Living on Homeland is very nice, but the one thing I can’t get used to is the extra-long day. We have thirty-two hours in the day here, which comes out to twenty-seven hours by Human reckoning. That’s only three hours more, but it really plays havoc with your inbred sleep cycle!
My, it’s cooler outside than I thought! I’m certainly glad I chose my lined jacket.
I am used to periodic insomnia. In fact, I don’t mind it a bit, though it is a little inconvenient at times; like tonight, for instance. I do need my sleep for the faculty meeting tomorrow. John and I are scheduled to report on the progress of the English language conversation group. I’m supposed to explain the statistics we’ve accumulated to show that conversational fluency has increased since we’ve adopted our new methods… but there I go again! I’m sure you would be bored, and I won’t ever relax if I keep having stimulating thoughts! I’ve got to put my work completely out of my mind!
As I am talking to you I’m walking around the block; I’ve just started out. Harshan was sleeping like a baby (as usual) when I got out of bed, so he didn’t even stir when I slipped out. I figured that the exercise would tire me and that the cool spring air would clear my head, but it hasn’t done me any good so far. Goodness, this sidewalk is steeper than it looks! I just arrived at the traffic light intersection nearest our apartment building.
I’ve always felt that insomnia was a small price to pay to live with my loving husband in this fabulous country on this unspeakably wonderful planet! Today, for some reason, all those joys and wonders seemed to mock me. John Anderson warned me when I first arrived that I’d go through culture shock, but I laughed at him! Me? Culture shock in a beautiful place like this? I’m afraid I was a little cavalier at the time, but now I wonder: is this what he meant?
I’m in some kind of a funk, like I’m trapped alone inside a glass container and everyone else is on the outside. I’m in the midst of things, but somehow I’m strangely not involved in anything. It’s like I don’t belong here.
Oh, goodness! The traffic light turned blue and I wasn’t even looking. Time to get a move on! Not that there is any traffic at this time of night (it is one-sixty three o’clock by my watch), but it doesn’t seem right to offend the orderliness of Thorgelfayne by crossing the street against the light. Not that anyone’s looking. If the police were watching, it would only hurt their feelings; and somehow that is more a deterrent than getting a ticket for jaywalking.
Well, I guess that’s what my problem is. Homelanders in general, and Thorgelfaynese in particular, are just so nice! (Let’s see, there’s no cross street to the left for quite some distance, so I better turn here.) Homelanders are nice, even when they aren’t nice. They get angry and do outrageous things like Humans do, but unlike all but the best Humans, they make things right afterwards.
Oh, look at that! Forta’s is having a sale on children’s clothes! They even have school knapsacks on sale! I will have to bring Darryl by before the sale ends on the twenty-fourth. He’s been wanting a knapsack for his books, but we haven’t been able to buy him one—until now. These prices I can live with.
Back to what I was talking about: I feel like a party crasher, an uninvited guest who’s managed to insinuate herself into the party and pretend she belongs when she doesn’t. Except, of course, this is no party I’ve crashed, it’s paradise; and I keep feeling like I don’t deserve to be here.
Here’s a nice bench; I think I’ll set a spell and catch my breath.
You’ll have to pardon that noise, I just wanted to rewind the recording and listen to myself blather for a while. It isn’t as bad as I thought. Lately I’ve begun to feel like a spoiled child, like I’m forever doing the wrong things and saying the wrong things and people are too frustratingly decent to tell me. Now I know I don’t speak Thorgelfaynese perfectly, I learned it too late in life for that, and I accept that fact. (It makes me envy Darryl.) Only yesterday, I told the lady upstairs that her teacups were on fire, when I meant to say that they caught the fire of the sun in their glaze! I could have died a thousand deaths, and my face burned red, but she just pretended that she hadn’t heard me properly. This sort of thing happens to me all the time, and it’s embarrassing, even though it is harmless; but it makes me wonder: how many times have I made a fool of myself without knowing it? These people are so polite, I’ll never know!
Time to get walking again. The night air is a bit chilly for sitting, but if I’m walking, it’s okay.
I keep wondering whether I really am a full-fledged member of society, or if everyone is just being polite. Maybe I should save myself some effort and blush full-time.
When I was a girl, about twelve years old, my mother had a formal party for the members of some club she was in. I don’t remember what the club was, but it doesn’t matter. Anyway, my uncle’s family was out of town, and she couldn’t find a baby sitter for me, since all the likely candidates for the job were invited to her party. So I had to go to the party too. Mother decked me out in my best Sunday dress, gave me a little lesson on lady-like behavior, and congratulated me on my swift progress to adulthood. You can believe my head was giddy with pride; and I was so grateful to my mother that I resolved to be the best possible adult in the room. I passed around trays of teensy little sandwiches and engaged myself in adult conversation with the other ladies. I received a lot of compliments, and Mrs. Osterhagen loudly praised Mother for raising such a fine young lady. I was so proud! I told everybody that I was doing my best to become an adultress as soon as I could. I was the star of the party, and at the time I really believed that I had swept them off their feet.
