Now Voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store,)
Often enough hast thou adventur’d o’er the seas,
Cautiously cruising, studying the charts,
Duly again to port and hawser’s tie returning;
But now obey thy cherish’d secret wish,
Embrace thy friends, leave all in order,
To port and hawser’s tie no more returning…..
—- Walt Whitman, LEAVES OF GRASS,
Book XXXIII, Songs of parting
As I walked, Jim silent at my side, the distance seemed endless, each step counting a beat suspended outside of time. My soul-certainty was shaking again with each step, feeling the tension emanating from the charged body next to me. I’d never known Jim to be without a quip, some cocky comment, bad pun, or barbed remark.
My mind was racing: what if we couldn’t do it? What if he… couldn’t do it? What if I was too dried up and disused to do it? What if, despite that clinch we’d shared once before, we found we had insufficient attraction to overcome the biological burdens of the moment?
What if I simply wasn’t attractive enough for him?
I felt more uncertain with each step, already feeling the weight of his death on me, the weight of the responsibility I’d taken on. In silent desperation, I remembered to focus within; started to chant, over and over, supplicating with all my heart: Help me! Guide me! I can’t do this… I don’t know how, I’m not… enough… to do this…
How could the Divine possibly be interested in participating in a scene like this, anyway?
And then, there it was. The Love, the clarity, the strength, back again, holding me, wrapping around me, filling me. I felt the instantaneous shift as if I’d physically walked into a new energy field. As if the regular Hani had fallen away and there was some New Improved Version installed in her place. Now I knew for sure.
I can do this.
Every cell of my body sparked with some intuitive response; calm echoed through the deepest reaches of me. More than that, a flow of compassion… no…some wondrous blend of compassion and desire, like a bridge that spanned from the primal fear of death to some equally primal embrace of life. I was being given exactly what I needed to live this moment. Exactly what I needed to lead my friend across.
I had never experienced greater love in my life.
I could see that Jim was still deep in guilt, still furious with himself for not being able to find another way, for having gotten us into this situation in the first place. We stood awkwardly in the cramped space. I carefully took off Uhura’s dangling earrings and laid them on the control console. As I turned back to him, he spoke, his face tortured. “I should have listened to Bones, Hani, I should have done more to protect you. I…”
I reached up and put a fingertip to his lips.
“Don’t,” I said, softly, invoking the tone I could have used with him that night in the hallway, but had warned myself not to, the tone that said yes instead of no. “Don’t. No more.”
He stopped, mid-sentence, and I found myself getting lost in the feel of his lips beneath my sensitive fingers. I let my gaze linger on his face; I’d been so careful, so damned circumspect in the past, so aware of that invisible line I’d drawn between us.
And it was only as I consciously stepped over that line now that I truly realized how tightly I’d been holding myself until this very moment. My every action since I’d met him, met them, since they descended into my world and took me away with them, since they saved my life….It had all been about hedging my emotional bets. I’d been holding myself so close, trying so damned hard not to get knocked off balance, not to care too much, not to show too much.
Now, new waves of insight were flooding into my head, and I felt myself physically stagger from the flow. I put out a hand to the wall to steady myself, feeling as never before, the distance I’d traveled to arrive here. I saw how the path had led me here, I could see, with new eyes, how the path branched out from here, in infinite possibilities, although the one branch that was front and center went nowhere at all, but ended this day, abruptly. Permanently.
How irreducibly simple life became when I stood poised at its end.
Jim’s hands were on my shoulders, steadying me, his expression worried.
I was wondrously aware of him in the moment, flooded with insight, as my hand reached out to touch his face, my fingers now tracing his cheek as I gazed into his hazel eyes. It felt like an impossibly heavy weight falling from my shoulders… how I’d carried the heaviness of every woman I’d ever defended or counseled. Every pain, every vicarious blow I’d borne along with them, so that somewhere inside me I’d constructed, unconsciously it seemed, this … impenetrable barrier, my own personal shield against the wounds men had inflicted – on me, on others, both the real and, roughly spilling over into imagination, those that might come.
This was the legacy of Dale, the legacy of Yolanda, these were the wounds not just of the women who wore the bruises, inside and out, but… oh! How much deeper are we going to go with this!? … They were the wounds I’d inflicted on myself, almost forcibly keeping myself locked away from my own truth, from deeper love…
The wounds I’d passively inflicted on the men in my life, even those I’d loved (especially those I’d loved?) by my inability to be my deepest truest self.
Even with Bob, how I had submerged myself into a love that was essentially caretaking, safe, controlled, a love that demanded time and energy, yes, but left that essence of me …safely wrapped away, unshared, unbreachable.
Jim had nearly broken through, that evening he’d walked me to my room and launched his sneak attack; typical Jim Kirk maneuver, a stealth approach around an unguarded flank.
