"Just the right touch'a dramatic, I think."
<NYC> Chimaera Arts - Dumbo
This is just one of the many abandoned warehouses in DUMBO, and like many of them it has recently changed hands. /Unlike/ most of those, however, it does not have some corporate developer's sign out front promising a transformation into luxury condominiums or a boutique shopping center or the latest concept restaurant. Instead it's marked by a piece of weathered but wildly colorful plywood propped up on a stack of broken pallets, which reads "Chimaera Art Space!" above "chimaera.org" in smaller letters.
The warehouse is moderately large and decorated with graffiti art in various styles--some of it recognizable as the work of renowned local street artists. A pair of monstrous scrap metal sculptures, perhaps still works in progress, flank the entrance. The building itself has undergone significant renovation recently, complete with wiring, plumbing, and a modular partitioning system. The grounds, too, have been cleaned up, ramshackle fences torn down and rusting detritus removed in favor of reclaimed (and brilliantly repainted) outdoor furniture ringing an impressively engineered firepit.
It's a reasonably busy evening at Chimaera, several classes in session in the side classrooms and a spirited meeting taking place over bean soup over to one side of the cavernous warehouse. One back section is currently attracting a steady trickle of onlookers to peer into the roped-off workspace -- though none of them seem all that keen to remain for long. The kiln that Jax is working out of spills a constant wash off fierce heat outward; its belly glows with a brilliant orange liquid.
Bland today in denim overalls, black t-shirt, black boots, safety goggles on his eyes, Jax has no class, at the moment; just a series of drinking glasses getting set to anneal once each of completed. It is maybe not the actual molten glass that draws the occasional gawker, and maybe not the deftness with which he handles it -- but perhaps the radiant glow that illuminates his hands and forearms or the fact that he is frequently handling the glowing hot glass at the end of his long metal pole with his bare hands gives people a moment of pause.
Just at the moment he's dipping the empty tip of the rod into the kiln, twirling it to scoop out a new white-orange glob.
Steve is emerging from one of the classrooms ('Intro to Sumi-e' read the sign on the door, written in deft brushstrokes), chatting with a fellow student as he tucks a sketch pad into the olive drab messenger bag at his side. He's wearing a Chimaera Arts t-shirt that has managed thus far to remain free of paint splatters, pale blue and adorned with a cheerful looking cartoon chimera across the chest, comfortable fitted blue jeans, and black combat boots. Drawn, perhaps, by the fiery glow, Steve drifts toward Jax's kiln and fetches up just outside of the ropes. After a few moments he shuffles to one side for a better view, undisguised boyish wonder written on his face. He's evidently not much bothered by the intense heat, to judge by his casual posture, leaning lightly against the warehouse wall, one thumb hooked over the strap of his bag.
Jax rolls his lava-like blob of glass quickly over a long metal table, stopping at the end to blow into the tip of the hollow rod. The glass swells; he rolls it again after, evening the bubble back out. "Hey," he offers cheerfully, with a quick glance up. "How was your class?" He dips his head, wiping a sheen of sweat off his forehead onto his shoulder.
Steve's eyes flick from the nascent drinking glass to its maker when Jax speaks, it's expression shifting to a friendly smile. "Oh, it was very interesting. Not nearly as much like watercolor as I expected." /His/ head dips ever-so-slightly, she gushed. "But I'm having fun. How's your project coming along?" He surveys the glasses lined up to one side. "It all looks copacetic to /me/, but I haven't the foggiest clue what blown glass /should/ look like, at this stage."
"It should look kinda like this." The arm that Jax waves towards his developing work bears some resemblance to glass, itself, skin glowing warmly and his colorful tattoos lit to a kind of stained-glass effect. He pulls a wooden block out of a bucket of water, rolls the glass in its cuplike divot; steam rises from the wood as he does. Blows it again, just a little wider. "Though I mean, that depends entirely on what you're making. It all sorta starts life out as a blob but if I was doin' a plate, say, or a lil angel to hang on a Christmas tree --" He shrugs a shoulder. Rolls his glass out on the table again, then after that, through a tray of small colorful granules. "It ain't actually hard to learn the principles of it, but turning that into actual usable objects takes a bit more practice."
