“I am not named for Peyton Manning. Do you know how insulting that is? He was a football player. Football—that barbaric chase-a-ball-up-and-down-the-field-and-hit-each-other-till-your-brain-turns-to-mush sport, not to be confused with soccer or boxing, both in different contexts. And he was born after me. The nerve.” Exasperated, I continue. “My mother only read one book: the Christian King James bible. I never saw any other books in her hand, ever. Sure, she had some self-help books on her shelves, but I never saw her reading one. She told me she read lots when she was younger. When I quizzed her on the narratives of the books she said she read, she didn’t know anything about them. She didn’t graduate from high school, she had an inferiority complex in regards to her education so her boasting was a reactional Pavlovian response, I suppose. I dunno. Sadly, she was always more concerned with how everyone viewed her. Whatever.” I take a long low breath.
“Can you imagine reading only one book your entire life? Really? Really?! Like those people who only read Harry Potter? I assumed after all those years she named me after Peyton’s Place, the book, because I stumbled across an article about the author and how she had such a difficult life and that Peyton’s Place was such a radical publishing sensation at the time especially for a woman—a definite feminist act—so I thought well, at least mom read that book. I was attributing this great feminist girlpower act onto her cause I guess I needed to, but then I found out there was a TV show and, I asked her. Get this: she didn’t read the book or watch the show; she just heard about it and thought Peyton was an interesting name.” I scoff and roll my eyes pish-poshing my point. “Really? Really?! We had an argument once about evolution and she started lecturing me on science and how she didn’t believe in it. I laughed and said with all due respect, science is not something to be believed in—it just is and I’m not taking science advice from someone that only reads one book and not a very scientific one. She replied with something like all she needs to know is in that book. Pffft, what hubris. I told her that I recalled there being something about pride in that there symbol she so likes to idealize. She didn’t pick up on any of what I was saying and only embarrassed herself more then claimed it was all righteous. The most unaware person I’ve ever met. Willfully obtuse and self-righteous. I told her that once and she thought it was a compliment and agreed with me in the biggest self-own ever. It would’ve been hilarious if it wasn’t so depressing. Anyways, enough about my mommy issues. Back to my point.”
Wynne stares at me saying nothing, so I continue.
We sit outside waiting for Lalita in one of the many Anderas communal gathering and dining areas. All sizes of decagonal white tables situated around perfectly groomed green trees and vegetation with a few people here and there waiting for food to be delivered by synthetics while Anderans sit silently waiting sometimes by themselves, sometimes with others possibly in some sort of telepathic discussions. I use the term food loosely. Recipe suggestions are being considered soon to be put to a vote. Yes, they even vote for their food.
“Okay, here’s one: There I was in yet another new school my senior year and it was the biggest school I’d ever been in—like a county high school and the graduating class had a thousand students in it. Yearbook time rolls around and guess what? There’s my name but that isn’t me. I was forever either getting replaced or deleted or disappeared. Talk about discouraging.” I sigh turning somber. “There was never a place for me anywhere there.”
“I have more positive ones: I only bought small cars because I didn’t want to harm the environment, and when I realized what was happening environmentally could be endgame, I sold the car—pretty much cause I had too—and never bought another; I took the bus and rode with other people; and, my biggest legacy and contribution of all was not having kids.” My eyes widen and I shake my head. “Can you imagine me as a mother. Pffft, no. No way. I did write and paint and had a bunch of journals, but mom probably threw them away. I doubt anyone would find any traditional value in those. I wasn’t exactly traditional.”
Her eyebrows go high.
“What? You asked.” I shrug.
“I asked if you know what you would like your legacy to be and I’m not sure how you ended up where you did.”
I’ve perplexed her with my meandering non sequiturs. Again. Chagrined, I extend my apologies while listening to Q cackle hilariously in my head.
BACK AGAIN? YOU AMUSE TOO EASILY, I tell Q. “Bad translation,” to Wynne. She arches an eyebrow at this blatant canard. I change the subject: “What do you want your legacy to be? Or Saturnian’s legacy in general? Stopping this never-ending war probably should be a priority, eh? Do Saturnians have any goals like conquering the universe? Or circumventing oppression against women at least? Please let it be so. Women conquering the world and universe is a girl’s dream stripping men of their oppressive power and booting them in the ass.” I sit back grinning. “I’m disappointed it’s taken thousands of years though.”
