A Vantage Point of Asses, chapter 3
Jenna spends her entire Saturday in her pyjamas. As far as she has an entire Saturday that is, because she doesn’t get up until one in the afternoon. It happens to her often, she’ll wake up at nine in the morning and then decide that because it is weekend, she should be allowed to spend at least one more hour in bed. So she falls back asleep and instead of sleeping just one hour, she wakes up at one in the afternoon. And when she’s finally out of bed, she decides that it’s not worth the time to get dressed. Or open the curtains. So on Saturdays, she’s often a hermit.
The upside to those days are that she feels well rested and calm and that she has a strange tendency to clean up her entire house. Not things like vacuum cleaning or anything, but just doing stuff like putting whatever is out on the table into drawers and cabinets and doing the laundry, twice, and put things into the dishwasher. By the time the sun goes down, her house looks like the house of someone who has their life in order. It’s a good feeling, pretending that it’s actually true. Jenna can sit on her couch and watch a movie and feel marginally satisfied with her life, at least in that moment.
So when Lemon comes to pick her up on Sunday after dinner, Jenna is in a good mood and she looks fairly well rested. She’s willing to forgo the feeling that Lemon is setting her up on a date; they are just having drinks with this guy after all, and Lemon is actually going to be there. That’s not a date.
“Ah, you did what I told you to do,” Lemon comments when Jenna comes out of the house and down the ramp.
Jenna rolls her eyes at her.
“Is that what you’re wearing?” Lemon asks, an eyebrow raised.
Jenna looks down at herself, frowning. She’s wearing a wide turtleneck sweater and her favourite pair of jeans. “Why? What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“Oh, nothing.” Lemon says.
“This isn’t a date right? We’re just meeting this guy for drinks. Right?”
Lemon throws up her hands. “Yeah, ok, I promise. It’s not a date. Get in the car.”
Jenna eyes her friend suspiciously, but lets it go and wheels herself around the car to the passenger seat and gets in. Lemon puts the chair into the trunk and then gets in the car too and drives off. There is hardly anyone on the road, so it doesn’t take them long to get into the city. After all, it’s Sunday. The city’s traffic lights are still stupid, though, because they have to stop for every single one. When they reach the parking lot, Lemon parks on the disabled parking spot and Jenna hands her the blue parking badge. Lemon puts it in the window and then reaches into her bag.
“Here, put some mascara on,” she said, handing Jenna some lash extending, curl enhancing black mascara.
Jenna stares at her, and then at it, then at her. “What are you, twelve?” But she puts it on anyway. There is no denying Lemon.
They get to The Bar. That’s the actual name of the bar. It’s a running joke in the bar that the bar owner was on something when he decided to open up a bar and ‘The Bar’ was the only name he could think of. For a joke, the likelihood of it being a true story is pretty high. Still, despite its unoriginal name, it’s a good place to be in. The music is indie – for someone who thinks she’s not indie, Jenna goes to indie places a lot – and not too loud. Drink is cheap and food is good, as far as bar food goes.
It always takes Jenna a while to adjust to the place. It’s all pretty narrow, but the biggest obstacle is the dimness of the place; it makes it hard to judge distances and depth. She and Lemon make their way up to the bar because that’s where Lemon told Daniel to be. And there they find him, sitting on a bar stool drinking a beer. “Yo, Danny!” Lemon says in an accent that certainly isn’t hers.
Daniel – or Danny – turns around and smiles a pearly white smile at Lemon, stepping down from the chair and hugging her. “Hey, Lem, good to see you!”
“Yeah, hey I brought a friend, hope that’s ok.”
Jenna and Daniel look confusedly at Lemon at the same time. Lemon just smiles brightly. “Daniel, meet Jenna, and vice versa.”
Daniel looks down at Jenna and smiles “Hi,” he says, a little awkwardly, because how can this be anything other than incredibly awkward?
“Hi,” Jenna replies.
“Okaaaay! Let’s go scare someone away from the couches because we’re not gonna sit at the bar!” Lemon beams.