Steve's gaze returns to Jax's work, though he nods to indicate he is still listening. His smile brightens, then dims in rapid succession at the mention of Christmas ornaments. "Not that I necessarily have any ambitions of cranking out glass angels in short order, but the next time you teach a class on this, I'd love to try my hand." He eyes Jax's glowing arms, briefly mesmerised. "Though, preferably with gloves. Does that -- hurt you? At all?"
"You gonna put up a tree? Angels is a bit of a tall order to start off but plain bubble kinda ornaments, those is simple. I usually run a couple workshops on that come December and people who ain't never been in a studio afore can make a few of their own by the end of an afternoon." Jax looks down at his slowly cooling glass, then his own glowing hands. "Oh, this?" He draws a finger lightly against the surface, leaving little swirled streaks that he then fills deeper with the colored granules. 'This don't usually hurt but sometimes if I stop paying attention --" His smile curls crooked. He dips the glass back in the kiln, adding a fresh layer of molten material over its surface. "Honestly it's fine, my hands is just all over scars already from baking. But you don't usually use gloves, I think that'd make it harder. There's tongs and tweezers and -- and in part you just kinda get used to being on the toasty side."
Steve's expression does something complicated and fleeting. "I -- hadn't given it much thought yet, to be honest, but I'd like to. Just haven't put one up properly in a few years." Here his smile returns, slow. "I'll keep an eye on the schedule, then." His eyes widen when the glass re-melts at Jax's touch, and his smile goes crooked, too. "That I don't mind, just so long as it's not...sticking-my-hands-in-molten-glass levels of toasty." He looks thoughtful. "So ah...I'd been meaning to ask for some advice. One queer Catholic to another. If you wouldn't mind -- doesn't have to be right this moment, of course."
"You wanna come with us when it's 'bout time, we can go out to a farm an' chop our own. I feel like the axe an' hot cocoa all are kinda vital to the experience." Jax is continuing the process of shaping his glass, but he looks up with a grin. "Now's as good a time as any, I ain't busy. What's been on your mind?"
Steve blinks. "Oh! That -- sounds wonderful. Thank you." Some tension eases from his shoulders, not really obvious until it was gone. "You know, I just started wondering 'busy' would look like for you, then I remembered you're a father, a teacher, and a baker." He runs a hand over the short hair at the back of his head. "Well, it's...my parish. I'm not so much a fool that I expected to find understanding or acceptance at fellowship after coming out, but the reception's been even cooler than I had hoped. They haven't turned me away -- not officially, anyhow -- but it's pretty clear I'm not welcome anymore." He looks away from Jax for a moment, studying the already formed and cooling glasses with deliberate intensity. "Is that...about what I can expect from any congregation -- in the Church, that is?"
"I also work as a security guard down at the mutant clinic an' I do tattoos an' piercings over on St. Mark's Place." Jax offers this up lightly, amusement in his voice. "In between commissions." He twirls up a very small glob of glass on a second, smaller rod, narrowing it at the point before attaching it to the base of the one he's working on in order to detach it from its original pipe. His cheeks puff out; he lets out a slow breath, head shaking as he works. "No. It's definitely real common, but there's places that are more welcoming. There's a few local parishes that are plenty gay-friendly. Individual congregants are always gonna be hit or miss but what can you do? My parish makes a point'a solidarity, but, we're also where lots of the freaks go overall." Now the laughter in his voice is clearer, even if he doesn't this time look up and his smile has faded to an expression of greater concentration as he molds the walls of the glass. "Might not be ideal for your reputation as an upstanding All-American human patriot, an' I know how hard you been fighting to keep that polished up proper."
