Perception And Perspective


colette3_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title Perception and Perspective
Synopsis Colette's perception is outside of normal vision, Joseph's perspective comes from the wisdom of life. Together, they meet somewhere in the middel after the terrible tragedy on Staten Island.
Date August 26, 2009

Hotel California

An hour's walk into the lifeless waste of Midtown's still heart, an eviscerated office building rises dark from the desolation. Blackened steel struts jut from the exposed floor that doubles as a roof like snarled teeth. Rust and mold stain the vacant sockets of blown out windows in long tracks; what little glass that remains caked thick with choking ash.

At ground level, shattered concrete and gnarled rebar forbid passage through the hollow pit where doors once stood. Inside there is no electricity. During the day, anemic light shafts pale through empty windows and broken bricking, occasionally touching upon grey dust stirred free of the sweeping marble lobby. At night, flashlights are needed to navigate ruptured flooring and scattered debris. Vaulted halls track into inoperable elevators and claustrophobic stairwells further in, the latter made treacherous by damp sections of collapsed wall.

The building's skeletal structure creaks, grinds, and groans under its own weight at all hours, further strained by the wind that drags at the upper levels in steep gusts. For the first several stories, jammed doors, sagging floors and dry decay clogged thick into leaning hallways deter habitation, but somewhere around the twelfth floor, the clutter opens up into a sprawling office.

A dusty row of cubicles hunches blocky and grey across the far wall, affording some privacy to the folding cots stashed within. Decoration is otherwise sparse: limited to a rickety card table, a few wooden chairs and a portable propane stove arranged at the level's open center. Though the floor seems stable, it's littered with broken drywall and bits of ceiling that tend to skitter and tumble one way or the other when the weather picks up. Private offices off to one side keep a more expansive store of canned goods, water, guns and porn sheltered behind closed and padlocked doors.

Sunlight is starting to brush against the edges of the doming sky, dawn breaking and melting into proper morning. Between the cubicle walls, in fading darkness, there's the sound of a cot shifting. Someone coughs into their pillow. The building, all around them, sighs its decay in broad, metallic groans when the wind kicks up. Otherwise, it's silent ton the ears of the small smattering of refugees both brave and scared enough to stay within the accommodations of Hotel California. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Joseph is the first one awake.

Though sunlight is beginning to crest the horizon, an electric lamp dangles lit from his hand as he tries to quietly lock the doors on the storage, bearing goods. Some water bottles, a few cans of food, and he hadn't touched the guns. Or the porn, for that matter, in case anyone was wondering. Making creaking, apologetic footsteps back across twelfth floor, Joseph sets these things down on the rickety table, hanging up the lamp on a rusty hook sticking from the wooden door, and sits down.

He's sore, and tired, and not actually thinking that much. Hands clasping together and elbows on the table, he turns to look out through a gap in the wall, towards a view of the ruins slowly being made into detail with golden light. It's pretty, when it shouldn't be. Still wearing his clothes from the previous night, his faded, red plaid shirt hangs open to the pale grey T-shirt beneath, jeans scuffed with dirt, still, his boots smeared with the dusty debris that comes with this particular building.

With hardly anyone awake, every single sound of motion and activity in the building seems magnified tenfold. If it weren't for the atmospheric creak and protesting groan of the ruined building, it might be that pin dropping in deafening silence effect. But instead, the shuffle of worn out boots and the dry cough of someone not used to these living conditions serves just as a warning to Joseph that one of the refugees is awake.

But what comes out of a crooked doorway beneath dangling ceiling tiles and exposed lighting wires isn't one of the more unfamiliar refugees the Ferrymen were hiding, but a much more familiar teenage girl looking down at the glow of a cell phone. Colette's looked better, and it shows in her face. Puffiness around her reddened eyes matched with faint dark circles. Her clothing's collected a fair deal of dust and grime from the journey back, but she's shed the tattered longcoat she was wearing just the other day.

Closing her phone, her brows knit together and the look on her face says trouble, internal trouble at least. When she finally looks up to catch a glance at her surroundings, it's Joseph her milky white eyes settle on. She's blind, this much he's already known, but she carries herself like someone who can see. Walking across the floor towards the table he's at, Colette's dark lashes partially hide those ghostly eyes, "Morning…" she squeaks out, one hand coming up to scratch at her ear, the other clutching her phone as if it were a much needed gun.