“Ah, yeah, ok, yea, I’ll get it,” Daniel offers and then he’s off towards the darkness of the couches.
Jenna turns to Lemon. “Really? Really? You didn’t tell him you were bringing a friend. Really?”
“Don’t be so pissy, Jellybean. It’s no big deal,” Lemon rolls her eyes.
“You don’t just spring your pegleg friends on guys, Lemon.”
“Yeah, whatever. Come on.”
The pair of them follows Daniel towards the couches where he has made a bit of space for Jenna’s chair. “Hope it’s ok like this,” he says to Jenna and she smiles and nods a little.
“Just fine, thank you,” she says as she parks her chair next to the couch.
“Do you want to sit on the couch, Jenna?” Lemon asks with a hint of encouragement in her voice but Jenna shakes her head.
“No, thanks, I’m good right here.”
Jenna is pretty sure that it is Lemon’s intention to have her sit next to Daniel on the couch, but Jenna doesn’t know this guy and these couches are not the most convenient ones for keeping respectable distances. Not only are they kind of small, they are made of faded brown leather with stuffing that is pretty useless and that will make you sink into the couch like it’s quicksand.
Lemon doesn’t press it, though. Daniel smiles at them. “Drinks?”
“I’ll get them!” Lemon chirps, “‘Nother beer yeah?”
Daniel nods and plunks down on the couch. Jenna casts a glare at Lemon, who smiles and doesn’t ask Jenna anything, and then bounds off back towards the bar.
Jenna follows her with her eyes until she’s completely out of sight and then turns back around to look at Daniel. “She’s a party, isn’t she?”
Daniel grins, “Oh yeah…” he says and chuckles.
“Known her long then?” Jenna asks, because small talk is better than awkward silence, for sure.
“Quite. My brother was in university with her and they used to go out but then they broke up and lost touch. I felt bad for her, so I stayed in touch.”
Jenna nods, a little absent because she’s thinking about who that must have been. “Oh! Your brother is Samuel?”
“Indeed he is. Do you know him?” Daniel replies, curious.
“Well, not all that well but I knew him because he was Lemon’s boyfriend. After that it was kind of my job to despise him, no offense.”
They quickly move on to other subjects and Jenna discovers that Daniel is actually quite easy to talk to and that he has a nice smile. He’s not unattractive, physically, but not a looker either. He dresses kind of like a dork, wearing a dress shirt and a plaid sweater over it. He tells her he’s working on being a doctor and that he’s now doing residency at the physical rehabilitation centre in the next town over. Very clever, Lemon. Speaking of Lemon…
Lemon doesn’t return with their drinks until a good ten minutes later and Jenna is pretty sure it isn’t accidental. When she does return, though, Jenna doesn’t find it in herself to give her a hard time for it.
“Sorry, got held up at the bar,” she apologises as she puts their drinks down: a beer for Daniel and a sweet mixer for Jenna, but none for herself. Daniel, by now, seems to also have realised that they’re being set up.
“You not joining us?” he asks.
Lemon shakes her head with a dramatic look on her face. “I just got a call from the office about tomorrow’s deadline. The client wants their article in the morning. So I have to go and work on it at home if I want to finish it on time.”
She’s lying and all of them know it but none of them object.
“Sorry, Jellybean.” She says for extra drama.
“It’s ok,” Jenna assures her.
“Okay then! Uh. Bye! Be nice!” Lemon says and points at Daniel, who cracks up.
Jenna clasps a hand over her face until Lemon disappears.
“God, I’m sorry,” Jenna says to Daniel.
Daniel waves his hand in a ‘it’s no big deal’ sort of way and picks up his new beer, holding it out to Jenna. Jenna takes up her glass of orangey pink drink and they toast. “To awkward friends,” Daniel says, and Jenna laughs and clinks their glasses together. “Awkward friends.”
