Kalinnikov’s first symphony finished. Mar began to feel the itch of her hemorrhoids. Age – but I have had these for years, like an unwanted companion. She took her shirt off and went into the river; she walked until the water came up to her navel. Relief. A young, voluptuous woman with silky dark chocolate skin, another person in their early twenties or late teens, who also happened to be one the banjo player, called out to her.
“Yes, darlin’ give me a minute.” Mar looked back at the shore; the youth gathering had resumed some of their previous activities: a hacky sack game, two played chess on specially designed wooden table – one with a board built into it; others milled about smoking joints; a couple of women, both naked, swam together – near the shore but in a deep part of the river – at times kissing, splashing, and holding each other. Mar thought of her time as teenager, on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. Her family had been well-off financially but not mentally; she had to fight them every step the way. Marriage. No. Children. No. Her mouth died cursing her. Her father died leaving her nothing. Not that she needed anything; she had been so successful, yet growing up as an only child in that gilded, upper-middle class cage left marks inside her. She let her thoughts drift back to the present. But back came memories of her time in Charleston’s wealthy suburban island – now entirely submersed and aquatic. A point of slavery. That I learned later on. The so-called ‘Ellis Island’ for slaves. What a ridiculous comparison. What a ridiculous place. My parents, as Dixie as can be. But, I do, remember a few consolations in that isolated place with its cruel history. The sea, I do remember the Atlantic. The fresh air. The boys, the girls; a few decent beings among many wretched souls; my friends, I loved them all.
Mar walked back to the beach.
“I am Kenya Cohen.”
“Oh my, I have been isolated; up in my cabin for too long. My you have grown… A woman of…”
“So long, so long ago. I loved your father. He came here with big ideas; he came here and he made this place work, and it’s up to us to make sure it keeps working. Your brother is a good man, the apple don’t fall far from that tree, and what a good tree it t’was.”
“Shall we sit?” Kenya pulled two chairs near each other, slightly pointed inwards, conversation style, at an soft angle. “I would like nothin’ more.”
Mar took a sip from her jug of water. Brook, still naked, came over. “May I get you a dressing gown?”
Moments later, he brought her a fine white, linen dressing gown. I haven’t been treated so well since I can’t remember. Well I can. I suppose in Marin – Mar mused internally.
Kenya, hands on her lap, over her deep blue shorts that came to her knees, looked up at Mar. Mar looked back. They both smiled. It wasn’t the smile of nervousness, the kinds of smiles that people did before the calamity. It was a smile of what Park people called gaining affinity.
“Mar, my brother Jamal is being pressured by the administrator. He didn’t want me to talk to you about it, but I am worried about him. I have never seen him so… nervous. It reminds me of when my father… towards the end. Before the stroke. He…”
“I know dear. The pressure of that position is incredible. Maintaining all that information, all that neutrality, all that independence in the midst of winds and forces that want nothing more than to use – even abuse – you for their own personal agendas. I knew your father well; we had many confidential conversations in the early years. And later on, towards the end.”
“What did he say?”
“I said confidential.”
“Yes, but he’s my father!”
“And he’d want me to respect his wishes, right? That position comes with a great responsibility. The only reason he talked with me, the only reason he felt safe, is because he knew I would never disclose what he said, even if it benefited me or helped someone I loved, even if it helped his own children. That’s what the holder of parliament means. That’s what the blue circle means. It’s a devotion to a practice, not just of papers, secrets, policies, motions and amendments, not just to protecting the continuity of our governance, but a practice of love for the people. It’s the only political position I ever respected in my whole life. Before the calamity, I was… cynical. I hated everything to do with politics. When I was young, sure, I fought against this and that injustice, but everything was filled with money; money, money, money – corruption, the whole world; I am not sayin’ I wanted them billions, yes, they say it’s upwards of some, what seventy-and-five percent of the population to die, but the Carrington Event, that mass solar ejection, cleared away a lot of injustice. Caused a lot too. Or did it just reveal it? I often wonder if we were headed for a mass extinction of homo sapiens and the sun just sped it up. But no matter… ramblings of an old woman.”
“No! Sorry to shout, I mean, no: I want to know, to hear from you. We are taught about the calamity, the events afterwards, some of what happened before, and I am just… I was wondering if I could write a book about your life?”
“About my life? Why?”
“Well, I found an article in our home. My father kept it. It was about your discovery of… the… umm, yes, graviphotons. Something about you being the Einstein of the twenty-first century.”
“Well, I see you are your father’s daughter. Oh, all this curiosity! Feels like the late 2020s. What year is it?”
“So, here we are, in 2063, and I am back to being a celebrity.”
Mar laughed until she cried at the innocence, this child – woman – who lived in a world that never had such absurdities as celebrities. Tears of joy ran down her face. Mar hugged Kenya. “I’ll do the book, for you, for your father. Dedicate it to him.”
“I will. I miss him a great deal. We visit his grave every year on his birthday, February…”
“Twenty-third. If I am still here next year, I will come with – if you and Jamal don’t mind?”
“We’d be honored. When shall we start the book? I want interview you as soon you feel affinity for it.”
“We already started.”
featured image (Courtesy MOMA):