Joseph is pushing himself on to his feet at the sounds of someone approaching, but it takes him several seconds to register Colette. Never mind that he'd witnessed what she'd done in the courtyard, had tried to comfort on the truck ride to the docks, had helped lead both her and the rest of the flock— as it were— up through the skeletal ruin of this particular safehouse. No, he knows and expects her - but she does look a fright.

He's not much better, but she's blind, so. "Mornin'," he responds, after that initial look up and down, an uncertain smile that he's not sure matters to her. He never has asked about her eyes, really, as if perhaps it would be rude. "Did you sleep okay? You can siddown, there's another chair."

"I couldn't," is the immediate answer Colette mumbles out on her way over to the table, eyes downcast towards the floor as she pulls out one of the folding chairs at the table with a stuttering scuff of its rubber-pegged feet on the dirty linoleum floor. When she sits, the chair creaks even with her tiny weight set into it, and the girl just folds up, elbows on the table, forehead down between them and hands folding over the back of her head.

Breathing out a sigh, she runs her fingers thorugh her hair, unable to press down the tufted parts from laying on one side for too long. Her eyes settle on Joseph as her head lifts, brows creased in a way that would leave wrinkles if she weren't so young. "Sorry I— I thought I'd be okay but. It— it took a while for everything t'hit me." Swallowing tensely, her grubby palms scrub over her face, eventually coming to rest with fingers in her hairline, forehead resting on the heels of her palms.

The phone she left on the table vibrates twice, the front glass plate flashing, and all she can do is watch it as it scuttles across the table's surface and comes to an abrupt stop. Her eyes close, unwantingly, and there's a weak sound of worry rumbling in the back of her throat. "I shouldn't have come." She doesn't mean it, it's lack of sleep and emotional instability talking. Two bad combinations.

Settled back down as well, Joseph reaches past the stacked cans of processed, oversalted food to touch her arm. "You know you won't be feelin' that way when you're back to your old self again." His voice is quiet, out of respect for those still sleeping off the evening, but also to give an impression of reassurance. Unsure, totally, of how much it's going to work - young women seem to be made up of emotional parts that create an indecipherable piece of clockwork to him. Not to mention, sleep was optional, last night. As if expecting to hear the foot steps of Humanis First somehow scaling through the building.

"I figure you'll just be wishing you couldn't get there any faster," Joseph adds. "As for here— "

He glances away, black-brown eyes taking in the torn up interior and the view beyond. He'd never gone this far into Midtown before knowing about this place. "It's a fixer-upper. Pretty sure all of us'll be glad to get out when we're about ready."

There's a quick jerk of Colette's arm when Joseph's hand comes down on the dark fabric of her hoodie's sleeve, but she stops herself halfway through. The young girl's lips press together, eyes close and she tries to push out al that stress in a deep, heavy sigh. "My dad…" there's a nod towards the phone, her eyes opening as she looks over to Joseph, worried. "I— I never called him last night. I lied to him about where I was going he— he's been texting me all morning and— I just— " she swallows tensely again, teeth tugging at her lower lip. "I don't even know what to tell him. He— I always— it's like he wants to lock me in this tiny closet and— and never let me out so I can't get hurt, I just— " her brows knit together and Colette hunches forward towards the table again.

Exhaling a ragged breath, it's more teary eyes than anything that look up to Joseph, begging for an answer. "I don't— I don't know what to do, I don't know how to… how to explain what it is I'm doing. I— I tried to explain it but— I mean, he knows but— he doesn't trust me. I can take care of myself," says the teenage girl sitting in a bombed out building about to cry her eyes out. Maybe it's the irony of that which has her choking out a ragged laugh, dabbing at her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater.

Ahh, parents. Joseph spares a glance towards the phone and manages to keep any wincing off his face, whether she could see it or not, even when milky white eyes seem to focus on him. No more patpats or warm palmed grips of reassurance, Joseph simply links his fingers together, rests his arms on the table and lets out a sigh, perhaps for her sake.

"You'll probably guess what'm gonna say," he says, rueful amusement in his voice, if dulled out of sympathy. "But I think you should tell your dad what's going on. It ain't easy, but— dunno. Parents have a way of surprisin' you, and in the end, secrets… they're like a sore that you let go untreated, and they can only get worse." He rests his chin in a hand, studying the table. "And if you can take care've yourself, he'll see that too.

"Do you— " And now he hesitates, uncertainty sliding that brief pause between his words, eyebrows rising. "Do you want me to— help or, talk to 'im or anythin' like that? I'd write you a note, but…" Not on the back of a Play Boy magazine.

