A Vantage Point of Asses, chapter 2
Sort of… I must say I’m liking it quite a bit:
Jenna is pretty grateful when the day finally qualifies as over and she gets to pack up her things and go home. She hits shut down on her computer without bothering to close and save all her open files and programs so she has to force quit the bunch first. Most people think that’s crazy, but it’s actually faster than clicking every individual X.
She wheels herself to the elevator and pushes the button. The thing takes forever to get down from the 5th floor, even though she’s only on the 2nd. Jenna is pretty much the expert on elevators and if she wanted – she doesn’t – she could probably write a book about them. There are so many different kinds of elevators: slow ones, really quiet and fast ones, ones you really don’t want to be in because you can feel the elevator swinging from side to side a little… and they’re all made by a man named Otis. At least, almost all of them are. This one is just slow, though.
When the elevator finally does get there, Jenna wheels herself in and pushes the ground floor button. It lights up. She checks herself in the mirror for a second. Yup, ok, she looks like hell. She’s not normally this appalling, honestly, apart from the over obvious defect to her bottom half, she’s actually quite ok with her looks on any other day. Her hair is nice and dark and her eyes are sort of green, but not the bright kind, just really light. Like they aren’t sure if they want to be blue or green or grey. Jenna likes to think it makes her interesting. Today is not her best day though, because she looks sleep deprived and a little pale.
Not wanting to remind herself of the reason why, she parks her chair facing away from the mirror and rubs her temples. She doesn’t deal too well with stress and can hardly even escape a headache. The elevator doors slide slowly to a close but at the last possible second, Justin Daley slips in. Great.
Justin is Junior Project Manager and he’s nice to most people, most of the time. He’s just a little too nice and Jenna doesn’t trust him to be genuine. He’s a little too curious. The doors close with the dullest of thuds.
"Hi, Jen," Justin chirps as he perches herself beside her, leaning on the railing.
"Hi," Jenna replies a little reluctantly because she hates being called Jen and she doesn’t really want to talk.
"Tough day, huh?" Justin asks, too sympathetic.
"Is it that obvious?" Jenna replies, because that’s the thing they always say in movies and she doesn’t feel like giving Justin the satisfaction of getting something real for an answer.
Justin smiles a little. “You shouldn’t let it get to you, okay? He didn’t fire you. He was just saying -“
"What? How do you know what he said to me?" Jenna interrupts him, snapping her head up to look up at him.
"I – I just know that we’re having a bit of a hard time financially and –"
"And you just assumed that I would be the first to go because I’m slower than everyone else."
Justin squirms. “Jen, come on.”
"He can’t fire me because of my disability. It’s against the law. He has no fucking idea how tiring it is to -"
"I’m not saying he will," Justin continues, "I’m just saying, e-mail him after hours sometime, work related. Just communicate as much as you can. It just shows that you’re a keeper."
Likes she wants to take advice from Justin. The guy who doesn’t know he’s being used by the Senior Project Manager like all the freaking time. Basically, the Senior Project Manager – Harry – is the kind of man who likes to delegate, and he delegates his entire job to someone else – Justin – but still takes all the credit for it. Justin doesn’t see it, so he can’t be all that smart. Justin is also a really big suck up, so Jenna knows that behind every nice thing he says, there’s a motive for personal gain that’s less than honourable. But she has to make an effort.
"Thanks," she manages to smile. The elevator stops, a little rougher than usual, but Jenna doesn’t think much of it until the doors don’t actually open. The display above the doors says 0, like it should. Jenna prods the open door button, which (surprise!) does nothing. The ground floor button is equally ineffective.
"I think we’re stuck," Justin says as he tries some of the other buttons, but none of them appear to work.
Jenna groans. Just remember it’s Friday.
"Don’t worry, I’ll call the elevator fixer uppers," Justin says taking the emergency phone from its hook and dialling the number it says right next to it. It’s clearly not been used in a long time, if at all. Jenna certainly can’t remember any such incident since she started working here three years ago. Today, of all days, this has to happen? Maybe it’s a sign. A sign to do something different.
