I’m thinking this to myself one morning, carrying my tray in the mess hall, realizing how I’d ordered my own breakfast without even a thought about the technology. I looked up to see Marilyn waving at me from our regular table, where Sulu was saying something to make her laugh.
When I talk about going from one life to another, it feels just like that; as if who I was back on Earth in the year 2010 was another person, another incarnation entirely. My teacher once said we really wouldn’t want to know about our past lives; it’s hard enough just getting through the one we have now. Everybody wants to think they were Marie Antoinette or something, but chances are, the life we have now is the best one so far, as screwed up as it may be.
The transition into this current life, the one I was so sure I was destined for, hadn’t been exactly easy, though I was no less sure, after nearly four months, that it was the right – the only – path for me.
I had a time of it, the first few weeks, fighting depression and loneliness, and too frequently waking from nightmares in which Lester Worsham found his way back to finish me off.
I got to thinking about my previous ideas about Life in Space, most of which were formed from watching reruns of old TV sci-fi series – another of my father’s influences. It was all adventure, all the time, and at the end of the hour, everyone gathered together and nodded sagely or teasingly at each other, no ill effects, no nightmares, no trauma. The movies were even worse. The hero (you rarely saw any heroines) at worst weathered ridiculously impossible blows to reach the end of the film with maybe one little band-aid on his noble brow.
The more I thought about it, and about all the real-world violence that was still a daily news staple when I left Earth, the more annoying it was. Violence is never without its after-effects, physical and emotional. When violence strikes, people’s lives are changed forever. Violence shocks the system, sends an overload of adrenaline that leeches out everything you’ve got when it recedes. Violence stomps fearful images into your conscious and sub-conscious brain, images that burrow in and make themselves at home.
I was lucky to have come into contact with 23rd century medicine, but even Dr. McCoy’s fancy instruments couldn’t keep me from the lingering terror that was Lester Worsham. Yes, Worsham was gone – long gone, actually – but he was still a lurking presence it took me a long time to shake.
Dr. McCoy – simply Bones now – wanted to prescribe something, but I knew what ailed me was more spiritual than physiological. I’d followed my Path, I knew that beyond a doubt. But that path seemed to have taken me away from whatever – and wherever, and whenever – I’d assumed a spiritual path would be. It had catapulted me far, far away from the teacher who had launched me onto it. Who was I now? And who was I going to be? There were no pills for those existential disorders.
So I knew I simply had to ride this out, trusting that clarity would arise in its own sweet time. Still, I decided to treat myself with a little tenderness along the way. After Bones offered, a second time, to give me something to help me sleep, I looked at him, standing there in sickbay, so ready to fix me up, and pondered whether I could – or should – ask for what I knew I really needed.
Bones had a way of looking at me that made me feel at ease on one level, while making me very aware, on another, of some subtle tension. It had something to do with those blue eyes, how they could be so sharp, but then soften into some expression more, well, inviting. He was the consummate professional, of course, so much so that I was still second-guessing my feminine instincts as far as he was concerned.
Oh, what the hell, I thought, just say it. Of course, I hid my need behind a wisecrack.
“Hugs, not drugs,” I said. I added, as he looked at me with an odd expression, “I can deal with the nightmares. I’m getting there. But what I could really use… is an occasional hug.”
“Well, why didn’t you just say so?” He said gruffly, motioning me to stand up, and wrapping his arms around me.
The feel of another human being, just sharing that touch…how much had I needed that? I felt the isolation start to melt, just a little.
But then I pulled away, maybe more quickly than I needed to; I didn’t want him to think I was asking for more than I was. I smiled again, almost teary-eyed, that often-embarrassing tendency of mine, and thanked him.
“Any time, Hani,” he gently returned my smile. I moved toward the door, but glanced back one last time, to find him standing there still, arms crossed, the look on his face unreadable.
I was thinking about Bones and his great hugs, some weeks later, on my way down to the Science Lab. I suddenly wondered what Spock would do if I asked him for a hug. The crewman I happened to be passing flashed me a startled look, and I realized I’d laughed out loud. There was simply something about Spock that perversely made me want to goad him. I guess the truth was, he still unnerved me, just a little, even after being around him so much. And I was around him a lot, since I’d been unofficially assigned to work for him.
I’d finally gotten to where I actually enjoyed what I was doing, the task Jim and Spock had given me, even though it was no doubt a make-work thing to keep me occupied and feeling useful. I did “research”. In other words, I had access to the ship’s computers, and I’d made myself kind of a resident expert on issues of establishing a new colony from scratch, at least in the social and cultural realms. There was a lot of information out there, most of it far too tedious to interest anyone who had a real job to do.
Me, I had nothing but time on my hands, and Spock thought it was a great way for me to develop the new cognitive skills and brain patterns he’d been re-programming. It took some time, kind of like learning to drive a stick shift, getting to where my instincts and responses were synched, but as I did, I got to enjoy the sensation of working with these machines. I even caught myself mimicking Spock’s fluid hand movements as I swam through oceans of data.
I’d spent a lot of time in my past digging through reams of information, finding arcane or interesting stuff and shaping it into something that made sense. I was good at summarizing and collating. And now, occasionally, people seemed to actually listen to what I had to offer. It felt surprisingly good to know that, at least in some small ways, the new colony on Virgilian would reflect my personal input.
So I worked away, not a full shift, but pretty much at my own leisure. And no, I didn’t ask Spock for any hugs, although once in a while, he came over and leaned in close to see what I was working on, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the proximity was, how should I put this? Unsettling, in a rather potent way.