Pride Vs. Common Sense


jase_icon.gif faith_icon.gif

Scene Title Pride Vs. Common Sense
Synopsis Faith decides to capture the gritty reality of Staten Island on film, and ends up with Jase as a reluctant tour guide.
Date June 7, 2009

Staten Island

A Walking Tour…

Midday and the semi-abandoned environs of the edge of Staten Island have their own kind of severe and overgrown beauty, if one is inclined to be artistic. Which few of the locals are. Jase isn't exactly a local but he's not there for the scenic vistas, either. Leaning against a wall, comfortably shadowed from the bright sun and wearing jeans and t-shirt under a flannel and work boots that are conspicuously clean compared to most. His brown eyes scan the area, patient and a little narrowed, rather like a predator waiting for prey by the watering hole. Which isn't that far off, really.

Faith took up the Chicago Air pilot's offer of free transportation to and from Staten, and has decided to spend her Sunday shooting the grim reality that is now Staten Island. She's dressed casually enough, in jeans, tennis shoes, and a t-shirt, but the clothes are too new, too clean, and too style-conscious for her to look like she belongs there. That and the camera in her hands — she does apparently have some common sense, and left her digital SLR at home; instead she carries more old-school gear — an old Pentax SLR that looks like it's seen better days. She's actually shooting film, as well.

As she comes around the corner, an old church that's been graffitied over gets her attention. She pauses to put a filter of some sort over her lens, before snapping a few pictures, changing the settings for different effects.

Jase's eyebrows arch as he sees the obvious 'tourist' and his lips quirk up in a faint, predatory grin. He pushes off from the wall and ambles towards Faith, casually. Fit, clean, clean-cut and with a certain subconscious assumption of dominion in his posture and gait, he could pass for another visitor to the island, perhaps. He stops a polite distance away and says in an affable tone, "The really spectacular stuff is deeper in. But it's probably not a good idea for those of us who don't live here."

Faith turns her head, looking over her shoulder to the boy behind her. "Oh?" she says, her green eyes lighting up at the chance for a better photo opportunity. She keeps one hand on her camera, and clutched in the other palm is a key chain with a small can of mace. She's not quite as trusting as she looks. Still, she doesn't seem ready to use it, but rather more ready to trust the handsome boy watching her. She faces him and tilts her head, a strand of wavy blond hair falling into her eyes. "It's probably not a good idea for me to be here at all, but no photographer ever became great by taking pictures of tulips and kittens, did they?"

Jase smiles faintly and shakes his head, "I don't know about that. The chick who was always dressing up babies as flowers did alright." A momentary pause and then a thoughtful, "At least I saw her pictures in a lot of people's bathrooms." He doesn't attempt to close the distance to Faith but seems reasonably happy to converse from a nice, safe, polite vantage. "But yea. Real urban decay stuff in there." He nods towards the interior of the island. "But rough-like. Some, um, sketchy dudes back in there." Another pause and then, "So you work for a magazine or something?"

"Anne Geddes. Yeah, I guess, if you like that sort of thing. I don't really intend to have my work hanging in people's bathrooms. Maybe the MOMA, though," Faith says with a wrinkle of her nose to the thought of being so commercial. She is an artist, after all! "The guys who run the soup trucks and stuff, they know I'm here.. I'm supposed to call them if I get in any trouble," she adds. "And kind of. Right now I'm working for the Daily News, but I'm not sure if there's a place there for this stuff. I think I might try to publish it somewhere else."

Jase chuckles and his voice takes a more cynical turn as he quips, "Assuming your stuff doesn't end up glowing in the dark. Or the tourists looking at it." He shakes his head. "And yea, those guys. Seen them a couple of times. Bread in one and and a piece in the other. That's, ah, what's the word?…." He shrugs. "Anyway, that's cool. There's some stuff here worth seeing." His eyebrows raise, as though he's just gotten an idea and then he shakes his head. "But, um, maybe not the kind of stuff you should /be/ seeing, you know?"

"What do you mean, what I should be seeing?" she asks, her brows furrowing a bit. "I want to see the reality of this place, not hide it." She lifts her brows and tilts her head. "You could be like my guide…" she says suddenly, an epiphany popping into her own crafty head. "If you show me around and keep me safe and all — I'll pay you at the end of it. I don't have cash on me here, it's being kept safe over with the pilots. But I'll pay you if I get good shots and you keep me from getting murdered." Her lips curve into a bit of a half smirk. "Obviously, if I get murdered, you don't get paid. How much would that be worth to you?"

Jase ponders that one for a moment, gears locking up momentarily, apparently. "Hh." He gives Faith a closer look and says, "I'm not kidding when I say it can get rough in there. Like crazy, Blade Runner, Mad Max crazy. If you said something wrong to the wrong guy…." He shrugs. "But, um, yea. Call it fifty bucks and we've got a deal." The affability fades from his expression like frost on a widow pane as the sun rises as he adds, "And screwing me over would be a bad plan. You dig? Bad."

