Part 1 Sacrifice
Eudaimonia- noun, Aristotelian ethical concept of everyone performing the strengths they were born with “for the highest human good”; acting in alignment with one’s soul.
A stream of knee-length robes the color of robin eggs provide some light against dawn’s sooty sky, this year’s adolescents passing the end of our container and flowing into the Eudaimonia Center three blocks down where we both perform services. Pulling my gaze away and swiping at the wetness on my cheeks, I pour the tea. Now is not the time. It never is. Dainty rosebud cups clink together as I hurry down the path to a small patch of greens we refer to as Our Spot. I can hear Haff sighing loudly, despite years of practice waiting for me, but maybe his memories or sympathy weigh more than impatience today. The tea is cool and likely bitter now, but I pour it anyway and hand him a cup before settling on the ground and pouring my own, using the busyness to distract me. “Thanks”, he grumbles, holding the tea cup’s tiny porcelain handle between his thumb and finger, kneeling next to me with his hairy calves crossed at the ankles. Our lane is crowded due to the witness mandate, and I notice Haff isn’t the only one who didn’t bother to get dressed. Maybe add the instruction for next year, I think, as Lyphane perches herself adjacent and slightly in front of Haff, the sun high enough now to outline her ample form.
“Hey, we have each other,” I say under my breath, my eyes meeting those of a couple neighbors staring at us. “Uh huh”, is all he can manage. I sit cross-legged and focus on not spilling my tea. We look up and down the parade of young males, most unable to grow a beard yet. Seemingly resolute in their duty and uncharacteristically quiet, solemn moments drag by until choked sobs draw our attention toward the end of the line. “Hate this shit”, Haff mutters under his breath. My own tears dry in my eyes when I hear it. Looking around at the crowd I see shoulders shaking, heads turning away, but no one leaves, thankfully. A rare sparrow alights on a branch overhead, and temporarily draws the crowd’s attention. None of the young males seem to notice. I should follow up on sedation dosing with Dr. Gronne, Head of Methods. Walking toward the sobbing one, I whisper “Here, it will help”, as I offer them my cup. “Get away from me! Stay away from me!” they yell, shake their head and swat at the cup. Tea spills on my hands as I snatch the cup back, cradling it in both hands. “You are fortunate.” Jaw clenched, I grind the words out, “If this cup hit the ground, this cup that was my Great-Grandmother’s, you would have lost more than your fertility today.” Everyone is staring now, the crowd, the line and Haff, all waiting to see what I will do. My head swiveling slowly, I meet their stares, just as I always have. It was thoughtless of me. Walking back to Haff I focus on the tea pot patterned with roses sitting on clover, blue grass and long sprigs of yarrow tinged yellow by sunshine. The line begins moving, silently. My mother loved roses, too, always impractical and unapologetic about it. I don’t dare sit, but force my hands onto my hips, more of an overseer than a spectator now. Haff gets to his feet and pries one sticky hand off my side and envelopes it in his. An officer approaching from across the road reaches us, “Your instructions, M’aam?” “Obtain their name and container number for now”, I tell him as Haff looks away. It’s unlike him not to offer a greeting.
“Return to your homes for the reminder of daylight hours and enjoy this day of connection with your container mates. You are invited to turn on your screens at nine this evening for instructions regarding required health exams. Thank you for your contribution to the greater good of humanity”, the announcement poured from outdoor speakers placed on every container. There were indoor speakers utilized for weekly sanitizing and hygiene reminders, always the same, as well as emergency weather instructions, which rarely were. “Why are you looking at me like that? You know I have to maintain authority, especially now, just like you do. Or, just like you should,” I say after the heavy metal door rumbles closed, locking us in until 4:30 in the morning, unless we are needed. Goddess, please don’t let us be needed. “Damn kid will be lucky if they don’t expire him rather than snipping his vas differens, but it seems like they trust me more since we returned with so many people.” It feels good to remove my head scarf, air cooling my sweaty noggin. Squeezing my eyes tight for a few seconds, then reopening them, I smile at him and declare, “I’m here now”.
Turning his back on me and walking across the room Haff flips on a wall fan, as he does when he wants to mask his deep voice. “That’s going to run out before morning, you know”, I caution and immediately regret it. Climbing the steep steps to our sleeping loft, I run a finger along the edge of a nearby frame then flop myself on the stiff foam sleeping mat so I can peer up at a polished balsa ceiling. Almost indiscernible patterns in the wood calm me as I imagine a canopy of trees swaying, rustling whispered secrets I can’t quite hear. Today isn’t any worse for me, I tell myself. But, Haff is struggling. I’ve been feeling his need to articulate growing all week as I distracted him with physical projects helping neighbors, his favorite way to affect our circumstances. I feel guilty for wanting a different experience with him than this, greedy and selfish because I know how much he loves children. Still, I can’t help thinking it could be our only free time before we settle in the summer caves in 3 months. Clearly, I miscalculated.