There's a faint smile offered at Joseph's offer for help. "He's a cop… and… I can't remember if I already told you yet." She sits up a little straighter, shoulders still slacked, looking down at the dirt trapped beneath her nails. "I'm worried he'd just lock you up after knocking your teeth out for saying anything, he's— kind've a big guy." Colette paints such a favorable image of Judah, perhaps it's no small wonder his ringtone is Night on Bald Mountain.

"I tried to talk to him once, I asked him what he thought about us— " us "about the uh— Ferrymen?" She doesn't need to lower her voice when she says that, but she does anyway, conspiratorially. "He didn't… object. But I mean, there was some awkwardness and he just— he made me swear to come home at nine, and call him, and— I didn't. I was over at Cat's place," she just assume Joseph knows Cat, because obviously everyone in the Ferrymen knows each other. "I got a text message saying— well— that Allen guy asked me if I could help, and I just…" She's rambling now. "I wasn't really ready.

Shoulders hike up beneath cotton and plaid, rolling forward, stiff muscles twinging as if in reminder. He has an assortment of interesting bruises decorating up his back, starbusting out from where the bullet had tried to hit; deep purples with black running through it - at least what he could make of it in the grimy mirror, peering over his shoulder. "Me neither," Joseph says, gaze dropping again. "But you know. I'm not sure— things like this waits 'til people like us are ready. We helped, last night. You— "

He gives a dry sounding chuckle, getting back to his feet so as to switch off the electric lamp, now that sun is starting to shine brighter through the gappy walls. It throws the room into a fuzzy, pale kind of grey shadow-filled haze, but visible. "You scared the heck outta me, when I heard your voice. I thought, 'what on earth did I get this girl into?' But you got people to safety an' that's all anyone can ask've you."

The electric lamp is placed back down on the table, Joseph absently sorting through the cans of food, more out of fidgeting than necessity. "Havin' second thoughts? I wouldn't blame you."

"I am." It's hard to admit when you're wrong, its even harder to admit that you're scared, but somehow Joseph's warm personality makes both come easier for Colette. "I thought I was ready to just— do whatever I had to do, make a difference with the ability I have. But I just— " she winces uncomfortably, "I shouldn't have to see the things I did. I was somewhere else, I— I haven't told anyone else about this…" She looks over her shoulder, then to Joseph, brows raised in a look of worry that is frought with emotion.

"Back— back in July, there was that big place in Jersey that exploded? I— I was there. There were people, I don't know if they're these people or— or different, but they know Cat. I got asked to help them sneak into the building, and— and it was just not what I expected. I got hurt," she reaches up and unzips the front of her hoodie, rolling one shoulder off to reveal the ash gray tanktop beneath. The shoulder bared has a deep, nasty scar across the top, but perfectly straight.

As Colette re-shoulders her sweatshirt, she doesn't bother to zip it back up. "The— the people there it— it was a lot like today— " she winces, "yesterday." Time's something like an accordion when you don't sleep, yesterday and today blend together. She has to wonder if maybe that's what it's like for Tamara. She'd be wrong.

"I think… I got in to too much stuff too fast. I want to go back to school, get my GED, I want to get into the police academy and— I want to try and make something real for myself. I don't want to— to— " she waves her hand at one of the cans on the table. "I don't want to eat cold beans out of a tin can because I'm hiding from terrorists all my life. I— " she can't even really believe she just said that. "I want to help people, but— I don't know if this is right."

There's some silence that stretches between them for a moment, then gentle, muffled thunk of the can's bottoms punctuating it as Joseph thinks her words over, carefully. She deserves that much - to be listened to and responded to with thought, as he rolls a can of tinned food in his palm as does just that, but somehow what he comes up with first is—

"Well we can warm the beans. There's a portable stove and everythin'."

Obviously having slept slightly better than the girl across from him, as he goes to sit down, Joseph hasn't quite come to the conclusion of is this right for me? yet. Currently he's stuck at is and is dealing with the is, which includes the scattered mind of a confused teenager.

"When we first got talkin', I remember you were— tellin' me you wanted to make a difference. That you didn't want to just go on volunteer charity drives 'cause it didn't feel like it was the real deal. Unfortunately, this is kinda it— I mean. There are nicer places, but, you know what I mean. And options. Police academy sounds like an admirable thing to me. It ain't exactly what I can do to help - but you're right. You're young, you should be thinking about this stuff."

He smiles across at her in the wan light, again resting his chin in his palm, scratching his nails against skin that could do with a razor gone over it. "Tell your dad what happened. He's gonna be angry. But he's gonna stop being angry, too, and help you figure this out - and you'll be feelin' better, too. Person'ly, I want to be home and in bed and I got service to do tonight." Which he hadn't thought about since last night until right now, and manages not to groan, just rubs a closed eye with his fingertips.