"I would never do that," Faith says, her brows knitting and her full lip pouting out just a touch. "What kind of person do you think I am? I wouldn't offer it and then renege." She tosses her hair. "I'll try not to say anything to anyone. I just want some pictures. And tell me if it's not safe to take them in a particular area, and I'll be good, I promise." She grins a little. "For the record, I was willing to pay you double that… if you do a good job, I'll throw in the other fifty as a bonus."

She steps a little closer, and offers her hand. "My name's Faith."

Jase grins faintly and his expression is slightly disbelieving. "Yea, ok. You're the last honest person in the city. But whatever." He looks at the outstretched hand a moment and then takes it with his own. His grip is firm, but he's obviously not putting any strength into it, as though shaking hands with a girl is weird and unnatural. He lets go and says, "Jase." A pause and then, "Alright, if you want, follow me. But, um, if I tell you to put away the camera, just do it. And if somebody starts a fight, just run. Nothing you can do to help, anyway."

"I didn't say I was totally honest," Faith admits with a bit of a grin. "But I wouldn't offer money to someone and then not give it to them, after they did the job. That's not just dishonest. That's rude." Apparently being rude is a worse sin than cheating someone in her mind. "And got it. You're the boss. Except that I'm paying you." She stretches out a hand with a bit of a flourish. "After you."

Jase rolls his eyes at that chipper attitude. "I've got a bad feeling about this." He straightens up and almost visibly assumes his 'don't screw with me' attitude. Chin lifted, eyes slightly narrowed, scowl and chest pushed out a bit. It practically shouts that he's looking for an excuse to hit somebody. At odds with that is the murmured, "Try to look like you might be psycho and have a chainsaw in your bag." With that he starts off, leading the way off the edges of the island and towards the core.

"Oh, I can be psycho," she intones, and there's a mischievous glint in her eyes that might just make him believe her, despite the all-American girl-next-door look she has going for her. She follows him as he leads, snapping pictures here and there. "So you from here originally, or did you move to the island after the bomb, or what?" she asks casually, her voice quiet so as not to disturb anyone who might be hiding in a shadow sleeping off a night of boozing or worse.

Jase doesn't look towards Faith, rather spending his time scanning for trouble as they walk the streets of this notorious district. He says, distractedly, "What? You haven't seen the telethons? Dead family, dead end, dead life. So sad. Send money." His tone on that is casually cynical, perhaps disproportionately so for his age. "You know what the bomb did? Really? Other than kill a whole lot of people? It took the masks off. We're all what we were before. Just honest about it now." He gestures towards the brothels and drug dens, the wasted and withered forms huddled in the corners and alleyways. "That's what's real. The world outside just hides it better."

Faith opens her mouth as if to speak, then closes it again. She snaps a picture of a man asleep in a puddle, one hand down his pants and the other wrapped around a bottle of whiskey. "That's actually very astute… and poetic," she says quietly, glancing up at him. "I'm sorry, though, for your family and everything. Really." She focuses her camera on what was once an elementary school but is now a gambling house, the words "casino" haphazardly spraypainted over the school's marquee. "But you were just a kid, before the bomb, right? You don't know what you might have been…"

Jase snorts, "Yea, I'm a street poet. I'm just one who thinks a hundred bucks for showing you around is more than I'd get from stealing your bag and hocking it over there." He gestures towards the pawn shop. His expression is guarded. "And we're all sorry. But … yea. No. There was no 'might of have been'. We're all going to be what we're going to be." He shuts up, scowling and looks sideways at Faith. "Focus on the pictures. I'm not a story."

"Personally I don't believe in predestination," Faith says as she takes a photo of a passed-out man sleeping in a puddle of God knows what, one hand down his pants and the other wrapped around a bottle of gin. "I do believe in self-fulfilling prophecies. You could be something other than this, if you choose to." Somehow it's not preachy, just matter-of-fact. "And you're right. The gear isn't really worth that these days, and I doubt anyone on Staten has a need for it, when they're more worried about getting a meal or maybe a blowjob."

Jase shrugs, "Good for you. Where do you live again?" He gives somebody who wanders a little too close for his comfort a full-on glare and takes a step towards the man, who is nearly skeletal and obviously ravaged by whatever his addiction might be. When the other man fades back away from Faith he grunts and continues, "Glad to know you figured out my life just that quick. Must be some kind of artistic instinct or something. Freakin' amazing." His voice is very dry on that one.

Faith turns to glance back over her shoulder at the man, then nods her thanks to Jase for doing his work as her bodyguard of sorts for the day. "I live in the Bronx. I'm not rich or anything, before you think I've got it made, all right?" she says, a bit dryly back. "And it's not artistic instinct. It's just true. Is there any reason, aside from money, keeping you from going somewhere else?"

