I’ve always wondered if it was because I was the one sent to fetch Santi that she became so important to me. Or maybe it’s because, true to her name, she offers the healing properties of music.
Of course, I was primed to step into a mother’s role. Shortly before I left to pick up Santi, Momo and her family came, delivering one of their pups, now fully grown, to Octy. Being near Momo and her daughters was bound to get me dreaming of a daughter of our own.
And then there was Sebastion’s surprise.
There’s nothing like the scent of a newborn to get maternal instincts flowing. And that Septemus’s new baby sister had pale skin and iridescent scales only intensified my desire for our own extra-terrestrial daughter to cuddle.
Septemus’s Truth #42 holds that when things happen is when they are meant to happen. Sept has told me since then that he wants to revise it to “when things happen is when they happen.” I say it’s the same difference, but he asserts that no, the distinction is subtle but essential.
Nevertheless, at that time, I firmly believed that things happened when they were meant to happen. I could apply this to everything in my life, and it held up, so it became truth for me.
My hormones combined with my belief in the providential timing of a beneficent universe, and I was primed to respond when Xirra told us of the refugee stranded in Granite Falls.
“We should both go,” Sept said. “I’ve always wanted to visit the mountains. We can bring Mojo, or he can stay here with Elui. Let’s do it!”
Sept couldn’t go–of that I was convinced. This was the time when the Anti-Alien Coalition, the AAC, first began holding protests (more like riots) against extraterrestrial refugees, diplomats, immigrants, and citizens.
“It’s not safe!” I said. “You know the towns the bus travels through. I don’t care how good you look as Max. If they find out who you really are, you could be attacked!”
Sept had to admit I had a point.
He was quiet for a minute. “I like doing things together best,” he said. “You’ve been great helping out with Ritu. At the same time, I guess I always thought this was my project, and that you were pitching in for me. Isn’t it selfish of me to ask you to go to such trouble as this trip would be?”
“I kind of see it as our project,” I said. “It’s important to me, too. Of course it’s important to me because it’s important to you. But it’s also important to me for my own reasons. You know, social justice and all that.”
Sept laughed. “My beautiful activist wife!”
“Would it be sexist of me if I said you couldn’t go because you needed to stay to keep your old moon-man company?” he clowned.
“Yes,” I flirted back, “but in a very cute and endearing way.”
We got serious then, because there was so much to plan.
Xirra hadn’t told us much, only that the refugee, who was too young to travel on her own, stayed with Ritu’s contact up in the back country. I said I’d get a topographical map from the ranger when I got there.
“Do you know how to read a topographical map?” Sept asked.
I did. I’d studied natural history at college, and that was a required skills in the field.
“That’s impressive,” said Sept. “I guess you’re much more equipped to go than me.”
It didn’t hit me until I was on the bus, heading through the desert below the foothills, how much I would miss Sept. This was my first time to be apart from him for any length of time since our first date.
I knew this region well. We’d spent a few weeks here and up in the mountains during field quarter when I was in college.
It was easy to fall into the rhythms of its shifting light.
The land was sparsely populated. A few ranches nestled into the valley, and the ranching town lay a few miles back.
I sat in the rear of the bus, gazing out the window at the light on the rocks.
It was easy to fool myself into the illusion of harmony.
The passengers near me talked of shopping at Target for new tennis shoes for their daughters, entering their one-year-old heifers in the 4-H fair, and the return of Roseanne to TV.
Lulled by the mundane, domestic conversations, I began to suspect we’d been paranoid in thinking Sept had anything to fear.
“Johnson said another one of those blue people stopped by the store the other week,” said the grandma in the seat in front of me.
“Naw. Really? At the General Store?” said the woman next to her.
“That’s the one. Even with the sign. Of course he didn’t sell him anything. Just pointed to the exit.”
“Well, I hope they cleaned up the shop well afterwards,” the woman said. “No telling what kind of alien bugs those types carry!”
They switched the conversation back to the grandchild’s prospects for college.
So, we weren’t paranoid. The sentiment against extra-terrestrials, especially in rural areas like this, ran strong.
It wasn’t simply the unknown. It was a cauldron of fears brought on by a shifting world. Global climate change, even back then, exerted economic and environmental pressures. Those who relied on the land for their livelihood felt it most keenly. In parts of the world, these pressures led to political unrest and extreme poverty. Entire populations were being displaced, ending up in the countries that hadn’t yet felt it so strongly.
People said things like, “We’ve not even got enough for the people of our own planet. We shouldn’t expect to have to take in aliens who’ve got the whole universe. Let them shove off and move on!”
That became the cry at the demonstrations: “Shove off and move on!”
All summer, demonstrations had been held across the country and oversees. “Shove off and move on!” None of them had been peaceful. Many cities and towns, like ours, designated themselves, officially or on a grass-roots level, as sanctuaries, and we remained free of protests, welcoming all who came. But we were the pockets of haven in a hostile world.
The grandmother and the woman got off at a small town at the base of the mountains. The only passengers on the bus were a man with fly-fishing gear and a few backpackers who’d stitched onto their packs the symbol of xenophilia: the infinity sign and the numeral one.
I let myself find the current of peace in the evening mist that settled over the forest, and I wondered about this world in which the young refugee I was coming to fetch had found herself.