Lighthouse: The Whole Enchilada

boyfriend03

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

“I do.”

“You’re a mammal!”

“I am.”

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.

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“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?”

boyfriend09

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!”

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In the morning, I got on the computer to check my email. Sept’s personal blog was set as the browser’s homepage.

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He’d changed the title.

It wasn’t called Looking for Love. It was titled Found It!

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“Did you really?” I asked him.

“Really what?”

“Find love?”

“Of course, silly!”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I did!”

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.

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Lighthouse: Day Tripping

date01

I realized things between Max and me had shifted when his gaze beamed my direction.

He wasn’t looking towards the floppy-haired guys anymore. He was looking towards me. And for once, I didn’t feel like running.

date02

His hello hugs changed, too.

date04

“Are your eyes closed?” I whispered when he wrapped his arms around me.

“Absolutely,” he whispered back.

date03

“Have you always closed your eyes when we’ve hugged?” I asked.

He thought for a moment. “I don’t think so,” he said.

“What changed?”

“Nothing,” he said. “Everything.”

date05

He walked me out.

“Whatcha got planned? How ’bout spending the day with me?” he asked.

“What’ll we do?”

“You ever been to the lighthouse?”

I hadn’t.

date06

We talked most of the ferry ride over. I told him about my idea of switching the narrative perspective of my novel, and he actually said he found the idea “brilliant.”

“How would you describe reality from the perspective of a single cell prokaryote?” he asked.

I wasn’t sure. I’d read that bacterial DNA floats free, which made me think that I might need to tell the story from the perspective of the twisted strand of DNA.

“It’s intelligence, isn’t it?” I asked. “Consciousness? And so couldn’t I somehow describe the processing of information from within the DNA?”

We fell into silence as we thought about it, walking off the ferry without a word, following the trail up to the lighthouse garden, sitting together silently as the shadows danced about us.

date07

“You could absolutely do it,” he said.

“But would anyone read a novel told from the point of view of a prokaryote’s DNA?”

“I would,” he said. “What’s the difference between, say, the DNA processing the information that propels the prokaryote to move its little flagella and your nervous system processing this?” He reached across and tickled me.

“Prokaryotes don’t scream!” I shrieked.

date09

“They might!” He jumped up after me and grabbed me in a hug again.

“I love you,” he said, only I didn’t hear it. Or if I did–if the words entered my ears, my auditory cortex could not process them. I was too busy enjoying the hug.

“Are your eyes closed again?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said.

date08

He stepped back and gazed my way.

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while,” he said. “Think I could?”

date10

I squeaked a tiny, “uh-huh,” and then his lips were on mine, and the world went dark and light and silent and roaring and my heart beat outside of me and my stomach flooded with warmth and sank into the earth and I know this description is not at all romantic and the moment was, but it was also so overwhelming and so catastrophic and so bursting with life and death and war and peace and the end of worlds and the birth of stars that at that exact moment I decided: Whatever the universe asked of me, I would do it. Just let me do it with him.

date11

And then, we opened our eyes.

“That was a really nice kiss!” I told him. I’d had, maybe, six kisses by that time in my life, from six different guys, eight, if you count Jimmy in kindergarten, who kissed me behind the big Sleeping Beauty picture book during reading time, and Carl, who kissed me in the hallway in fourth grade on a dare. “I guess you’ve had a lot of practice!” I said.

date12

“Actually, no!” he answered. “This was my first kiss! How’d I do?”

date13

“Really great!” I couldn’t believe it. “How’d you learn to do that thing with your tongue?”

“I just invented it,” he said. “Did you like it?”

date14

It was only the tongue-move-that-changed-the-course-of-my-life, inducting me into the secrets of creation, but I didn’t say anything. I had to remember to breathe.

Something strange happened next. It wasn’t the last time that it happened, but as the first, it pulled me into an otherworldly state.

Max closed his eyes, and I can only say that I felt him enter me entirely–that is, though there was a good twelve inches of physical distance between our bodies, our inside spaces merged. I was in him and he was in me and I had never, even during my most blissed-out moments, tasted such ecstasy. Being Max Culper felt awesome.

date15

He brought me back to myself gently.

“That was sweet,” he said. “You’re lovely, byu kiya.”

We went inside the lighthouse museum. I was looking for a place to sit where we could be alone, where I could start to connect what had been happening with who I was and with the rest of my life. I needed integration.

We found a small library upstairs.

“Hey, look!” Max said, looking over my shoulder. “There’s my pops!”

date16

I turned to see the man who’d been talking with Septemus in line at the romance festival.