Justin talks to someone on the phone, but Jenna’s not really listening to his conversation, she’s too busy thinking about quitting. At least that way, she’ll get to keep her sense of dignity. Except it will have a huge financial impact and she really literally can’t afford to be out of a job for longer than a month or two. And it’s not exactly the easiest time to find another job. Jobs are a luxury, more so for people with a disability. It’s not how it should be, but it is the way it is.
By the time Justin is done talking and hangs up the phone, Jenna’s done thinking about quitting because it’s really not an option.
"They said they’d be here in 20 minutes," Justin informs her and she has to try her hardest not to seem overly annoyed. Except of course, she is.
"I’ve been in this elevator every single day since I started working here and nothing has ever happened!" she exclaims, "Am I cursed today or something?"
"I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. Jen… I was wondering if you’d like to go for coffee or something sometime. Or dinner. Or lunch." Justin asks really quickly and Jenna looks up and stares at him.
Ok, so she’s been complaining a lot about being alone, but she doesn’t even like Justin. Even just the idea of going on a date with him makes her feel uncomfortable. Quick, think. Find a way out. A way out, Jenna’s having a mild panic attack. “I’m allergic to coffee!” she blurts.
Justin frowns, because everyone knows that Jenna doesn’t really function without it. Jenna knows that he knows it too, because she looks evasive.
"Lunch or dinner then?" Justin still tries.
Jenna sighs, avoiding his face for another second before realising that she can’t talk her way out of this one. “Look, Justin, I uhm, I don’t really think we’re all that compatible.”
"Are you sure? I mean we could try."
"I just really don’t like you."
That shuts Justin up for a moment. He doesn’t look disappointed, but rather a bit incredulous, like he can’t possibly see how that could be. “Jen, I don’t mean to be harsh, but uhm, shouldn’t you, you know, take whatever you can get?”
Whatever redeeming quality Jenna has been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on, he’s now lost that. “My name’s JENNA. And you’re an ass!”
They glare at each other for a second or two and it’s pretty clear that whatever intention Justin had to go out with Jenna has now vanished. Honesty is the best policy, so it seems. The rest of the time spent in the elevator is spent in the most awkward silence, looking anywhere but at each other. Justin busies himself with his Blackberry and Jenna takes out her iPhone that, almost ironically, starts playing Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand. Jenna’s playlists are always a perfect mockery of her life.
By the time the elevator repair guys come and get them out, it’s dark outside and Jenna has missed her regular bus home. She thanks them, even if it did take them 40 minutes longer than promised to show up. She doesn’t say anything to Justin though, he can suck it.
Instead of going to the bus stop, she goes in the opposite direction. When she has to stop at a traffic light, she pulls out her phone and sends a text message.
Hey, you home? Need a friend. Nearly got fired and then got stuck in an elevator with this awful guy from work. Meh.
Lemon is Jenna’s best friend. Her name is not actually Lemon, but something much worse: Lemoncella. Her parents are crazy. Jenna met Lemon is college and they’ve been best friends ever since. They don’t see each other all that often though, because they’re both kind of busy with work. Lemon works for their local newspaper, as a journalist. As ambitious as she is, she always gets the best stories, but only because she gets up at five every morning.
Jenna’s phone chirps when she is already halfway between her office and Lemon’s apartment building. Jenna veers off slightly to the right of the sidewalk so she won’t be in anybody’s way and slows down to check the incoming message on her phone.
Argh. Roomies are in, but we can camp out in my room. Have you eaten? Will steal food from obnoxious roomies.
Jenna smiles a little bit at her phone, and replies.
Starving. Be right there.
Jenna slips her phone back into her bag and makes it the rest of the over to Lemon’s six-story apartment building. Lemon is already standing in the doorway with a pout on her face by the time Jenna rounds the corner into her street.
“’I’m sorry, Jellybean,” she says as soon as she figures Jenna is within earshot. The nickname, of course, is to even out the ridiculousness of a name such as Lemon.
