Archive for May 24th, 2011

Necessity gives the law and does not itself receive it.  –  Publilius Syrus, Sententiae (#399)

I could tell right away that he was going to be difficult.  To start with, he had put off the appointment four times, and the delays were accompanied by silly questions and “I’ve never done anything like this before” sheepishness.  Then he turned up twenty minutes late, but I had anticipated that and had nothing else scheduled until after dinnertime.  Finally the door chime rang, and I practically had to drag him in to prevent his standing there, hat in hand, as though he were afraid of me.

“Please, sit down and make yourself comfortable.  Would you like something to drink?”

“Yes, ma’am, if it’s not too much trouble.”

“No trouble.  Is iced tea OK?”

“Sure, that’ll be great.”  Then as I returned and handed him the glass, “You have a nice place here.”

“Thank you, Craig.  I’ve tried to make it as comfortable as possible.”

A slight pause, and then, “Do you play?” gesturing at the chessboard.

“Not very well, I’m afraid,” I laughed.  “I’m much better at backgammon, but the chessboard makes a nicer display piece and a lot of my gentlemen enjoy playing.”

A slight twitch of his left eye; he was wound so tight I was afraid he’d jump if I touched him, so I didn’t.  “We can play if you like.”

“Oh, no, I’m not very good either, though I’m studying a book on technique.”

“Books are fine, but there’s no substitute for experience,” I purred.  No good; if he caught the double-entendre he gave no sign.  I had my work cut out for me.  “The set was a gift from my grandfather; he was a chess master and hoped that a pretty set would interest me in the game.”

“It’s very nice.  You said was, has he passed on?”

“Yes, last year.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.  He had a rich and full life, and when the end came he faced it bravely and without regrets.”

“How does your family feel about what you do?”

I would like to think my face didn’t register my shock at such an abrupt transition, but I can’t be sure.  “Well, you know how it is; one’s parents often have plans of their own, and they can’t help being disappointed when one goes in a different direction.”

“What did they want you to do?”

“My father suggested I go into psychology and my mother agreed, and since the subject intrigued me I complied.  But while doing my post-graduate work I become interested in sexology, and my doctoral dissertation was on the role of regular sexual activity in alleviating nervous tension in males with high-stress jobs.  After I got my degree I decided to become an applied practitioner rather than a researcher, and here I am.  My folks weren’t exactly overjoyed with my choice, but they respect it even if they don’t understand it.  How do your parents feel about your career?”

“Oh, my dad’s really proud of me, but my mom, well…”

“Mothers never really like it when their children travel far from home, even if it’s for important reasons.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” he admitted.  Then, a bit grudgingly I thought, “You’re pretty smart.”

“Does that surprise you?” I countered.

“Oh, no, I didn’t mean that!  It’s just, well…”

“You didn’t expect brains in a whore.”

“I didn’t call you a whore!” he exclaimed.

“No, you didn’t,” I said with the most disarming smile I could manage.  “Maybe you should.”

“I wasn’t raised like that!”

Aha!  Now I understood his reluctance, and knew how to deal with it.  “Craig, you’re very young yet, and very idealistic.  And while I hope you hold on to as much of that as you can, there are times when one has to be pragmatic.  I freely chose this career because I think what I’m doing is important.  And if a lot of other people didn’t agree with me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”

“I know you’re right, and I’m actually really excited about being with you.  You’re very beautiful-“

“Thank you.”

“-and I’ve fantasized about our appointment for the last week,” he admitted.  “But at the same time I can’t help feeling guilty.”

“That’s not unusual, honey.  Lots of my gentlemen feel guilty, especially at first.  But men, especially fit and healthy young officers, have physical needs that must be taken care of if they’re going to perform at peak capacity.  And since necessity demands that you be separated from your wife for the next three years, I’m here to fill in for her in the meantime.”

“I know, but I still feel like I’m cheating on her.”

“It’s not cheating if she knew about it and agreed to it,” I said.  “I can bring up a scan of her signed disclosure form if you like.”

“You don’t have to do that, I know.  It just feels weird is all, like she only agreed because she had to.”

“Nobody was drafted for this mission; everyone here is a volunteer, including you and me.  As in any major undertaking, we all have our parts to play.  And for Karen to be able to play her part, she can’t be here for you now.”

He started a little at the mention of his wife’s name, forgetting that I had access to the records of all the men to whom I was assigned.  “It doesn’t seem very fair to you, though.”

“I had a choice, just as we all did, and choices carry consequences.  Since star travel induces an irreparable degeneration in the ability of a woman’s body to carry a child to term, female colonists need to make the trip in suspended animation so as to slow the decay down to an acceptable level.  And that means a few of us need to stay awake to keep you men sane and healthy.  Maybe one day they’ll lick the problem and future couples can experience the voyage together, but for now this is the best solution we’ve come up with.”

“But that means you can never have children of your own,” he said with genuine sympathy.

I took his hand.  “That’s a consequence I accepted.  Besides, if I really want them one day I can always employ a surrogate.  Maybe your Karen will volunteer, and then she can help me by temporarily taking my place just as I helped you by temporarily taking hers.”

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