It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that ‘adultress’ does NOT mean ‘female adult’! Every single one of those ladies was too decent to laugh at me, and their decency made me feel all the more awful when I learned what I had said. I was only an honorary adult at that party, not a real one; those ladies were only helping me play a game of make-believe.
That’s the way I feel about Thorgelfayne these last few days. Am I really accepted as if I were a Homelander, or am I being humored? I wish I knew.
Now I’m walking down the street that’s parallel to ours and runs along the back of our apartment building. It’s all downhill, and it takes some effort to avoid walking too fast. The reason for that pause back there: a policeman stopped me and asked me if I was okay. I told him that since it’s a three-Moon night, I was trying to walk off some insomnia. I can’t believe it: the police are absolutely invisible until they’re needed, and when they’re needed, they know precisely what to do. I have a lot of respect for the Hapdorn Municipal Police.
People here are so decent that you’d never know if you commit a social faux-pas. They just overlook it! At first that seems like paradise, but pretty soon it’s infuriating. How are you ever going to learn how to do things right, if you’re never told when you do them wrong?
Just a moment.
You can’t find your hotel? Which one is it?
Yes, I know exactly where that is. Just walk straight up the street towards the park.
Oh, I see, you only arrived this evening after dark. The park is not visible from here in the dark. I had assumed you would have seen it earlier.
No, just go straight ahead that way. The hotel will be on your right, just beyond that traffic light. Can you see the traffic light?
Great! Glad to hear you’re having a nice time in our beloved Duchy.
No, I’m not Thorgelfaynese myself; but I’ve lived here so long it feels like I am.
I’m originally from a place called Illinnoi. You probably haven’t heard of it, it’s quite small.
Zerpick? My, I am honored! I’m pleased to meet you and welcome you to the planet Homeland. I hope you’ll have a nice stay. Shall I walk with you to make sure you find it?
If you say so! Have a nice evening… Goodness, what a strong hug!
I thought I had turned this thing off, but I hadn’t. As you probably could hear, that was just a couple of tourists who went out for a stroll and got turned around. As you can imagine, a three-Moon night would be quite an experience for a Zerpicker.
Oh! Now I realize what I just said! A three-Moon night should be quite an experience for a Human, too; but it never occurred to me that it was odd. What a horrible mess I am in, caught betwixt two planets! From a biological standpoint I will never be a Homelander, of course, but it is possible from a cultural standpoint. I have lost considerable amounts of my Humanity and have gained many attributes of a Homelander, and now I am neither Human nor Homelander!
Things are getting worse, not better. I wish I could sit down for a minute, but there aren’t any benches here. What’s the difference? I’m nearly back home, and it’s just as well, because it is getting a little too cold for my taste. Just a short distance further.
Maybe the door won’t creak this time. In the daytime you hardly notice it, but at night you’re afraid you’ll wake up everyone in the building.
I’m breathing heavily now because I am trudging up the stairs.
Hey! Our apartment door is open! Who’s that standing there?
“Melissaleoma,” said Harshan tenderly. He was standing in the open doorway in his green and white pajamas. “I woke up and you were gone! Then I noticed your shoes were missing from the entry hall.”
“Oh, I just had to go for a walk and sort out my head,” I said dejectedly, as I walked in the door and slipped the recorder onto the hall table. “I took my recorder along in case I had any inspirations for tomorrow’s meetings.”
Harshan pressed the door shut behind him until the latch clicked. He stood there leaning against it, with one hand on the doorknob. “Are you feeling well? Should I call a doctor?” His blue eyes managed to sparkle in the dim light, and his mouth tried to suppress an engaging grin.
“No,” I said, brushing back my hair with my right hand. “It’s only the culture shock that John warned me about.” I hung up my jacket in the closet. When I turned around, I found that he had silently sneaked up behind me. “Am I… are you disappointed with me?”
“Melissaleoma, what could you mean?” He placed his left arm around me and drew me close. “I’m not disappointed with you, in fact, I’m grateful for you!”
“You mean you wouldn’t rather have a Homelander wife?” I probed.
“Why would I want that?” he asked. “Melissa Lahtissimon, I love you so!”
That was more than I could bear! Those were his last words to me before he boarded that airplane, right before I thought it had blown up. My body shuddered, and I choked out a tear.
My problems were not solved that evening. I still have trouble with this feeling that I’m living in a glass bubble, but I’m sure it will go away with time. And as far as my insomnia is concerned—that didn’t go away either.
But I didn’t care!