“Pops, this is Mallory Kraft,” Max said, “my very special friend.”

I liked the sound of that.

“Hi, Mr. Culper,” I said. “It’s nice to meet you. I’ve got a huge crush on your son, by the way.”

date17

Max’s father smirked. “You’re kind of glowing, son,” he said. “You feeling it?”

Max simply laughed.

date18

“So, if she’s your very special friend,” his father said, “maybe you’ll bring her home to meet the rest of the family?”

“For sure, Pops,” Max said. “I’ve got a few things I need to disclose first, and then, you bet. If after that, Mallory agrees to the whole enchilada, we will absolutely come over.”

date19

He’s always been full of surprise and mystery, and he certainly was then. The surprise: that he was interested enough in me to have me meet his family. The mystery: that he could have something so significant to disclose that it might make me doubt choosing him.

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Septemus 46

Cru7hing 77

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Is it love when you keep seeing the same face whenever you close your eyes?

That smile, those gray eyes, that cute little blonde hair I want to muss up.

It’s a crush, that’s for sure.

septteen806

I think I’ve always had a crush on Lucas, every since I was a little kid and he came over to play with the doll house. He said he’d be my big brother then, but now I don’t want him as a brother. I want him as my other.

My school notebook testifies: Lucas inna-inna E I’ve written in every margin. And then, little drawings of him.

lucas

Even as a cartoon, he’s cute.

He asked me to teach him how to communicate telepathically.

“I’m not sure it’s something that can be taught,” I said, only I didn’t say it out loud.

“Sure it can,” he said back, also not out loud.

septteen801

So, we have that connection.

He’s the only person besides Pops that I’ve talked to this way, on the inside, who’s not one of my gotogo.

He says the funniest things. For example, he imagined a couple of sumo wrestlers walking down a street. Then he imagined the music to Pink Panther, and when he put the two together–I lost it.

septteen802

He kept a straight face, and that made it funnier.

He does the dishes when he comes over. That’s thoughtful. Sometimes, he even volunteers to take out the trash.

septteen803

“You don’t have to do chores when you’re over!” I told him. I said that out loud.

“But I like to!” he said. He said that inside his head.

“But you’re the company!” I replied. Pops has always been drilling good manners into me: “Company first,” he says.

septteen804

“Oh, come on,” said Lucas. “Company is what the little church ladies who come over on Tuesday afternoon are. I’m your boy Lucas. If you wanted, I could practically live here!”

I thought about that. I must admit, at that moment, I went deep into daydream. I put up a quick shield, so he wouldn’t see all my crazy thoughts.

septteen805

And then, I imagined a little house, a cozy kitchen, a big bedroom, and an even bigger bed, with blue silk sheets, and a night table, with a little vase that held a single rose. No, make it a tulip. A purple tulip.

I imagined coming home to him, after a long day–at the university, let’s say–and he’d be in the kitchen, wearing an apron, and not much else. Maybe slippers. Maybe bunny slippers. And then he’d say, “I’ve got supper ready, honey. You hungry?”

I stopped the daydream right then. Enough is enough. He was really there, standing in our kitchen, talking to me about his garden club. They were planting tulip bulbs.

I put down the shield, and I felt how happy he was at something so simple: planting bulbs.

“You’re a nice guy, Lucas,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said. “Can I have some cake?”

We had some of that chocolate cake Pops bakes, and I dished him up a slice. I wrote in my journal while he ate. It felt companionable to sit like that together. It felt… cozy.

septteen807

It felt like something I could get used to and even build a life around.

Is it love when you want to be with someone forever?

If so, then maybe…

I won’t write it, for fear it won’t come true.

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Septemus 42

7eptumu7 Thinks on Love

septteen304

After my talk with my pops about souls and bizoobi and joining the Rebels for Right, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. I’ve come to this conclusion: It’s the most important. Nothing beats it. At all. And everything depends on it. As in, all and everything.

When the agency decided to place us with hand-picked care-givers, they did the right thing. My pops says that his friend Geoffrey was behind that decision.

“He knows that what kids need most is love,” Pops told me. “He learned this the hard way. His own marriage lacks warmth”–That’s my pops’ euphemism for sex, romance, and emotional intimacy–“and he’s got one estranged son and one rebellious son. I think this was his way of trying to make up for those misfortunes.”

Pops has this belief that every misfortune rights itself in a blessing: Like, for example, when his own mom and dad died, he got to live with Nonny and Poppy, who gave him the kind of home that his parents couldn’t have. He says it was Nonny and Poppy who taught him how to be able to be a good dad to me.