He was looking at me, now, wary, concerned; wondering, no doubt, what the hell was going on with me, as I felt myself propelled further into new understanding.
This was about me, as much as it was about them.
If this truly was the end of my life, I wasn’t going to be allowed to go out wrapped in a shroud of my own construction. I had to let him in.
I had to open up.
Whatever happened, I wasn’t here just to save Jim’s life. Or Bones’ or Spock’s.
However short it might be, I was here to save my own.
For no reason at all, I laughed out loud, hit by the giddiness of Love in its most full-bodied form.
Jim’s look of surprise was overtaken by a startled smile in response.
I’d broken through. I grinned back at him, “Come on, Jim, admit it, it’s kind of funny.”
He slid an arm around me now, ready to dance at least a few steps deeper into this new music. I felt my body, of its own accord, melting against him, now that the Old Me had stopped trying to coach from the sidelines. The Old Me wouldn’t have known how to take his tight-jawed face in my hands, calling on my every inner resource, to feel this power, to pull his attention toward me, and away from everything else spinning in our universe.
I kissed him, softly, exploring, letting my body gently press against his. I felt his hand on my back, could feel its touch, perfunctory at first, distracted, then, slowly, falling into the senses, lips following hands as he kissed me back.
“Not exactly what I had in mind for a first date,” he whispered in my ear with a sigh, and I could feel the resonance of his grin, hear the subtle sound of his rising desire.
That’s when I knew we were going to get there. Let it flow, Hani, keep moving, follow the flow. Jim’s humor was back. We were going to be okay.
We were all going to be okay.
Whatever happened, everything was okay. Everything was… perfect.
I think I was glad he was the first in this inconceivable progression. Of all of them, Jim has always been, in some ways, the least… complicated. You know what you’ve got with Jim. Not the unfathomable foreignness of Spock, and not the latent old-school romantic feelings I’d tried to avoid picking up from Bones. I knew Jim was capable of grand romance, I’d heard the stories, but I also knew he didn’t feel that way about me, nor I about him. I treasured him as a friend, and I’m pretty sure that’s how he saw me. Friends.
Friends with some obvious chemistry between us. We – or I – had managed to keep that chemistry at bay, more or less. Now, this New Improved Me was rather surprisingly hell-bent on diving smack into the middle of it. There apparently was no holding me back. My hands and lips were already off onto their own agenda. Forget what drove us here. Forget everything but this.
“You know, that evening you walked me to my room, I didn’t sleep all night,” I whispered softly, exploring his ear lobe, enjoying the little shiver I provoked. He cinched me tighter into his embrace, and I was all too aware of the involuntary beginnings of his desire pressing against me.
I could still feel the small tendrils of lingering resistance, the fractured state of his thoughts. I closed my eyes, and put every atom of my own attention into some pure state, betting everything I had that my own state of bliss would be enough, the vibrations of that would be strong enough, to override the coarser vibrations of fear and guilt and worry that still swirled around us both.
Was it possible to feel such love, love that had no shape or name, that wanted nothing, projected nothing, love that simply and totally demanded to be what it was, flowing in the path of least resistance?
Yes, yes, yes. Feel it, Hani, follow the flow….
“Oh, god, Hani,” his moan came from some reverberating depths, his mouth on mine, and there was an intake of breath, as if in that moment he threw himself into that flow, taking me with him.
And then, as if we were nothing more or less than normal, a man and woman together, clothes became an unbearable obstacle, and we fumbled and stripped away the wrappings by which we’d known each other, revealing the promise only hinted at until this moment. I gasped in the half-forgotten thrill of nakedness, of sharing bare skin with a man.
If I’d convinced myself that Jim Kirk was best treated as a friend only, I melted into him now. This was a man in his prime, in every way. Skirt chaser he might be, but there was nothing to fault him on here. Nothing. A fleeting regret crossed my tousled thoughts, that I was able to know him only in this moment of freighted obligation. What would it be like to know him in more free-spirited circumstances?
But then, I gave it all up, the last rational thought, and let the outer world fade away – there was no point in loading all those waiting worries onto these bare bodies, bodies that simply knew what to do, that didn’t care at all what was at risk, what was at stake. I gave myself up to… this. Calling him. Holding him in this intensity of focus that was an unexpected gift, provided by whatever gods knew we needed all the help we could get.
In time, (that oh so limited resource!) the natural flow of things laid me down, opened me up to welcome in a pilgrim on the most primal of pilgrimages, an ordinary, or not so ordinary, man following the ancient imperatives of creation, welcomed him deep into my precious, flawed body, wrapping him close, meeting, matching, his increasingly strong, confident rhythms, and willing, if it were possible, that the paradox of life and death would find the resolution we were all seeking. And at last, letting even that fervent, fevered prayer rise upward on its own, we two tumbled, tangled together, over the edge of the known world, falling as one into whatever worlds lay just beyond.