Truth is like a release, even when it's truth spoken by someone else. Joseph's spouting off a great deal of truths, ones that hit Colette right where they're intended to. He's got good practice at speaking, saying the right words and doing the right things in order to sway a mind. It's Colette's reluctant smile that is his reward for victory, the way her eyes seem to soften some when she looks up with that vacantly focused stare to him.

"You're right." It takes her that long to admit it, reluctantly at that. "I— I'll talk to him, when I finally get home." The notion of actually getting out of this creaking deathtrap of a building becomes more and more attractive as time goes on. "Joseph…" Colette looks up with a pensive expression, teeth tugging at her lower lip. "If— if you had to make a choice, between doing the right thing, and doing right by yourself, which— which would you choose?" Her question assumes that they're mutually exclusive ideals, but while worded simply, it's a difficult question; would he do the right thing even if doing it meant compromising his beliefs.

Kids ask the hardest questions.

It is difficult, and so again, there's that same careful consideration. From somewhere towards the cubicle walls, there's the sound of distant whispering, a murmur of conversation not unlike this one. Slowly, the two Ferrymen operatives are being joined in the waking world, though no one is emerging right away. "I try to choose the first one. Doing the right thing," Joseph says. "I know what can happen if you only do right by yourself. And anyway, that's what my faith tells me to do too."

Which is the comfortable fallback he can rely on, when he's found that he has to lie, for example, has to make such judgment calls. "If you can find a workable in between, though— more power to you. It ain't too hard, I don't think, just takes some practice."

Weakening from the comfortable wisdom in the soft southern tones of Joseph's voice, Colette manages to form a smile less hesitant than before. Maybe it's the answer she was looking for, maybe it's more that it was a surprise to hear something so honest out of the pastor's mouth, but it got a reaction that brightens up the room; literally.

As more people start to wake up, Colette does her best to try and help them. The sunlight only does so much through these ash choked windows, so with a little effort Colette brings the sunlight to the room in a different way, bending and amplifying the light on the interior to a warm orange glow, like a summer sunrise should look. Sure, when you shine a light on something dirty, all its faults stand out, but sometimes the warmth of the sun is more needed than hiding the problems in the dark.

"Joseph," Colette says with that smile still wide across her lips. "Thank you." Rising up from her seat and moving over to Joseph, Colette rests a hand on his shoulder, leans in and presses a kiss to his cheek before leaning back, brows creased and an embarassed smile on her face. "Hey ah— I might bring my dad over to meet you some time. Would— would you be okay with that?" From the perspective of someone who doesn't know Colette well enough to understand her proclivities, that coupled with a friendly peck on the cheek might be entirely misconstrued. Really, Joseph has enough problems.

Luckily, the only person around to misconstrue it is Joseph himself, who knows better and would need a map in order to make that mental journey - if not with any knowledge as to proclivities. Distracted mostly by the slow warm glow beating back the ashy grey light, unmasking the faults in the building as well as showing them perhaps to be not as bad as one's imagination would assume, it takes him a second to register the kiss to the cheek, which gets a shy flutter of a smile, and then he raises an eyebrow at this question.

Her dad? The one who— might punch him before he gets him arrested, depending? Oh okay. Of course what he says is an assuring, "Absolutely I would. You know where to find me when'm not— " He tilts his head to indicate level twelve of the gutted, ironically named office building, and whatever other miscellaneous Ferryplace he might find himself in.

He feels it's okay to touch and squeeze her arm again, just above the elbow. "You should consider gettin' some shut eye, or die tryin'. We'll take off out've here before noon, but it's early still."

This time she doesn't recoil, and perhaps like a stray cat that's become too used to being around people, Colette is slowly warming up once more to the idea of human contact after so long of cutting herself off from it. Sheepish in her smile, the young girl rests a hand atop Joseph's, then slowly slides away just as people are starting to move around the lit building. "I— I think I might actually be able to now." Her smile doesn't falter when she says that, this time it's perfectly honest.

"Thanks for— you know— " she wrinkles her nose and furrows her brows. "Tamara was right about you," Colette adds a bit cloudily, that smile turning into more of a smirk, "you're really alright." And the creak and groan of the building doesn't sound so bad anymore, the dusty faces of displaced refugees not quite so hopeless. It's all about a matter of perception and perspective, and for Colette — Joseph has given her a brighter perspective than she could've hoped for.

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