A small smile and deliberate spark in her features hint at her approval of my flirtation with anarchy, or my subversion of, at best, the fundamentals of so-called realms of men while ignoring my historical side-eye and diss at the chronic oppressive forever and a day power of the patriarchy. “I’m listening,” Wynne says and I chuckle at her interest.
“I knew you had a dark side. I like it.” We exchange a flirtatious headiness of connection and power for a breathy beat. I shake my head wondering where that came from. The domination of men must bring out something visceral in both of us. “Legacy is…facts without context; it’s a data wielding cudgel without the ethics and humanities to guide it; it’s white men exerting and abusing power over those with less and calling it freedom. Legacy is men continuously asking where we come from while women want to know where we go.” The past I was plucked from still haunts me along with the philosophical observations between then and now. “In my time, war drums beat, man hesitates, then some other dude starts thumping his chest and throws out the”—I brandish air quotes—’your legacy’ bullshit and we always end up in a goddamn war. From what y’all have showed me it hasn’t changed much. So, legacy is…I dunno.” I shrug in frustration.
“At its core, human nature is conflict; a collision of objectives too disparate to linger in detachment.”
Odd this statement given she is Saturnian and their principle goal is one of an observational detachment and now that I know their history? I use the word complacency lightly given the historical context it has been used against women. Women are rarely complacent; women of color especially. This society, however, was built on a multi-cultural matriarchal concept that gave zero fucks to the rest of a world that devalued and violently oppressed them so they went off and created their own world. Who could fucking blame them. I would’ve signed onto that ride or died trying.
Complacency and detachment was never my modus operandi, but could it be? White women are known for being complicit; is complacency just another part of that privilege? That acceptance of ‘I’m content and comfortable and whatever is happening won’t happen to me so…who cares?’ It’s hard not to echo Dr. King here: ‘No one is free until we are all free.’ How in the world could I possibly gather the courage to say it to these women?
Lalita arrives. I note the underlying tension between her and Wynne. Its fleeting and masked by all the stoical poise that Saturnians have going on. Had I not been paying attention, I probably would normally have missed it. Fortunately—or unfortunately depending upon your perspective—I have a fascination and attraction to bad boys and girls and Lalita and Wynne tend to drift into that category for me; Lalita more so when I cannot quite get a read on her; a hard edge and corner I cannot touch or reach.
With Lalita, her commanding presence unfetters some kind of neurological chemical response in me—an allure and curiosity to know more about her. And now that I sense the subtext of tension between her and Wynne? I’m all the more fascinated…and nosy. I also get the feeling she doesn’t approve of me. That she tolerates me for the sake of something larger and more mysterious.
I notice telepathy between them. Nothing I’m privy to.
“Do you know in some societies it’s considered rude to talk behind another’s back.”
If I could, I would capture those facial expressions and turn them into art; it would relay a story unto and of itself.
It’s Lalita that speaks. “Do you purposefully intrude on other’s conversations? Here that is considered rude.”
Properly thrashed, I nod meekly trying to cover my smile failing miserably. “Apologies.”
“Your entitlement to our conversations is crude. Some would call it primitive.”
My smile vanishes. “Oof. Wow. Is that thirty-sixth century speak and schooling to check my white woman feminism and privilege?” I ask appropriately reprimanded. I nod. “I do apologize. Sincerely. Beg your pardon on the proprieties of such since my thoughts are so rudely and easily intruded upon without invitation, routinely monitored.”
A glimmer of hesitation and I speculate on what she looked up before replying so swiftly. “As you say. Did you expect us to bring such a vestigial presence into our midst without being monitored. An ancient with an archaic belief system, do you feel that certainty of those beliefs must be challenged?” Lalita states.
