We spent the next few days snug inside Sept’s home. He called Anya to ask if she’d watch the Culpepper. When she found out I was with him, Sept said she whooped and exclaimed, “Of course I’ll watch it! You two lovebirds do what lovebirds do! Only no chicks yet, OK? Too soon for that!”
For a moment, I felt I was standing in the dark outside the house, looking in through the lit window again. “So Anya knew you were Max and Max was you?” I asked. She did. It turned out that many of the regulars, knew, including Caleb and even Khaled.
“My old friends knew me as Sept first,” he said. “It’s only after I started managing the Culpepper that I created Max.”
“But why?” I asked.
“It’s a long story.”
He told me some of it then, but it took years to learn everything. I’m sure there are still things I don’t know.
We had so much to share those first few days. We talked, made love, ate, slept, and woke to talk some more.
I loved to watch him sleep. I still do. Sometimes, he looks so peaceful. Sometimes, he laughs aloud. And sometimes, he carries the sadness of the universe, all the injustice, suffering, and hardship he’s seen, through countless lifetimes. I love it all, all the deep goodness that is Septemus Sevens.
He asked me about myself. I didn’t have much more to tell that he hadn’t already heard as Max. So we mostly talked about him. I had endless questions.
“What’s the suit made of?” I asked. “And why does it light up and why do you wear it sometimes, but not others, and how come you’re sort of glowing different colors sometimes, and do you like earth food, and how do you make yourself look like Max?”
He answered everything. The disguise came from intention; earth food is delicious; when he feels strongly, he radiates the energy vibration of the emotions; the lights in the neoprene suit help support circulation, and he wears the suit when his body needs extra support.
He wore it when we made love during those first few days. He said it helped him perform.
“The gravity here is kind of tough on me sometimes,” he said. “The suit helps everything stay where it’s supposed to.”
I had no complaints. Not that I had a lot of experience, but I couldn’t imagine it possible to be any better than this. It is possible, I learned through the years with him, but that comes with sharing a lifetime together.
Even back then, he was a great cook. He prepared a salad with ripe avocados, poached quail eggs, endive, and caramelized onions.
“Where’d you learn this recipe?” I asked. Sweet, savory, bitter, salty–all the flavors harmonized.
“I invented it,” he said, “after imagining the tastes you might like.”
Before bed, he asked me to take a bath with him. It was the first time we were naked together.
“You have nipples!” I exclaimed.
“You’re a mammal!”
Somehow, I hadn’t yet classified his species–I knew he was a vertebrate, but I hadn’t considered whether he was reptile or mammal. The discovery felt significant.
“Did you breast-feed?” I asked. I had a roommate in college, a biology major, who would only date men who had breastfed. “They’re more capable of bonding,” my roommate preached. “Plus, they won’t have a breast fixation, since they’ve already satisfied that need as infants, so they’re more available to love the whole person, if you know what I mean.”
He became thoughtful. “No,” he said. “I wasn’t that lucky.”
I wondered if that was why he liked me, because of my big bazookas.
I continued to explore his body, working my way down.
“You don’t have a navel,” I said.
“No, I don’t.”
“I thought it went along with being a mammal,” I said.
“It goes along with natural gestation. I didn’t have that, either.”
“Oh?” I was curious. What else was there?
“I’m a clone, Mallory,” he said. “Is that a problem for you?”
It would have been an insurmountable barrier for my dad–if he ever knew–one of the litany of reasons my father would never accept Septemus: He was a refugee; adopted; part of a government program; a displaced person; didn’t hold a regular nine-to-five job; a rebel; a panromantic pansexual; an extraterrestrial. And now, to top it all, he was a clone.
In high school, my father and I held endless arguments about clones. My father avowed that animal clones could be used for experiments, and human clones for jobs most people would never do, for slave labor. He even proposed clones should be created explicitly for organ transplants. “They have no soul!” my father protested. “They were created without the participation of God, and so, rendered by Caesar, they can be used by Caesar!”
But I would never agree. “Every living thing has consciousness, feelings, emotions, and a soul,” I said. “It can’t be any other way!”
That night in the tub, I told Septemus, “You know in my woolly mammoth novel I’m going to be switching up the narrative perspective to prokaryotes, right? They’re clones. I’ve been researching them. They’re awesome! Consciousness is consciousness, right? Regardless of the source of one’s DNA.”
Sept’s face relaxed into a big smile. “It’s been an issue before,” he said. “I’m glad it’s not with you.”
When we finished kissing, I asked him, “Why do you like me?” I sank into the quiet warmth, feeling in my self very ordinary, very earthly, very heavy, very physical. What could this spark of a light-being possibly see in me?
His smile stretched bigger.
“My earliest memories carry the sweetest feelings I’ve ever known,” he said, “until now. I was loved from the beginning, by someone who has come to mean Love to me. You make me feel like Situ did. You make me feel like Home.”
I splashed him. “Come on! You just like my big boobs!”
He didn’t deny it. He splashed me back.
“Bizoobagoto spaskitaka-sploshtoki bizaabgotojo,” he said with a giggle.
“What does that mean?”
“The big clone kid splashes and you get soaked!”
In the morning, I got on the computer to check my email. Sept’s personal blog was set as the browser’s homepage.
He’d changed the title.
It wasn’t called Looking for Love. It was titled Found It!
“Did you really?” I asked him.
“Of course, silly!”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
That’s when I learned that he’d told me at the lighthouse, during our first date just a few days before, when I lacked the capacity to process it.
“And is it true, then?” I asked.
It was. Septemus Sevens loved me, and I loved him back.