Jase gives Faith a flatly unfriendly look. "Did I say my personal business is part of the deal? Because I don't remember saying that." He continues to walk with her, that aggressive posture he feigned earlier now real and while it isn't particularly daunting to the hard core crowd, the junkies, beggars and assorted lowlives who aren't ready for a fight are starting to steer clear. "So, you're from the Brox and you take pictures for people to sigh and moan at from the comfort of their kitchen tables. That must be nice. Makes a person wise. You and Pope. Except he has better dresses."

"It was just a question," Faith points out, snapping a picture of some prostitutes hanging out of a window chatting up some of the addicts and drunks below. She's quick with that one, the picture taken and her camera pointing in a different direction before the women or the men notice. "It's not like it's that easy and it's not like I want people to ooh and ahh over them. I want them to tell the real story. If I just wanted pretty pictures, would I be here?" she says pointedly.

Jase shrugs and says, "Some people get off on other people's misery. A little thrill. 'Oh, I'm so lucky that's not me.' Things like that." He looks sideways at Faith again. "You never been to a wake? All those people with hushed voices and covered dishes and oh so kind words? But when they think you can't hear them or see them watching, it's all, 'Oh, look at this house! How will they ever keep it together?' and 'Don't you think he should be crying more?' and 'Well, thank god it wasn't us.' That's humans. That's what we want. We want the real. Just at a nice, safe distance."

"Maybe. But some people don't know what's out in the world, and when they see the pictures… well, maybe they decide they care. Maybe they'll help out. Donate to the soup kitchen. Help those guys bring trade back, that kind of thing. Is that so bad?" she says, snapping another few pictures. She turns to glance at him, pulling the camera away from her face to watch him for a moment.

Jase's expression is entirely cynical. "Yea. And Santa will give me a train this Christmas." He shakes his head and says, "This is Bartertown because the government wants it that way." He pointedly looks back the way they came. "Sun's getting lower. Time for the tourists to get back on their planes and get away before the bad men come out to play." He smirks, "And hey, if your pictures inspire somebody to come over here and help, great. Tell them to bring their wallets and purses. And jewelry."

"They'd bring money. Money begets money." She glances at him with some irritation. "Fine. You need to come with me to the park so I can pay you. You do take checks, right?" She pauses a moment, to let him think she is serious, before adding, "I'm kidding. I have cash." She gestures with her camera. "I can take a photo of you, if you like… I won't use it for anything, I won't put in the paper or on display, but I can send it to you, if you give me an address. I take good portraits, and the light's nice… all golden on your red hair." She's not above noticing the aesthetic qualities of her tour guide.

Jase starts to frown at the 'check question' and then snorts as he realizes Faith is having him on. He shakes his head. "No address. No pictures. And the hair isn't that big a deal in my family." He shrugs, "Six generations New York Irish." He starts herding Faith back out of the Rookery, trying to hide his own relief that they seem to have made it without incident. He glances sideways at Faith after a few moments of walking and says, "You've got a good heart. Which is why you shouldn't come back over here, alone. Trust me. This isn't your world." His tone is flat, brusque even, with the 'tough guy New Yorker' cadences that transcend accent and head full on into 'attitude'. But his expression isn't as stoic and guarded as he probably thinks it is and there is a hint of genuine emotion there. Concern, guilt, something else perhaps.

"I'm Irish too, but we skipped the red hair, my sister and me," she says with a chuckle. "My dad's a redhead though. Last name's Kelly," she says, noticing his nervousness, which finally rubs off on her. As they make their way out of the infamous neighborhood and toward the park where Chicago Air hands out soup, she relaxes a bit. "Well. I probably got everything I need for now. I'll only come out if there's a story, something I need to cover."

Once at the park, she gestures to one of the trucks. "Free soup if you want it." She goes to one of the drivers, who retrieves her bag for her. She reaches in and pulls out a few bills, then returns to Jase. "Here. And here's my card, if you ever need press. I know that's not likely, but you know. In case." The money turns out to be $125.

Jase walks with Faith and in return to her last name, reflexively says, "Hayes." He winces faintly and scowls at himself after doing so and there are long minutes that go by before he talks again, when they reach the trucks. "No, I fed myself today. Or I will with this." He takes the cash, counting it and his eyebrows go up at the tip. He frowns, pride obviously warring with common sense and then common sense wins. He shrugs and sticks it in his jeans pocket, along with the card. "Hey, if I need the press, it will probably be because some cops beat the crap out of me. And that isn't newsworthy these days." He takes a step back. "Nice meeting you. Good luck with that whole photographer thing." He seems statutorily incapable of making that sound less than sarcastic, but his expression is neutral. And with that he turns and heads back out and away from the more civilized world to someplace he feels more comfortable.

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