This is a brand new land. Or a real old one. Or an old one making itself newer than new. It’s all new to me, that’s for sure. Though people are people everywhere when you boil them down. Ok, pausing a moment, because I know if I said that out loud I’d get funny looks, or worse, cheerful agreement from the guy who hates candy. I swear, some literalists.
Anyway, the boss has brought us all to this place my roots are from. It’s nothing like my mother’s stories, handed down from the time before the dragons rose. Sure, there are bits and pieces. They’ve had the same stories handed down to them here, and woven them into who they are now. They’ve got traditions. I’m pretty sure my mom will recognize a lot of how tea is handled, for instance, even if some details have changed. But it’s more like a big musical piece that quotes old folk songs in a bar or two here and there; the original singers wouldn’t recognize it.
You bet I’m going to spring for tickets for my parents soon as soon can be. Gotta use the hazard pay a certain boss insisted on shoving at me when I wasn’t doing anything useful but lying around reassembling my brain. Which, by the by, I still cannot believe I did, and purely hope never to do again. Especially since I did it wrong.
See, there’s this code people have. They can just make a sound and everyone else hears it and knows something about it. Like we’re in the tavern and someone off to the left makes this sound and everyone turns to look at someone off to the right. Or someone tells a story that is chock full of people doing things, and the listeners seem able to instantly know which person is doing what in that jumble of verbs. Even my dog seems to know it, my dad can be talking with a customer, complete stream of chatter, and suddenly the pup’s lifting his head to look like he’s been signaled something’s about him. My mom’ll say, “Come here” with an extra odd sound, and sometimes she looks at me with this sad gaze after and beckons to show she meant me, and sometimes the dog trots over and it’s clear she meant him to, and he understood what I couldn’t.
Then there’s directions. Turn left at what? Go to the intersection of which and where? Here in this old-new place I knew there was a spot with a garden I wanted to see, and the taxi raptor master got put out when I couldn’t describe it. A lot of do-you-mean and so-you-mean and maybe-you-mean without ever saying what it was they thought I meant, just some odd sounds. Meanwhile a local came up, made a noise, handed over a coin and rode off in a heartbeat.
I hear our group might be going over to that big city across the water soon. But we need permits. I thought I’d get a start on mine. Filled the form out nice and tidy, but the clerk kept telling me to fill in the top. There wasn’t anything to fill in up there, just a decorative bar. I asked what I should put there and they made a noise, pointed at me, pointed at the form. Far as I could tell I’d answered all the questions. They showed me another form someone else had filled out, and jabbed at that top box, but it just had random dots in it. So I added some dots to mine and the clerk glared and took the form and slowly ripped it up and ordered me out. I’m going to have to get some help with it, I guess, soon as I can think about going back in there without wanting to cry.
I know I knew the code. I think I knew the code, anyway. I mean I would remember having this drifting feeling in every conversation, right? And I read back in my journal and it’s got these odd gaps and phrasings that suggest I just needed to write something short to sum up who I was writing about. I see the medical woman looking at me with pity and consternation. I want to tell her not to worry, but since I can’t tell what I’m missing, maybe it’s like someone with a cut off hand telling a friend not to worry about their ability to do pullups.
I’ll get through this. Maybe I’ll never know the code again. But I’m here, in the place my blood came from, and it’s beautiful and exciting and exotic. Most everyone here is friendly and interested in what my home is like and happy to explain stuff about their home in return. Some of our group’s managed to get in trouble; the surprise is that not everyone has. The locals have got a good handle on how to deal with trouble, though, they have systems for everything. I’m sure being rich gets you off the hook for things, just like at home, and some of the systems can get bogged down or unfairly applied, but it still feels safer here, fairer. Cleaner and brighter, too. Could be I’m only seeing the good parts so far – they certainly want to make sure to hide the dirty laundry in front of us outsiders – but I really like the good parts.
I’m pretty sure I don’t need the code to get by. Just a little bit of help. And I’m here with a bunch of folks that live to help others. So I’m set for the time being.