They spend the rest of the evening talking and laughing and discussing Daniel’s work. He’s actually quite nice and he seems to feel comfortable enough and he’s chatty. And the best part is that he is not awkward about Jenna’s disability and is actually quite interested in hearing about it. Maybe this is something that Lemon more or less already knew. It would certainly explain why she thought they should meet and truth be told, Jenna is glad. It’s nice to have a non judgemental and understanding person to talk to. Daniel pays for all of their drinks, not that they have that many more. Jenna only has one more pink drink and switches to water over that and Daniel has one more beer before switching to coke. Still, two drinks is enough for Jenna to make her let go some of her reservations and she talks more freely and smiles a lot more. Whether it’s really true or if it’s the drink, she thinks she may really like this guy after all.
Because it’s a Sunday, they decide its best to make sure they don’t stay out too late. After all, they both have work in the morning. It doesn’t stop them from talking the entire way home on the bus and then the short walk to Jenna’s street.
“Hey listen, I had a really good time tonight,” Daniel smiles by the time they reach Jenna’s house. “You’re pretty cool, Lemon was right to introduce you,” he adds, folding his hands in front of him.
Jenna is smiling too as she turns her chair to look at him and then she sees it. That look in his eyes. It’s the end of the evening and the end of the date and she can see the uncertainty and reluctance in his eyes. They really did have quite a nice evening, and that makes her a little sad because she knows what that look means; it’s a look she’s seen before. Daniel glances around a little, but there is no one on the street but them. Jenna knows he’s fighting with his conscience. He doesn’t want to be an ass, because he isn’t one and he doesn’t want to reject her just because of something as stupid and trivial as… Jenna can see it and she smiles at him.
“It’s ok,” she says quietly, “I understand.” Jenna understands a little too well.
“Jenna,” he replies, his voice heavy with guilt, “It’s not that you’re not… you really are an awesome lady, but –“
“Don’t.” Jenna’s still smiling. Just barely. “I had a lovely time. Please just let me keep it that way…”
Daniel looks at her, a little hesitant, but he lets it go. Jenna pushes herself up towards the front door. “Goodnight, Daniel,” she says, focussing on the lock in front of her. She isn’t paying attention when he walks up the ramp and gives her a quick kiss on the cheek. “You really are lovely,” he says quickly and then he’s gone.
Jenna lets herself into the house and closes the door behind her. She stops her chair in the middle of the living room and sits there, in the dark. She understands. Of course she does. She knows how hard it is to be in a wheelchair; that it’s not just hard for her. For a guy like Daniel, well…
There is a tiny tremor from her phone in her bag and she takes it about to see there’s a text from Lemon.
So, so!? How was it, you guys seemed to hit it off quite well. I told you. I told you! Tell me all the details. Unless he’s still there. Is he still there?
Something burns in her throat and her eyes are prickly, but she’s going to ignore it because she can’t keep doing this. She can’t keep understanding. She doesn’t need this. She puts the phone back into her bag because she doesn’t feel like telling Lemon and getting the pity.
No, it’s going to be all about her. She’s not going to worry about men anymore, because she shouldn’t need them. And the truth is, she’s always believed that it’s possible to be happy by her own standards. In fact, she has a hard time not losing respect for those who believe that they’ll be miserable if they never find a man, so she better be happy without one. Self respect is scarce.
That doesn’t mean she can’t have a bit of a pity party first, though, right? So she’s going to bake and eat ice-cream and cry watching stupid chick flicks and then she’s going to be happy single. Jenna has never baked anything ever, though. It might pose a bit of a problem.
With an awful lot determination about something as stupid as baking, she logs on to her computer and finds a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that she prints out and puts it in her bag, figuring she can get everything at the store three blocks down from her office. All she has to do is get through work tomorrow with her head held high and then she can have a mental – or lack thereof – health night.
The prospect makes her feel a bit better. It’s a strange realisation that one can actually look forward to wallowing in one’s own misery. It might even be a little bit unhealthy, but Jenna doesn’t care. She can allow herself one more day of misery and then it’s going to be done.