After a few days of getting to know his family, Pahana was restless to get back to the city. He felt the family bond with these people but this place was not his home.
Symon finished putting their luggage into the car and Pahana said a final round of goodbyes to his brother and sister. When Pahana turned around, he saw Symon loading up the backseat with several large boxes, taped up and ready for shipping.
Symon smiled, “Those are for you Pahana. Gifts from your family and from the tribal elders that you met with during the past few days. You are loved and accepted here Pahana.”
As they got into the car, Pahana let out a huge sigh. “I did what I came to do.” Pahana said heavily, “Let’s get back to Flagstaff and fly home.”
Driving away from his brother and sister, Pahana could feel part of himself being left behind. Each mile added to the growing feeling of loss inside him.
“Symon, I rarely get emotional and I rarely rant, but I can vent for a little while?” Pahana asked quietly, his voice choked with emotion.
Symon looked over with a concerned look on his face, “Of course you can. Is this one of those things that’s better let go of in the desert with no one around and between you, me, and the Creator?”
Pahana slowly turned to face him and realized that Symon hadn’t put on sunscreen today. Loading up the car had turned his skin as red as his hair. He’s going to be in misery in a few hours.
“Symon, I don’t know. I’ve always longed to know who my real family was…” Pahana paused to wipe away the tears that had started streaming down his face. “I finally got the chance but my mother and father are gone. It was great meeting my brother and my sister. Given the amount of trouble I’ve been and caused, it’s ironic that my brother is one of the few Hopi police officers in the district.”
His normal stoic resolve was eroding quickly, “Even though I didn’t know my family, what I have done to make them proud of me? What have I done to earn the respect of the Hopi Nation? My soul belongs here, but I don’t. How can I tell them that I don’t ever want to return.”
Focused on the road, Symon sat quietly listening to Pahana work through his life and the unexpected curves that Fate had thrown at him. He took his hand off the wheel and rested it on Pahana’s thigh. He wasn’t sure what to say, but he know that Pahana needed all of his support, love, and attention right now. Stopping the car on the side of a desert road was a non-starter of an idea, so Symon kept driving towards Flagstaff. He found a shipping store and got the boxes of gifts shipped back to Dearborn, arriving after they had gotten back. Making quick time to the airport, Symon sent Pahana off to get checked in for the flight.
As they stood in line at one of the kiosks in the airport, Symon looked at the clock on the wall and then looked at his watch. He muttered Son of a bitch! under his breath.
“What?” Pahana asked confused.
“I forgot that we were on Mountain time. We’re here an extra hour early. Should we get a real meal instead of the fast food crap?” Symon said with a mischievous smile.
“Yeah, let’s do that!” Pahana said with a smile creeping across his face, “I don’t want to wait until we are in Denver.”
“Okay!” Symon said with a big smile. As luck would have it, there was a full service restaurant in the airport. They settled into one of the booths and placed their order. Nothing fancy but it would be better than the last few meals with Pahana’s family. Neither would say anything ill about the meals they had been given but they both knew that the family had been sacrificing heavily to make sure that they had “proper” meals and the nature of the meals showed how rough life was on the reservation.
Pahana relaxed some and Symon was thankful for it. Pahana’s sudden outburst in the car wasn’t unexpected except that it was Pahana, who normally kept his emotions close to his chest. Symon was glad that he could finally talk to Pahana about the trip and the emotions it had stirred up in them both.
The one thing that would remain with Symon for the rest of his days was the open-armed welcome that he received both from Pahana’s family and the tribal elders. Given their strong Christian beliefs, he hadn’t been expecting a warm welcome but the Hopi still held on to many parts of their traditional lore and religion which would welcome a medicine man and his partner, whether the partner was male or female.
As they talked, Symon realized that this was as good a time as ever. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box covered in Hopi markings. It had taken him a good deal of maneuvering and a few accomplices to get Pahana’s ring size without him figuring out why and then to have a traditional style ring made for him. More importantly, he had a silver and turquoise engagement band made as well.
Seizing the moment, Symon slid the small box across the table. Pahana took it gingerly and opened it, finding the traditional ring inside. Symon slid it on his finger while explaining that this was the reason that he needed to find his ring size. Symon swallowed and took a deep breath while sliding out of the booth and dropping to one knee.
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