Steve blushes. "Plus the bartending...and volunteering. I hadn't forgotten all those, but -- yeah, you're obviously no stranger to busy." He looks up at Jax. "A couple of folks did come up to me after mass the week I did the interviews to express support, but far more expressed disappointment, or even concern. The number of recommendations I've gotten for doctors who might cure me is..." He trails off with a sharp shake of his head. "I didn't go to service this Sunday. Not sure I want to go back at all. Which church do you go to?" His mouth twists to one side. "I'm not sure if worshipping alongside mutants is going to be worse for my image than being bisexual, or a communist, or Catholic, for that matter. But if it is, I'd rather make the point that the America I stand for isn't about shaming folks for any of those things."
"You might be human but you wouldn't be the only bisexual commie at St. Martin's. M'sure we'd be glad to have you. It's up in Harlem, I could take you Sunday if y'like." Jax's tongue pokes out the corner of his mouth, his brows furrowed as he gently twists at his glass to shape it, keeping the rod slowly and evenly twirling in his other hand. "Just outta curiosity, though. What America do y'stand for?"
"I'd like that." Steve's voice softens, just a little wistful. He shakes it off quickly enough, brightening. "Oh! That'll be considerably less of a hike than Visitation is for me now, though obviously the distance hasn't stopped me coming here." His attention returns to the glassblowing, and for a moment it seems possible that he's missed the question or chosen not to answer it. Then, "I stand for an America that's truly by and for the people. Not money, not tradition, not religion -- people. One where prosperity means the health of communities and not stock markets, where no man has to starve to enrich another, where freedom isn't conditional on circumstances of birth. One that grows and learns and does better." He frowns, the expression equal parts dismayed and determined. "I don't think that America has ever actually existed, but I'll fight, all my life if I must, to bring her into this world." He blushes suddenly. "Sorry if that's...unnecessarily dramatic."
Jax's gaze is intent on his work, but the slow hook of his smile by the time Steve finishes implies he's been listening. He's not adding anything to the tumbler, now, just rotating it slowly on its pole -- as it cools the layered colour becomes clearer, rippling streaks of shimmery silver and black embedded between layers of pale blue glass. "Just the right touch'a dramatic, I think. Was that off the cuff or you practice it much?" There's nothing mocking in his warm tone. "I gotta say, your America sounds way better'n then one we got." A gentle but firm tap of his glass snaps it neatly off its slender glass pedestal before he opens the clear-windowed door of the annealer to tuck it in beside the others. "Wish I knew how t'get there."
Steve's blush deepens, and he looks down, scuffing the sole of his boot softly against the floor. "Bit of both," he admits. "I've been thinking about it a lot, since waking up. Even so..." He subsides, his broad shoulders slumping ever so slightly. "...I don't know how, either." He looks up, at the warehouse around them, then the newly detached glass, then back at Jax. "But I hope that the work we do to take care of each other, protect each other, and educate each other? It isn't just keeping us alive til we get to to that America -- it's also shaping her into being, bit by bit."
"Don't think none of us got all the answers on how." Jax sounds a little wry. He leans up against the side of his work table, wiping his forehead against his shoulder once more. "I'm just glad for those willin' to put in the work even without the end clear in sight. Like what's the worst that happens if we're goin' about this kinda wrong? More folks get fed and housed and looked after along the way?" He picks up a purple and blue dragonfly-patterned metal water bottle where it's been sitting beside the annealer, taking a long pull from it. "Sunday, then? I don't actually know where you're livin' these days."
"I think we've more answers together than alone, certainly." Steve leaves off fidgeting with the strap of his bag and straightens slightly even while still leaning against the wall. "Left to my own devices, I'd probably try to punch my way to the revolution." This sounds self-deprecating, perhaps, but not entirely joking. "I moved up to South Harlem. Don't know the neighborhood too well, but my housemate's a local and I can ask him for directions, so...yeah." He nods, once -- there's a perhaps incongruous weigh of determination in this gesture. "Sunday."