"

At the comparing it to another language, Nova nods. “I mean, it is, really, another language. At least from your ASL. I can’t imagine having to go through all that, though — you must be exhausted all the time.” The words are said with admiration rather than any implication that Brynn is faulty by any means. “Or maybe it’s kind of like transposing.

She tips her head, looking out to the rink again, thoughtfully, then back to Brynn. “So for instance, a flute is in C, but the clarinet is in B flat. If they both played the same sheet music, it wouldn’t sound right. But if the clarinet transposed everything to its key, down a half step, it would mesh. So you’re sort of… having to transpose everything from what you knew to what you are doing now.”

Nova’s blue eyes widen a little and she laughs. “See? I talk too much, too fast, and no one but other music geeks care, usually,” she says with a shake of her head.

As for the cello, she nods. “It was insured, yeah. It helps that it was witnessed by police and a DA and a state Senator, no doubt. I’m using a loaner from the school until I can get another. But you know what’s weird? They can’t find the guy at all. The other kids gave his name and his address but they either just totally lied about it or he lied to them, or… I don’t know. All the pawn shops and stuff are alerted, though. It’s kinda hard to hawk a cello without someone noticing.”

It takes several additional moments to sort out what 'transposing' means when it comes to music, but Brynn's pretty quick on the uptake. Inexperience doesn't equal ignorance, after all — she just has to relate it. Once she understands fully that the two instruments would have to use different notes to sound the same, a smile lights her features. "Exactly," she replies, pleased that Nova seems to get it. It's a close enough analogy, anyway. And she laughs at the talking too fast. "I caught most of it, I think. I know that to make music sound like they're playing the same thing, the notes on the page don't match." She just can't read sheets of music aside from the pattern recognition of the composition.

She looks quite relieved at the information that the cello was, in fact, insured. But she tips her head and frowns at the information that they can't find the kid. "I can't even imagine there'd be much demand for such a thing." Black market instruments? Art, sure — but instruments? Wow.

"It's good that you won't have to try to replace it yourself," Brynn offers. She does comprehend the cost of a good, professional-grade instrument. "I hope you can find one as nice as your other one. But maybe the police will eventually find it too."

Pulling her scarf a little closer around her neck when a breeze reminds them winter is on the heels of autumn, Nova nods at Brynn’s comments. “Anyone who would spend any kind of money on an instrument is going to want one that’s more legit, and if they see one that good for an asking price that’s low, they’re going to know something’s up. Hopefully contact the authorities. At least I hope so.”

She sighs, heavily though. “Still, explaining to my parents that I took the good cello out instead of a cheap practice one — that wasn’t fun. And it was pretty stupid of me. I have a cheap student model but you get used to the richer tones of the quality instrument and don’t want the cheap stuff after a while.” Realizing that might be hard for a non musician to understand, especially one who’s just learning to appreciate music, nova adds, “Kinda like chocolate. Hersheys are great when you’re a kid, but once you have Ghiradelli or Godiva or Lindt or something, you realize it’s not as good — let alone something like Neuhas or Jacque Torres, right?”

Her eyes fall on the camera, and she looks back up to Brynn. “Do you do anything with your shots? Display them, save them up for a show or just take for fun?”

Brynn can't help the smile. "Why use your phone camera when you can get a pro rig." It's her equivalent, and she understands the impulse. She is, after all, in the park with a good camera today.

"Uhm, well…" Brynn hesitates and admits, "I've submitted a few for consideration to magazines about the city. Took some really amazing landscape shots last year and got one accepted for a nature magazine. That was pretty epic."

Her hands burrow into her pockets now — being cold is as good a reason as any to keep them still. "But I like doing people. Not portraits but just… unplanned. Every line on a face or a hand tells you something about a person's life." Photojournalism is a tough field, especially if you're someone with a liability.

Eyes widening when Brynn reveals she’s published, Nova claps her own hands together. “That’s amazing! I’d love to see some of your stuff some time. Good photography blows me away — like anyone can take a good photo of something beautiful, but it really takes an artist to take a great one, I think, one that captures the thing in a way that only they can. Lighting and composition and color and shape — there’s so much to it, like any art, really.”

She pats her iPhone and flashes a grin. “I can’t even remember the last time I used a ‘real’ camera — high school yearbook I guess, so like three years ago? It feels like forever. Are you in college?”

Brynn nods with a grin. "Only part-time right now. I'm working at a flower shop the rest of the time. It's pretty nice. Also artistry, I guess — it's fun making the arrangements." She shrugs easily. "How much more do you have?" She asks with a nod toward the now-closed textbook.

Nova’s eyebrows raise at the mention of the florist’s. “What a fun job! I can never make flowers look nice in a vase, so I don’t think I could do it, but you obviously have an artist’s eye,” she says warmly.

She glances down at the book, then shrugs. “Nothing that can’t wait. The test isn’t til Wednesday and my butt is getting numb sitting here.” Her expression turns rueful as she shifts on the bench, as if just noticing how hard and cold it is.

“You wanna go find some hot chocolate or something? There’s a cafe over by the school that’s got salted caramel hot chocolate that’s to die for,” Nova says, reaching for the book bag to stow the book in.

“Totally worth another hour on the treadmill later on.”

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