Both Sides Against Me
Author’s Note: This story springs from how I felt when a boy across the alley from my daughter’s house thoughtlessly made a racial slur against my grandson. Someone said that tolerance and understanding is better in this country than in many other places on our planet. But somehow, that is not always enough.
“Half-breed, how I learned to hate the word”
Spock’s long stride was emphasized in purposefulness by the heavy black Starfleet boots. He had not had time to change yet. And his leaves from Starfleet were always so short. And so far between…those that he actually spent on Vulcan.
Those boots. Amanda noticed those more than his gaunt form made stark by the uniform. She preferred him in Vulcan robes which muted his figure, giving him what she thought was more gracefulness, a more patrician presence that would attract respect. And attract women. Her son needed a mate.
Amanda sighed and sat down to her knitting. Having an attentive mate was the heart of her life. There was no need to try to repackage Sarek. He exuded authority, intelligence, even physical attractiveness with an ease born of his Vulcan highly honored clan background. Much stockier than his son, but not portly, there was no question of Sarek’s place in life. Being full Vulcan, even with a Human wife, allowed him to assume his role with no questions asked.
Amanda had heard the term ‘half-breed’ on earth. She had had a Menominee roommate as an undergraduate. The ‘half-breed experience’ as Loraine had tagged it, telling Amanda that although bombastic as Cher’s song belted it out, the emotional impact of Cher’s words expressed it best. Amanda thought she had understood, but she experienced it at a whole new level, watching Spock grow up.
Now he stood fully grown before her, awkward, out of place, right here in the home he grew up in. It’s the uniform that makes him seem out of place, Amanda tried to rationalize, knitting needles clicking rhythmically. He needs a Vulcan wife to look after him. A Human would not understand, not stand up to the rigors of Vulcan society, let alone the harsh impositions of the environment. But she was Human and she had done it. She had done it because Sarek had dared the rest of Vulcan to show any disrespect to his wife, and Vulcan had stepped back, bowing in respect before the greatness of Sarek and his clan. But not so with his son.
“Mother, is Father still not speaking to me? I thought that our reunion on Enterprise on the way to the Bebel conference… Well, it appeared a reconciliation of sorts.”
“Your father will speak to you presently. He is occupied with the crafting of this treaty over rights to the asteroid field in the Blasoard system. The wording has to be such that neither side finds an unfair advantage they could wheedle out of the document with crafty attorneys in the Federation Court System. The wording has to be just so in Vulcan, Terran standard, and Telarite. Be patient, Son.”
Spock watched his mother’s fingers fly with the needles, hardly breaking rhythm as she spoke. She smiled up at him, the same loving smile he had looked up at as a boy and now looked down at as an adult.
“Of course, Mother. It is just that I am…disquieted by…my father’s insistence with finding me another mate at this time. Why now? I am perfectly capable with handling my, a, physical cycle now that it has become regular.”
Amanda smiled into her knitting. “I am sure you are able to find willing partners, My Son. But they are purely survival liaisons, not the deep intimate bonding with a long term partner, with a loyal and loving mate for life. I wish for you, Spock, what I have with your father. I don’t think even you, who has observed it closer than anyone, realize how deeply it completes my life or your father’s life.
“Mother, some day, perhaps. I have time. I am in no hurry. For me, it is much harder to find a true mate than it is for the ordinary Vulcan.
A shadow crossed Amanda’s face, Spock thought. Had she shifted her body out of the spill of light from her reading lamp? She didn’t need the lamp to knit. She did that by feel. Her fingers were as nimble and skilled with the touch of yarn as his father’s were at the katra points on the familiar shape of the cheekbones of his mother’s face. Yes, he longed for such an exquisite touch with another being. The touch of a beloved mate was an epiphany of spirit, the highest moment in one’s life. That was why it should not be hurried.
But the shadow now lightly shading half his mother’s face seemed to echo some sort of internal sadness that he could almost feel, even without touching her hand or wrist. The unsaid hung between them, heavy like evening vapor in one of Vulcan’s deep canyons. Was his mother never to hold his child in her arms? Never to bake fresh cookies for a young face watching with the doubly raised eyebrows of an eager Vulcan child before full mastery of emotion was achieved? How Spock had craved those Terran cookies, almost as a forbidden secret vice here on Vulcan. But he loved her plomeek soap too.
Amanda set her knitting in a lumpy woven bag by the side of her chair. It was homely but familiar, a container that was pregnant and took the shape of whatever crafting projects she had ongoing at the time. The homely as homey. Spock thought the Terran words but felt the Vulcan sentiment for it: practical. Why discard what was still useful even if it was unaesthetic?
But Vulcans WERE strong on esthetics. A stark minimalist sense of beauty, one of the great Human experts on Vulcan culture had called it. And this was one alien pronouncement on their culture that Vulcans did not disagree with. His mother had read the works of this anthropologist and for once found nothing in them to write a letter gently but firmly protesting points of misinformation.
His mother was becoming like her woven bag, a misshapen parody of her youthful beauty. Probably her pregnancy with him had helped that along. But the love in Sarek’s eyes had not changed over the years. Spock’s sharp Vulcan memory would have noted it if it had. He watched his mother rise from her chair, her ankles cracking slightly. When had that happened? She took a couple of stiff steps, then her bones adjusted and she walked as purposefully as she ever did, off toward the kitchen to prepare their evening meal.
Spock began to argue with himself. But I cannot rush it! I will not have my marriage sour into resentment, into the surfacing of words that come unbidden and later cannot be retracted however much the person might wish: “half breed logic!” “inferior human thought” “disgusting alien emotion”. Sharp stabbing words hanging in the air between husband and wife long after the physical vibrations had died away. These followed by a hurt response: “please, not in front of our child”.
Who was to know T’Pring had been capable of such prejudice before their wedding day when she had rejected him? Such loathing that must have been festering over the years, within her. How was it his father had not detected its potential? His father who had researched the match as thoroughly as he now was crafting the words of this treaty. It would be unacceptable to marry another such. Whatever hate of things alien, even repressed deep in the Vulcan psyche, must be discovered - the hate purged or the marriage discarded before it did harm.
Spock listened to the sounds of meal preparation while he watched the night come on, descending on his mother’s garden, on the bench his father had built for her under a shade tree. No, he would not subject his beloved mother, or any future dear child of his, to that sort of pain, even if it meant his mother would never hold his child in her arms.
End note: Tonight my grandson, Dylan, leaves for a national science fair competition with his entry a glove he designed for stroke victims. A patent is now being completed on the glove and it will be marketed to companies which might want to manufacture and sell it. Dylan is thirteen years old. I’ll bet even Amanda and Sarek would be proud of such a grandson.
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