Jenna returns a pout. “ Meh.”
Moving to the side a little while still holding the door open, Lemon lets Jenna into the building that does have an elevator, just no automatic doors. It’s so nineties. The door falls shut behind them and Lemon presses the button for the elevator. “I snagged take out from the crazy roomies. We can sit in my room and you can tell me what the hell is going on.”
As rickety as the old elevator in this building is, it’s a hell of a lot faster than the contraption in Jenna’s building and it gets them to the sixth floor in no time.
Lemon’s housemates are all girls, and they’re all still in college. They barely even notice Lemon or Jenna when they enter, because they’re too busy screeching with laughter about what Jenna can only guess is one of the girls’ boyfriends’ erection.
Lemon rolls her eyes and crosses the room, Jenna right behind her. Lemon’s room is all the way in the back of the huge apartment. It’s actually a pretty good deal, but the only real reason Lemon stays here is because it’s super cheap and she’s barely ever there anyway. If she had been, she would have gone sheer crazy with the five perky college girls and their loud boyfriends who never clean up after themselves. But as it is, it works out perfectly fine.
The room is a mess. Or as she would put it, ‘It’s not a mess, there is just a lot of stuff in the room’. Pieces of paper and magazine clippings are everywhere. Stacks of old newspapers make up most of her bookcase and her bin looks like it’s exploded. Lemon switches on her desk lamp, sending more sheets of paper fluttering to the floor. It’s not a particularly big room, but Jenna finds a place to park her chair next to the bed without rolling over any of the papers. “Deadline?” she asks, pulling herself out of the chair and over to the bed.
“Yeah,” Lemon replies, frowning.
“You should’ve said…” Jenna says, but Lemon shakes her head as she sits down beside her friend.
“I’ll finish. Tell me what happened.”
Jenna sighs, suddenly reluctant to recall the details of her day. Lemon grabs two cartons of Chinese food from her desk and hands one to Jenna. Jenna takes it and with the chopsticks, scoops a fair amount of noodles into her mouth. “Mfffuhhgss Buh”, she says, because having food in your mouth is the perfect excuse to not answer questions you don’t want to answer.
She receives an unimpressed look.
“Ok fine.” Jenna scolds, swallowing the last bit f noodle that is preventing her from talking.
“It was raining this morning,” she says, as if that explains the whole thing. Lemon raises an eyebrow, so she continues. “I waited out the rain at the bus stop but of course it doesn’t stop raining so I have to go out in the pouring rain to get to the office. When I finally do get there, I’m soaked. I had a meeting but I figured it was going to be late anyway because it always is but there’s my boss, waiting for me by the elevator!”
Lemon doesn’t comment, just yet, instead she just nods for Jenna to continue.
Jenna nods, “Ok, so I’m soaked and I figure he’s going to let me catch my breath and freshen up but he sends me straight into his office, gives me a towel and then makes this face like he’s very uncomfortable and then he starts talking about how the company’s not doing very well. I know this, right? Because we have scheduled meetings once a month and he gets us all in one room and tells us how we’re doing. We’re not doing very well.”
Lemon is still just watching Jenna closely, because she’s figured out where this is going, even if Jenna didn’t, at the time. Maybe it’s because Jenna tries to see the good in every situation. It’s an admirable quality that Lemon doesn’t share, but in moments like the one Jenna had been in that day, her friend would have had no desire to have that quality.
“And then he suddenly – out of nowhere,” Lemon sighs internally for her friends’ naivety, “- starts talking about how he has to watch his overhead. And how Peter and Astrid are willing to put in more time. And –“ she stops. A sudden rush of panic washes over her again and she’s this close to bursting into tears.
“Aw, Jellybean, I’m so sorry,” Lemon says, putting an arm around Jenna’s shoulder.
“So, he’s basically saying that if anyone has to go it’s going to be me. And you know I can’t put in any more hours. I would if I could, and I think he knows. I just. I don’t want to be jobless. Maybe I should work harder.”
