Happy Accidents


emily4_icon.gif joaquin_icon.gif

Scene Title Happy Accidents
Synopsis Because it's always nice to meet someone new.
Date Friday April 19

Brooklyn College

Some would say there was something auspicious about a date like 4/19/19. Or oddly satisfying about the numerology, perhaps. It’s also Good Friday, for one, and there’s a number of activities still going on within and without the campus related to the holiday. One of those being that the majority of the campus is already off, faculty and students having mostly decided to enjoy a longer Easter weekend.

Not so for those who, like Joaquin, the part about fasting and penance not so much a concern as a given part of life these days. Food shortages and trying not to get in the way of anybody aside, he’s taken the opportunity to slip into the labs to do some work. Without a computer of his own, this is the only way. He’s taken a path in the direction of the campus library. Using a bicycle as a book-holding wheeled carrier rather than riding the vehicle through campus, he should be picking up his pace so he can get to the labs before they close. But, he’s busy checking a phone in one hand, holding the handlebar in the other as he pushes along.

Either way, his eyes are down and he’s not entirely looking where he’s going.

Emily, for her part, hasn't had it hit her yet that the library might be closing early for the holiday. She's headed the same direction as Joaquin, her path merging with his after a fork joins them together. She glances up from her own phone as she senses more than sees someone in front of her, his pace slower than hers. It doesn't take much for that, and he's got that heavy-looking basket to manage besides.

It becomes a little lighter as one of the texts shoved into it wobbles and decides to take a tumble to the ground. It lands on the side Joaquin isn't standing on, but it's an easy thing for Emily to adjust her own course. "Here," she advises him before jogging the step forward so she can sweep down to grab it. Emily takes care to make sure none of the pages are bent, swiping a hand over the cover to ensure no pebbles from the concrete pathway have clung to it.

She offers the title back to him one-handed and directly rather than replacing it herself. The game she had open on her phone still cheerfully plays away in her other hand.

Whatever it is on Joaquin’s phone, he’s engrossed in it until the book joggles out of the basket and topples. The heavy thump startles him but even more so it’s Emily piping up that he even realizes she was there to begin with. “Oh, uh, thanks,” he says, slipping a phone into a precarious pocket in his jacket. The text book - Fundamentals of Nursing - gets haphazardly placed back on to the others. “Guess I could have used some rope or something.”

Her phone hand still playing away seems to impress. At the very least, he looks like he’d want to ask what’s playing. But on the other hand, this awkward talking to strangers thing. Plus, none of his business right? So he turns and starts back on the path to the library, this time more aware and less preoccupied with what’s in his hand… because what was previously in his hand, then in his pocket, is about to slip out of his pocket and tumble to the ground much like the book before it.

The title and subject matter of the text had been of interest, to the point Emily would have been willing to strike up a conversation … but also not, because she really hasn't found a good moment to slide it in. At his comment about what he could have done, she only lets out a quiet note of agreement, unsmiling.

She lets him go ahead again as his pace seems better than before, eyes still halfway on her phone as she slides patterns into place in the current minigame. Emily glances back up repeatedly though, expecting another clatter even if one doesn't end up happening. He just seems the type, in the thirty-second impression she has of him.

Besides, if he goes first, she can sort of drift behind him and play her game with the happy knowledge that if something lies on the path ahead he'll have to trip over it first, giving her more time to react.

More care is taken this time as he walks his bike laden with books in a basket. But the disadvantage to it is, of course, that Joaquin’s hands are preoccupied with holding a handlebar and holding the books in place… and not on the cellphone that as she expectably predicts, starts to jostle out of his pocket with the man’s picked up pace. And eventually, there’s a slip.

It’s like watching a trainwreck.

Joaquin isn’t so unaware as to not notice until the phone hits the ground. In a mad scramble of reflex and priorities, he slaps his hand down towards his body in an attempt to catch the phone against a leg. The problem with that being that he’s let go of the bicycle’s handlebars, and the weight of the books and laws of physics dictate that the bicycle gets a few more inches before it completely topples over and spills the basket contents. That’s the clatter. Along with a few thuds of rubber handle tips and a bitten back curse in Spanish from the young man.

