A Vantage Point of Asses, chapter 9
Saturday arrives sooner than Jenna expects it to. It’s cold when she gets up, and a brief second spent with her head leaned out of her bedroom window, confirms that the first day of frost has arrived. The air is fresh and crackly. She dresses warmly, snug in her favourite sweater and goes about her day. She’s surprisingly less nervous than the last time she saw Alex. Maybe it’s because he has a way of making her feel at ease.
Alex rings the doorbell promptly at four o’clock, and when Jenna opens the door, he’s leaning on the railing beside her door. “You ready?” he grins, jingling his car keys in the air.
“Uh, let me put my coat on,” Jenna replies, and does just that.
Alex has a Volvo. It’s an awkward shade of green, like the colour of late summer leafs, except burnt. It looks old, but there’s something charming and trusty about old Volvos. They look like they could never fail you.
Jenna wraps a scarf around her shoulders and pulls on a beanie, because it looks like it’s still freezing. Alex’s hands are white, but his chuckles have that cold flush.
“So, where are we going?” Jenna asks as she wheels down the ramp to his car.
“Somewhere you’ve never been before,” Alex replies, making a sprint so he can open the door. Jenna is surprised it doesn’t fall off on the spot.
“And you know this for a fact?” she smirks, getting into the car and letting Alex deal with getting the chair in the back.
“I know this for 99.897% of a fact,” he says as he pushes the chair around to the trunk.
Jenna smiles and puts her seat belt on, jumping as the glove compartment falls open and closing it hastily, because she doesn’t want to snoop. “Nice car!” she calls, “They say you can say a lot about a person from the car they drive. I wonder what this car says about you.”
Jenna can hear Alex snigger from the trunk, just before he slams it shut and walks around the car and gets in. “It says that it used to be my dad’s car and he gave it to me when I was nineteen and that I haven’t parted from it since.”
“It’s a bit… rickety,” Jenna observes.
“No, no, that’s character.”
“Ooooh,” Jenna feigns understanding, forcing a serious face.
Alex mimics Jenna’s increasingly bad attempt to keep a straight face, but then both of them are laughing.
Alex drives down to a part of the city that Jenna has indeed never been before, because it’s not a good part of the city, and everyone with a sane mind would know to stay away from it. Jenna glances at Alex, wondering if this is the part where he murders her and leaves her in a ditch. The buildings here are run down and faded, and none of them are the same height, having sunk into the earth over time, or because of their – obviously illegal – built on floors. The littered streets are pretty much deserted, save for the occasional bum on a street corner.
Alex catches the way Jenna eyes the streets and can’t help but grin a little. “Don’t worry.”
“I’m not worried.” Jenna replies a little too fast.
Alex smirks. He parks the car at the side of the road when they come to a dead-end and gets out, taking Jenna’s wheelchair over to her side of the car and helping her into it, before locking the car.
“I don’t know what you’re up to, but it’s starting to get a little suspicious now,” Jenna remarks as she follows him when he walks away, into the dead-end street.
It turns out it’s just a dead-end for cars but there is a very steep path leading upward from there. Jenna pauses, glancing up the hill like it’s her biggest enemy. Alex looks over his shoulder. “Need help?” he offers, but Jenna shakes her head because he is looking just a little too amused and she’s not going to give him the satisfaction.
She pushes on, but once she gets half way up the hill, Alex is walking backwards up the hill with such ease and it’s almost mean. Especially when Jenna finds herself moving backwards down the hill now. “Ok. Ok. I need help,” she chokes, and Alex laughs, running down and positioning himself firmly behind her chair so he can push.
“There’s nothing wrong with a little help sometimes,” he remarks and Jenna snorts, leaning her head back to look at him.
“Are you going to pretend to know me now?” she asks, but there’s no sign of annoyance in her voice.
Alex grins down at her. “Oh but I do.”
Jenna snorts again, shaking her head and looking ahead.
When they get to the top of the hill, Alex has to pause for a while. Jenna looks around. It looks like they’re going to have to get down on the other side. The way down is just as steep as the way up, but on this side, the hill is broken up by bits of fairly straight ground.
“Seriously, where the hell are we going?” she asks.
“Trust me, you’ll love it.”
Jenna shoots him a puzzled look, but Alex ignores it and they start on their way down. Nothing about this place gives anything away about the treasure that awaits them at the bottom of the hill. Alex parks Jenna there and steps away from the chair to stand beside her.
“What is this place?” Jenna asks, a little bit in awe.
“Possibly the most beautiful place in the city,” says Alex.
The hill ends in a big open space that used house a collection of buildings, but now all there is left is a maze of walls. The modern ruins are covered in words. Not your average graffiti, but elegant writing, in black ink and beautiful colours. Jenna moves forward, a hand on the wall.
Alone, but alone together. I have no regrets, just chances I never took.
I will never forget the way she looked.
Nothing but lies. LIES.
“What are these?” she asks, running her fingers along the writing like they’re magic.
“Memories. Life stories, thoughts,” Alex murmurs. “People come here to write them down so they will be forever.”
“Are yours on here?” Jenna asks, glancing over her shoulder.
Alex nods. “Just one,” he says, “But I’m not going to tell you where it is or which one. If you happen to find it and know it’s mine, I’ll be impressed.”
Jenna smiles a little, still amazed at all she’s seeing. She can’t deny she’s looking for his quote now, and he probably knows. It’s easy to lose focus here, though, and soon Jenna has forgotten she was looking for Alex’s handwriting.
“This is amazing,” she says quietly, wondering why it is getting to her so much. Maybe it’s because these are all such final thoughts. So definite and unchanging and so knowing.
“I know,” Alex smiles, and holds out a sharpie over her shoulder. Jenna blinks, turning to look at him questioningly.
Jenna looks hesitant, shaking her head. “I wouldn’t know what to write. I’m not as profound as these people. I don’t know.”
Alex is smiling like he knows something she doesn’t; like he knows her secrets that even she doesn’t know exist. “Go on,” he insists, “It’ll come to you.”
Jenna scowls, but takes the sharpie and stares at the wall, then back at Alex. He throws up his hands in a ‘don’t look at me’ way and then wanders off. Jenna stares after him and frowns. She can’t help but wonder why he’s doing all this. Does he think he needs to save her? Does she want to be saved? She turns her eyes back to the wall, where an empty spot of concrete waits for her thoughts. Jenna isn’t quite sure why this is hard, yet she feels she can’t compare to these people who’ve been here before her and bestowed their wisdom upon the world. Jenna is too afraid to disappoint.
Do it for you, and you alone reads a quote near the bottom of the wall. Ok.
Jenna writes down an honest thought, trying to put aside the thought that her thoughts aren’t good enough for this wall and that her handwriting doesn’t look right among the others.
She puts the lid back on the sharpie and backs away from the wall, turning to go look for Alex. She finds him sitting on a low stone wall, dangling his legs, and moves her chair to sit beside him. “What did you write?” he asks.
“None of your business,” she replies good-naturedly. Alex nods.
Jenna glances at him, but then shifts her gaze to all the incredibly personal things written on these walls once more. They tell so many stories. She wonders if anyone will ever look at her quote and feel like they know her. She chuckles. Alex glances at her, the corner of his lip tugging into a slight smile. “It does funny things to you, doesn’t it?”
“It does indeed,” Jenna replies. Jenna has always believed that anyone can be who they want to be, and know who they are, without the help of others. Someone else cannot complete who you are. But she’s come to realise that that is not all true. While someone else may not complete who you are, they can certainly help you find the pieces.