“You work your ass off!” Lemon objects, “He can’t fire you for that. I’ll – I’ll write a frigging bad company review!”
“And you’d think that was it right?” Jenna mopes and Lemon’s eyebrows shoot up. “The guy in the elevator? Yeah, what’s that all about?”
“Well, when I finally got to go home, got into the elevator, and this guy Justin gets in there right before the doors close. He’s a project manager. I may have told you about him before. Or maybe not, but either way I was so ready to get out of there and not talk to anyone for the rest of the year and there’s Justin, being nice, except nothing ever really is with him. He just thinks he’s being cordial. And then he starts talking to me like he knows me and about my meeting with Bob like he knows what Bob was going to say it me and then he continues to tell me what I should do about it. I mean, what the hell, right?”
Jenna’s near-tears have dissolved into pure frustration and she looks at Lemon for confirmation. “Right,” is all she gets, but she doesn’t dwell on it.
“I tried to be the better person and thanked him because I figured I’d be out of there in less than a minute anyway. And then the frigging elevator gets frigging stuck and the repair guys say they won’t be there for another twenty minutes so I’m stuck with him in the elevator! AND THEN HE ASKS ME OUT! ON A DATE!”
“Ah,” nods Lemon, then suddenly looks up. “Wait? He did what? I thought you said he was an ass!”
“He is!” Jenna exclaims.
“So what did you say?” urges Lemon.
Jenna looks at her incredulously. “No, of course!”
For a second, there is a hint of disappointment in Lemon’s face that Jenna picks up on immediately.
“Lem, he’s an ass.”
Lemon sighs. “I know, I’m sorry. You probably made the right choice then, but I really… I really want you to be happy and I want you to meet someone you hit it off with. I know you want it, and you deserve it. I don’t know why you want it so badly, but…” Lemon isn’t with anybody, by choice. She’s far too busy to be with anyone anyway and she’s a little fiery for most guys.
Jenna watches her friend for a second and then casts her eyes down at the carton of Chinese food in her hands, picking at the packaging a little uneasily. She does want to be with somebody really badly. Lemon nudges Jenna’s shoulder with hers affectionately and the pair sit in silence for a little while before Lemon suddenly looks up. “I know someone you’d like…” she says.
Jenna responds instantly. “He’s not in a wheelchair is he?”
Lemon frowns. “No, he’s not… would it be a problem if he was?”
Jenna looks at her, feeling a little bit ashamed. “No, no I guess not,” she pauses, “ It’s just… I don’t really want to get stuck in that world. I don’t rule out that I’ll end up with someone in a chair… I just… I have a hard enough time getting around myself.”
“Oh, I see…”
“I know it sounds jaded. I just, I’d like an able bodied person, you know…” she smiles hesitantly, because with anyone but Lemon, she would probably have lost a great deal of respect with a statement like that. She’s not exactly proud of it either, but things are already so damn complicated when she just has herself to worry about.
Jaded or not, Lemon takes no offense. Because she’s a great friend like that. She puts up with Jenna’s mood for the rest of the night and takes her home in the barrel of a car that she has that is only barely big enough to fit both Jenna and her wheelchair, if the backseat – that no one can sit in anyway because it’s tiny – is down.
"So, tomorrow, you’re going to relax and not worry and get unmoody because on Sunday, I’m taking you out for drinks and Daniel is going to be there also," Lemon says as she pulls Jenna’s chair out of the car, unfolds it and pushes it to the front seat.
"Who’s Daniel?" Jenna asks, making the transition from shotgun to the chair.
Lemon rolls her eyes. “The guy I want you to meet. For god sakes, Jenna, keep up!”
"Oh," Jenna says, "Why Sunday?"
"Because I can’t tomorrow. Deadline remember?"
"Oh yeah, sorry."
"Jellybean, you really need to get some more sleep and stop worrying because it’s messing with your head. See you Sunday, don’t forget!"