But, the phone is safe.

As with anybody who’s just done something utterly embarrassing in public, Joaquin frantically looks around in hopes that nobody saw that. He’s so, so wrong. But head down and phone properly secured in his back pant pocket, he sets about hurriedly picking up scattered text books.

"Oh god."

She can see the conclusion of this walking catastrophe before the tipping is even done, but she's standing far enough away that she can be no help as it all unfolds. No no— Emily thinks sympathetically for him, wincing hard as she hears the clatter of the bike.

A weary sigh escapes her as she tucks away her own phone, trudging closer. She adjusts the black strap of the old, worn cerulean backpack strapped to her before she crouches, helping him without being asked to. Not for free, though. "You always this much of a clutz?" Emily asks him, glancing his way out of the corner of her eye as she picks up the same book off the ground again. She picks up only one more before she believes he's got the rest, but she holds onto them until he's situated to receive them.

She stands, waits, all wordless — but her gaze speaks. Emily Epstein regards Joaquin skeptically, wondering if he'll make it as far as the library before another accident occurs. That is, of course, unless someone gives him a hand.

"You won't offend any sensibilities if you swear," she finally says mildly, her gaze still level on him, sharp and even unfriendly even despite her good Samaritan act. God knows I won't hold back. she thinks to herself.

“No… Not always,” Joaquin mutters his reply as he scrapes his shreds of dignity up along with the books back into the basket. “Just some days,” laments the young man as he shakes off the dirt and gravel from a business administration textbook and sets it in to the basket, carefully this time.

The last remaining book, the nursing title in Emily’s arms, gets a glance. Then, his eyes - something of a pathetic puppy brown - settle on her contrastingly sharp gaze. “Maybe not,” he says of offending sensibilities, “but I’ve been traumatized in the past by a stray set of flip flops thrown in my direction for it.” Joaquin rubs the side of his scruffier jawline with the back of his hand, as if indicating where the chancleta would have been aimed. “So… I’ll save it for some special occasion.”

The same hand that had been rubbing his jaw reaches out, palm up, waiting for the book she holds in her possession. “Thanks for helpin’ me pick that up, ah…” he adds, the latter portion of his phrase trailing into an implied query. “I’m Joaquin,” he supplies in analogy to said query.

His honesty about his clumsiness actually brings a scoff of laughter out of Emily, her brow furrowing as she tries quickly to shove down the open humor. It's not typically something you do — laugh at someone because you can sympathize. At least not in these sorts of situations. When his eyes fall to the books she's still holding, she waits a moment, making really sure that he's ready to take them back this time. She starts to shift her arms like she's about to offer them back out when he makes that comment, her expression locking up.

Flip flops? wonders the white girl who's never had a concern like that in her whole existence, for all the other concerns she might have had. She blinks twice before he asks her name without saying the words, brow lifting. "Ah," she replies to his own introduction, finally extending the book back to him. "Emily," she says about herself, taking in his current state with another swift flick of her eyes. He seemed like he was steadier off this time.

Her chin tips in the direction of the book she'd given back, offering with an initial stiffness, "My cousin…" before it melts away into something more conversational. "You're not a nursing major, are you?" Even if it involves segues and fragments. "She works over at Elmhurst, is why I ask." Her torso turns first, feet following a moment after. Her steps are slow, apparently worried about letting Accident-Prone out of her sight. "It's a good career."

Her laughter brings out a reciprocal sliver of a laugh from Joaquin. Self-deprecating, especially in the face of being the object of humor, he can only attempt to ease the awkwardness brought on by his clumsiness. He takes the book without dropping it, head cocking askew at her in the same direction of the way his hair tilts like he’d done it so many times the strands happened to grow that way. Her expression lends him to try to explain, “It’s a family thing.” Not a great explanation but there it is.