And with the crash of our spaceship–in fact even with our whole tragic history–that all allowed me to come here. He says I’m the biggest blessing he could have ever had in his life. I know he just says it to make me feel good, but still. It’s a loving thing to say.

septteen407

I think of our bizaabgotojo all the time now. I can’t get over what she sacrificed for us to be here. It makes it a little bit easier to believe my pops’ philosophy and to know that each of us is now with someone who loves us. If it is even remotely true, what my exaggerating Pops says, that I somehow make his life better, then that means that 143 other people’s lives might also be better now, too, since my pagotogo are with them.

And I can feel how much each one of the pagato is loved in return. Even if there is harshness in life, my siblings are loved.

I’m a little worried for Fi. Her song carries echoes of what we came from:

Unseen-unknown-unchild-unfound

Closeyourmouthstraightenback

Puppetsfeelnothing

I want to sing back to her, to reassure her, but I’m not sure what to sing yet. I need to think on this. But even with these memories, she is loved and loves in return: I feel this.

septteen306

Love is why I haven’t given up on Wolfgang. I’m convinced that it’s stronger than his anger. I’m also convinced that it’s what he needs.

Lucas told me that he loves his big brother, but it’s hard. Wolfie’s always been a bully to him, and when you don’t even feel safe in your own house, it’s hard to have the energy to change those hard patterns.

Sometimes I try to get a feel for what’s happening inside Wolfgang’s head. I keep thinking that if there’s some mixed-up wiring, some old coding that’s not needed in a world where we don’t have to fight those giant tusked elephant-guys that used to roam these parts, like there were back when Wolfie’s ancestors were developing their characteristic traits and responses, then maybe I can find the right response to trigger him to start rewiring them.

septteen303

So far, it’s not going so well.

“Get out my head, twerp!” Wolfgang yelled the other day when I was looking for insight.

Pops was watching us through the front door. Ever since Wolfgang broke my dollhouse back when I was a kid, Pops has never trusted him. He keeps an eye on him whenever he’s over.

septteen506

I apologized.

“I was just thinking of wooly mammoths,” I said. “Did you realize they used to graze along the ice flows that were where the river runs now?”

I showed him a website that traced their former range in Magnolia Promenade.

septteen507

“Oh, man. That’s so cool,” Wolfgang said. “I love those things. Can you imagine that guys used to hunt them with spears? Oh, man! ‘Honey! I brought supper!’ And the family eats for weeks.”

septteen508

I knew I was onto something with my theory about coding. So what’s a guy supposed to do? He evolved to feed his tribe by hunting big prey, and now, he’s got this paved world with with shopping markets on every corner. You don’t have to spear anything in the produce aisle. What’s he supposed to do with all those hunter’s hormones?

septteen509

That’s where love comes in. I can forgive him for being mean to me. I can almost even forgive him for being mean to his pagoto–almost. But not quite.

I don’t think I could forgive anyone, ever, for being mean to Lucas.

Darling whopped Lucas on the head last week when he dropped by.

septteen808

She apologized after, and Lucas said it was OK. No big deal.

But it was a big deal to me.

septteen809

Nobody beats up Lucas.

Which gets me to thinking of that other kind of love.

Pops has always steered clear of anything to do with romance, but me–I find myself thinking of it. Dreaming of it. Mostly, I am dreaming of one face, though I’m not letting myself even name that face to anyone, not even here in my journal. (Except I already have named it, but not directly in association with those three little words. OK, maybe in proximity of those three words–but not adjacent to them.)

septteen305

That comes later. If at all.

Pops says not to rush love. I’m young. There’s time. But has he read Shakespeare’s early sonnets recently?

septteen311

Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface,
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure ere it be self-killed. (Sonnet VI)

I don’t want to wait. I want to taste the “distilled sweet,” to drink the vial, until I’ve had every last drop, and then to lick the vial clean.

Oh, man. I’ve got to put a name to these feelings soon before those eyes bore straight through me.

septteen312

I can’t believe in this language we have just the one word for it, especially when that word has got to carry all the flavors of all the other warm feelings along with it. Even though we use the same word, it’s not the same as what I feel for Pops, that’s for sure. Oh, no. This feeling is something else entirely. It’s more like baxirrakiya. This is big-life-sun burning inside of me.

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Author’s note: That haunting song we share here comes from @For_Eorzea/ Summonerd’s Fi in Chapter 10: Firewritten.