"For it was in the golden prime
Of good Haroun Alraschid…"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson,
Recollections of the Arabian Nights
I thought I wanted to get married in the worst way. Then that's pretty much what I was offered, so I ended up going trillions of kilometers out of my way instead. A great many trillions of kilometers, and quite a few years - which turns out to be much the greater distance.
It began this way:
Jinny Hamilton and I were dancing.
This was something of an accomplishment for me, in and of itself - I was born on Ganymede, and I had only been Earthside a few years, then. If you've never experienced three times the gravity you consider normal, imagine doing your favorite dance... with somebody your own weight sitting on each of your shoulders, on a pedestal a few meters above concrete. Broken bones, torn ligaments and concussions are hazards you simply learn to accept.
But some people play water polo, voluntarily. Jinny and I had been going out together for most of a year, and dancing was one of her favorite recreations, so by now I had not only made myself learn how to dance, I'd actually become halfway decent at it. Enough to dimly understand how someone with muscles of steel and infinite wind might consider it fun, anyway.
But that night was something else.
Part of it was the setting, I guess. Your prom is supposed to be a magical time. It was still quite early in the evening, but the Hotel Vancouver ballroom was appropriately decorated and lit, and the band was excellent, especially the singer. Jinny was both the most beautiful and the most interesting person I had ever met. She and I were finally both done with Fermi Junior College, in Surrey, British Columbia. Class of 2286 (Restored Gregorian), huzzah-go, Leptons! In the fall we'd be going off to university together at Stony Brook, on the opposite coast of North America-if my scholarship came through, anyway-and in the meantime we were young, healthy, and hetero. The song being played was one I like a lot, an ancient old ballad called "On the Road to the Stars," that always brings a lump to my throat because it was one of my father's favorites.
It's the reason we came from the mud, don't you know
'cause we wanted to climb to the stars,
In our flesh and our bone and our blood we all know
we were meant to return to the stars,
Ask anyone which way is God, and you know
he will probably point to the stars...
None of that explained the way Jinny danced that night. I knew her as a good dancer, but that night it was almost as if she were possessed by the ghost of Gillis. It wasn't even just her own dancing, though that was inspired. She did some moves that startled me, phrases so impressive she started to draw attention even on a crowded dance floor. Couples around us kept dancing, but began watching her.
Her long red hair swirled through the room like the cape of an inspired toreador, and for awhile I could only follow like a mesmerized bull. But then her eyes met mine, and flashed, and the next thing I knew I was attempting a combination I had never even thought of before, one that I knew as I began it was way beyond my abilities-and I nailed it. She sent me a grin that felt like it started a sunburn, and offered me an intriguing move, and I thought of something to do with it, and she lobbed it back with a twist, and we got through five fairly complex phrases without a train wreck and out the other side as smoothly as if we'd been rehearsing for weeks. Some people had stopped dancing to watch, now.