“I don’t care, Scotia. I DO NOT care today”, he pummels a hammy fist into his palm and wanders around our small dinette set, needing to move as he spills what’s tearing at his heart. “Today I just wanna be sad because it’s a damn sad day, isn’t it?” tears are running into his copper-colored beard. The sobbing boy affected him. He climbs up and sits down next to me on our handfasting quilt. My body tilts toward his. It seems my world has tipped toward Haffney since we were paired in our first-year engineering courses seven years ago. With how close our parents were, it never should’ve happened, but algorithms didn’t account for close friendships. Unsupervised evenings skinny-dipping in The Big Lake and hiking wooded hills surrounding it seemed to exist in another lifetime, a fairytale, ending with a frightening warning for others. How I wish we could be there now, sitting in a meadow with a bottle of sweet red wine stolen from my parent’s collection of artifacts, a picnic of cheese and sweet rolls, maybe an apple. Haff and I pointed out constellations to one another, each trying to outsmart the other as insects hummed and fireflies lit up unexpectedly and made me giddy. A memory of the way he looked at me, my tangled white-blonde hair blowing furiously in the wind until he pushed it out of my face and kissed me quickly, softens my irritation now.
“I’m sorry they took that from you, Haff,” I rub what I can reach of his broad warm back with one hand, my long fingers splaying to cover more of his warm expanse. I wish we could go back to before they left us for Parnus. “Nothing I say or do will change it, Baby. Just like nothing will make this planet habitable, again. Nothing I do brings back our son from Parnus, Haff, or makes them reach out to us on satellite. My only respite is you,” sitting up so I can look in his dark eyes I whisper slowly drawing out each word, “Please don’t ever think any of this is ok with me. They left us here to destroy us- you in Bio-C and me on the opposite end of Eudaimonia. I worry sometimes you’re starting to see me as a villain.”
Taking my hand in his, he scrapes the blood from under my nails with his pinky nail and wipes it on his shift. “We both have blood on our hands. I don’t hold you more culpable than I do myself, I just wish there was more understanding. What happened today is going to happen again. People need someone to blame who lives here, not on Parnus.” Haff lays back, draws my body closer with one thick arm and tilts his fuzzy curls against my buzzed head. Not what I planned, but this is the glue that keeps us together, I realize. Tomorrow, we’ll return to our dreaded roles, but today we have one another and two shower allotments I intend to enjoy.
“Haff, I love you”.
“You know I adore you, Scotia”, he says, his voice cracking on my name. As our sunburned lips meet in a gentle kiss, I think fleetingly of Parnus once more, until Haff reminds me how deftly he loves me, starting his descent behind one ear lobe and holding me still as his kisses tickle my neck and breasts. Exploring one another’s bodies is never mundane, caressing our most intimate weaknesses, I thirst for him with my whole being, hips rising in invitation. He tantalizes me right to the brink of release… then stops to grin at me wolfishly. Nothing is changed between us, I tell myself. Rolling on top of him with a guttural, “oh, you’re sooo funny”, I tug at his shift until he raises his arms laughing, so I can slip it off. The sight of Haffney DeWoers, fully grown and a far cry from the slim boy I fell in love with, stirs a feral and possessive instinct in me. I press my lips to his and lay my body full length on his, just the way he likes. “Savoring us”, is what he calls it and says it’s what he envisions when he is about to lose his mind any given day. Moving down, I rest my head on his wide chest. Haff encircles me with his warm golden arms. I want to say I know they’ll come for us soon, but it isn’t worth ruining this moment.
Later, we soap one another’s bodies, Haff preferring a large sponge and me a stiff bristled brush. He brushes me reluctantly, yet it never fails to excite him when I say, “harder, please”. A couple harmless fetishes neither of us ever mentioned aloud were born from our isolation here on Eudaemonia, or “old earth” as we often called it. Sated and sipping dandelion wine from rose teacups at our dinette table, we told one another about the things we’d been saving one another from, a multitude of reluctant sins neither of us would’ve ever guessed. Our guilt united us, again. A second cup of the bitter wine turned our thoughts away from talking, but I think we both knew our acquiescence was no longer a given. Later we danced while the neighbors played a mandolin and bells, and I told Haff I’d envision this the next time I was in danger of losing my mind.