Author: Glenn Leung
The Star was rising to the Significant Angle once again. The inhabitants of Planet finished their chores and went to bed. We had to keep our celebratory noises down as they don’t take kindly to drunken songs and pointless countdowns. Some of us gathered at Bar Number 2, the second bar built on this planet and the only one built to accommodate hapless Earthlings.
This Significant Angle day was a little different. Twenty from Down-the-River was with us. Born and raised on Planet, he had never seen or heard much about other alien races until the first Earth refugees arrived.
“So you celebrate when your planet finishes a trip around your star?”
“Yes, we do.”
“And you celebrate by incapacitating yourself with alcohol?”
“Well, not all of us. Just, a lot of us.”
Twenty wasn’t drinking. Nineteen and Nineteen-Two had told him what it did when imbibed.
“And a lot of you gather and drink together? That sounds like a recital for disaster.”
His Earth Common had room for improvement.
“The word is ‘recipe’, but yes. It quite often becomes messy, but we …” I circle my finger at my mates, “drink responsibly.”
It was easy to tell that Twenty was confused by that phrase. Planet natives and Earthlings look quite similar; a fact that was instrumental in establishing diplomatic relationships, and their willingness to take in Earth refugees.
“You say Earthlings celebrate this New Year for this thing called ‘hope’, even making these… resolvents?”
“Right. And instead of preparing to do these resolutions, you incapacitate yourself the night before?”
“Well, it’s an excuse to party.”
“Do you think that if Earthlings were truly responsible, you wouldn’t have to escape your planet?”
It suddenly felt a little suffocating. I wasn’t sure if it was the rising alcohol fumes or the tension Twenty had inadvertently dumped on us. He had been so nice to me at work that I forgot his race could be uncomfortably blunt. How the first diplomats overcame this barrier is still a mystery to me.
“Well, it’s time for bed. Work tomorrow,” said Tom.
“Yeah, we’ve had four rounds already,” said Dick.
I was left alone with Twenty, who was looking down at the spills on the table, uncharacteristically quiet.
“I said something wrong, didn’t I?”
I pushed my chair a little closer to him and asked the barkeep for a fifth.
“No, nothing about what you said was wrong, my friend. It’s just that, you know, some truths are hard for us to hear.”
“I really need you to explain it to me, Harry. I want to get along with your kind.”
“Ok…let’s see… erm… We Earthlings, like to attach meaning to things, for more than just practical reasons. Hope, you see, is a pretty big thing. It’s something we like to carry with us and it keeps us going when things look bleak. Some of us brought this hope here, to start a new life away from the evils that are plaguing our planet. Some of us stayed behind to fight them. In any form, hope is what gives us the will to move into the future. To many of us, that is what the New Year means: We don’t give up, and we are going to try again.”
The barkeep arrived with a fresh mug of ale, one of the few fine exports from Earth.
“But not before drowning our regrets.”
I pushed the mug towards Twenty. He carefully brought it towards his mouth, then took a wary sip.
“I see,” he said.