I open my mouth to speak then stop. Since the Saturnian language update, I occasionally switch back to my old English because…nostalgia; a longing for home and familiarity; an isolated ache that starts with a memory and escalates; a pining for all those people, places, and mundane things that was straightforward—as much as it could be compared to here—and comfortable. With that switch turned, the translations a bit mangled, but I get what she says. Being called an ‘ancient’ doesn’t help my frustration at feeling othered and the victim of an ‘ism’. Having felt the onus of age creeping up on me in my era, adding another fifteen hundred years to the original forty-five takes the ageism to an entirely other level. Having no reply, my response is an artless grunt in quiet contemplation. Meanwhile, Q starts flashing demographics at me like an accusation. “Why are you giving me this information?” I ask out loud uncertain if I’ve made some regrettable breaches in propriety. Again.
Another look from Wynne and Lalita. I wave them off with an apology pointing to my head. “Not you.”
To Q: WHAT ABOUT MEN?
Q displays some numbers and I giggle in delight, which gets me more looks. I smile: “Valar morghulis, bitches.”
Overlooking my popular culture reference to annihilate all men, Lalita queries me on those unfortunate blunders. “You do come from a time and place where insidiously malevolent ideologies and myths were pervasive. It is only logical to deduce some immutable and residual defects.”
I hesitate before replying wondering how to navigate words and worlds without making another hideously callous mistake; blundering my way through without being foolish and thoughtless, hurtful, and harmful while also being informative and analytical. I rub my head in frustration. CHRIST, THEY SHOULD’VE NEVER TOLD ME THAT I WAS AN EDUCATOR.
I hear Q sigh and snicker at my endless thoughts and self-recriminations. YOU THINK TOO MUCH. YOU DO REALIZE THOSE WORDS MEAN THE SAME THING, she asks. I ignore her.
“We should never avoid talking about…injustice. It should be philosophically pursued on all levels: sociology, philosophy, history…all the humanities—even religion—thoroughly studied transparently and enthusiastically from every perspective. I want to collaborate and participate in an equal and fair world—errr, universe where privilege is afforded us all. So, yeah, I grew up in a white supremacist world indoctrinated and socialized into that ugliness and yeah, some of it still lingers like the mutant scum it is. I’m managing my way out of it, stumbling through awkwardly and I apologize up front for that. I promise you, I’m on the side of equality; I will fight for the vulnerable and against the unjust. And although as conscientious and well-meaning as some of us have been and are, we do understand that we were unwittingly complicit in an unfair system that impersonates as a just one maliciously designed to leave others behind in the rot of its backflow.”
WRAP IT UP, Q says. THESE TRANSLATIONS ARE BECOMING INCOHERENT.
“And yet, this we you reference has a very narrow interpretation.”
“Yeah, I think that’s a part of the whole rugged American individualism, narcissism, and entitlement feature known as whiteness. It’s so fucked up,” I lament sincerely.
Lalita sits forward: “Are you being glib?”
“I wouldn’t even begin to know how to be glib. So, no, not really. I wish I was that cheeky. I’m trying to just wade through it all.” I sigh defeated. “I’m a very slow learner.”
“You mistake stupidity for bravery.”
“Yes, probably, and often without success. I am getting the impression that’s another symptom of whiteness. And I’m not even male. Imagine how entrenched a white American, Brit, European, Russian, or Australian male is in his whiteness and that entire patriarchal savior myth. Every man thinks they’re a god. The ego, not to mention the expectations to live up to all that. Exhausting.” I shake my head vexed by it all then visibly shudder. “Scary the outright absolutism of It all. You think the way they whined before I left that they had been the ones oppressed, objectified, and abused for the last several thousand years. I mean…the nerve. Go figure.”
Nothing but furrowed brows and skepticism.
“So, yes, I believe we’ve all established that I’m an ancient rube mired in the ugliness of the past and that I’m working through it all. I promise to do better.”
“We have no information on you. It was…removed,” Lalita states bluntly.
My mouth falls open. I glance at Wynne for confirmation. She says nothing. That’s expected, I suppose. It’s not like I was famous. I shouldn’t allow it to upset me, but when you are not even a blip in history fifteen hundred years later in the greatest archival history of humanity, it kind of stings. I throw out my hands: “It’s like high school all over again.”
© 2020 Pamela Gay Mullins