“Your cousin, huh? Oh, yeah. Health in general, but yeah,” Joaquin answers with a short nod about his major. “I figured I’d do something useful. Eventually put in for work at the hospital, but I’m only just starting out. Also taking some Business stuff, maybe, I don’t know, open a care center or something some day. Might not look so good at taking care of anything especially myself… but hey, we all got to go through these crazy times somehow.”

Their progress is slow, but it’s at least steady. And though distracted partly from his path to the library, Joaquin keeps his pace with Emily. “So do you go here? What are you studying?”

Emily has to have an appreciation for his dedication to helping others, in spite of his own clumsy downfalls. She nods sympathetically, sparing him any comments at his expense when he shares what might actually be his dream … and keeps her silence for a moment after he asks her about her studies.

"Well yeah, I go here," she drawls, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. Duh. The other question takes a beat to answer, the time she spends focusing back on where she's walking so she doesn't end up having a clumsy moment of her own. "I'm studying a little of everything," Emily finally admits. "It's my first semester here. I'm thinking … either something IT-related or Law for my degree." Her eyes narrow on nothing in particular. "Or both. Something generalized and IT-related as a bachelor's, double-major in something pre-law… then go to Law School?"

Even she doesn't sound sold on it, as bold as a statement it was. She lets out a sigh and confides, "I don't fucking know. I'm just living in the moment right now."

Joaquin's eyes start off round-neutral then widen as his brows slowly crawl up as she goes on. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he starts to chuckle. Her admission sends an arrow of relief down his posture, and he shakes his head slightly. "Or you might find you hate it all and go into Music or the arts or something," he says humoredly. There's no judgment passed for her lack of life direction.

"It's actually my first semester too," he admits after a verbal pause while they walk. "Did you get a good spot out of the lottery early?" The question slips out before he catches up with his thoughts. A spark of realization later, Joaquin clears his throat lightly and holds up a hand just over his pile of books. “I mean, I’m not trying to be a creeper or anything. Like, you just sound like you got your shit together. I’m still making my way around the place.”

Emily lets out a laugh at the suggestion she'll go into music. "Yeah," she concedes without energy toward the idea. The thought of her going into anything like that was embarrassing. It wasn't that she couldn't hold a tune, but she'd never done anything like that before. Also, the idea that people got degrees in that was just insane to her. She shakes her head to avoid saying as much out loud, not wanting to discourage him if that was something he was secretly considering.

The question about the lottery elicits a lift of her head, acknowledging the question was directed at her. It takes her a moment to figure out what he's talking about, though. Nobody's ever posed a question like that her way. When it dawns on her, her brow lifts. "I, uh…" she stammers suddenly, blinking and looking to him before tearing her gaze away. It takes willpower to not shift her posture, something about the nature of the question making her realize — in a way she had rarely thought about — how lucky she was with her living arrangement.

"Listen, I'm over here saying I don't know what I'm doing with my life, and you think I've got my shit together over it?" Emily quips at him with a half-grin. It lingers, and as it starts to fade she adds with far less bite, "I've been in New York for a while now, yeah. I sort of… bypassed the whole lottery process by moving in with someone who'd already been placed." She looks back at him, her gaze careful. "Are you commuting out from Ferryman's?"

“Williamsburg,” Joaquin provides readily, maybe too much so. Maybe he’s so keen on being easy to find, although with that part of the Safe Zone being largely developed and inhabited, its population density would make it one of the more difficult to pick through. “It’s nice…it’s got water, power, mostly,” he says while he turns over the rhetorical question - or maybe it isn’t - of his thinking she’s got it together and her prepared living arrangements. But it brings up the question, spoken with small talk tones but blurbed out before he stops his clumsy tongue…

“Your boyfriend?” Assuming things and catching it too late, Joaquin trails his question into a faint groan and a mental inward kick. Why did he ask? He didn’t even know her name yet. Way to make friends, Chimo.

"Williamsburg," Emily echoes back, thoughtful. "That is a nice area. You guys get better blackout times than Elmhurst, don't you? Ours sucks, it's right when you'd normally be getting home and starting dinner." It's only after the words leave her mouth does she remember Elmhurst does not describe her current place of residence anymore. All she does is shake her head. It was just smalltalk anyway, right?

His question, and the implied 'so you're living with your…' that hangs around it causes her brow to furrow. "No," Emily replies carefully, "with my cousin. The nurse." Hence Elmhurst.

Lifting her head, she looks at the darkened windows ahead in the library, the knit of her brow deepening. "What's this?" she murmurs under her breath, pace slowing for a moment as she studies what she can see. There's a touch of confusion in her expression before her shoulders start to slump instead, a swear slipping out under her breath.

Emily walks until she can see the sign taped to the door that confirms it: closed for Good Friday.

Nodding to confirm Williamsburg, Joaquin shrugs lightly to the note of blackouts. “I hear they’re almost ready to flip the switch for full uninterrupted power though,” he says ever hopeful that the word of the streets are true. The smalltalk serves to cover up his gaffe, mouth forming the soft ‘oh’ as he turns his attention to their destination as she does. He’s prepared for their departure, reluctantly looking ahead.

He blinks in confusion too, but at her slumped shoulders and swearing. “What is it?” echoes Joaquin as his head tilts the same direction of his hair tips. Trailing after, he pulls up beside her as well and stares at the posted sign. Eyes widen, then narrow. “Well, fuck.”

So, about that swearing. But Joaquin doesn’t look around in paranoia about any incoming slippers for the foul language. “I forgot about the holiday hours.” He groans out as he looks down to the loaded basket of books, pondering what now, and then glances over at Emily. “You, uh, you got to go? Or you want to grab a bite somewhere near here? There’s a deli not too far, Philippe’s.”

At the supposition the end of the blackouts may finally be coming, Emily only tilts her head to the side with a skeptical enhhh escaping her. "They've been saying that since last year, and look where we still are," she points out first before looking off, an even more flat expression on her face. "Then again, there were assholes who asked for things like stable internet before infrastructure was even completed, so there's also that."

When he suggests they head elsewhere, her head swivels back, an eyebrow arching at him. "Or there's like," she starts strongly, gesturing vaguely with one hand, "hitting up somewhere else like the library, since it's closed here. There's plenty of cafes nearby we could crash and study at." God knows he has enough books to keep him busy without the library even being involved.

Emily tilts her head at him, other brow arching up with the first in a silent question. "I'm sure they have food around some of these places, too." Her shoulders pop up in a small shrug, resettling the weight of the backpack hanging off of her. There's a definite implicit either way, I'm heading to one.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” intones Joaquin with quiet patience and optimism. It’s utterly disgusting, perhaps, how much he’s willing to believe. Or that he has to believe it. “There is that. But where else will we find our cat videos? It’s a social addiction.” He shrugs as she puts in a secondary option of a cafe, nodding in the establishment of the other locale.

His hand reaches up, scrubs at the back of his head in a light scratch and drops back. Joaquin glances down to his books next, thoughts whirling in the mixed expression on his face. Finally he looks back up directly at Emily. “What I mean to ask is, do you want to study together? At the cafe. At the same table…” Rather than being merely coincidentally in the same place, same time, same activity.

The cat videos comment draws a spontaneous, actual laugh out of Emily. She lifts a hand halfway to her mouth in an attempt to cover it up, but it's over before she even gets that far, so she just lays her hand on her chest with a vaguely amused look. "God, isn't it, though?" she asks rhetorically. "The world might be going to shit, but at least I've got my fucking cat memes to keep me going."

Because things could be bad, but at least there was cheerful nihilism in case it got worse.

The levity earns him a slight reprieve in just how judgmental her gaze looks as she waits for him to get his request together. Then, her brow arches.

It's her turn to look a little awkward. After blinking twice, thinking about it, she relents with an ease of her expression. At first she says nothing, merely nods off in that direction. She shifts her gaze back to him, something having changed in it. Time spent adjacent to the quick-to-adopt Lighthouse Kids has made her more open with extending her trust, or at least her friendliness. "You have any questions about the city, any time, feel free to ask. We can swap numbers."

And then she's off, pace slowed to make sure she neither loses Joaquin nor indirectly causes him to drop his bike again.

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