Earlier, I mentioned the five meals standard to a Gethenian’s day. Now I tell you about a sixth, secret meal, one I did not learn about until much later, in that tent I shared with Harth.
When a kemmering pair retires to the same bed to sleep, they may awaken deep into the night - or maybe it’s more accurate to say early the next morning, before dawn seeps over the horizon like a slowly spreading stain - and then it is time to eat this meal, called kemmer-odds.
The name of this meal is as close a translation as I can manage. It is a tongue in cheek joke, the word for ‘odd’ in Karhiddish having double meaning: both ‘miscellaneous’ and the term for a Gethenian’s genitals between kemmering phases.
I did not quite believe in this ‘kemmer-odds’ at the time, having never heard of it before, and thought it might be an invention of Harth’s; A sort of prank. To keep from embarrassing myself in these logs, I have extracted a promise from Harth that this is a real Karhiddish tradition.
After several years on Gethen, I was finally in the position of being able to partake in this traditional sixth meal.
This was during Harth’s kemmer, when in response to a mixture of his pheromones, our proximity, and the fierce, consuming love I had discovered for him, we consummated our bond, with such passion and exertion that it left me passed out cold in my sleeping sack afterward.
I remember Harth’s round face - even rounder then, in the throes of his feminine shift - hanging over me like a blurry moon as he tried to rouse me from sleep. Not an easy task! I looked at him blearily for so long that his blank expression transformed, his lips quirked upward into a bow of amusement. What a sight I must have been, sleep-addled and flushed by the heat of the stove, my hair in disarray.
It was then that he informed me of kemmer-odds.
Kemmer-odds is a casual meal, usually composed of whatever food had not been finished by the household the previous day. In a word: Leftovers.
With our rationing of food as we crossed the ice, we had nothing extra to spare, though we did nibble a bit of packed ice just to observe the spirit of the tradition. Between Harth imparting on me the name of this sixth meal, and the strange act of eating ice together in the dead of night, Harth and I soon found ourselves giggling like schoolgirls. I think I would normally find it disturbing, a full grown man succumbing to a fit of giggles - two full grown men! - but on this night, it did not bother me. The delirious happiness we felt with each other and the silliness inherent to the situation had overtaken us completely.
We were sitting close together, Harth and I, bundled up beside the stove within the same sleeping sack. The proximity to his kemmering form quickly began to have an effect on me. To distract myself from my arousal, I asked Harth what the point of this was, this sixth meal exclusive only to kemmering couples, and he explained it to me.
After exerting so much energy in copulation, one must refuel.
“But why not eat directly afterward? Why wake up just to eat a meal?” I asked.
With a sly, indirect smile, Harth told me, “That isn’t the only reason for waking.”
So, there was the explanation. Energized by a snack, awake in the hours when everyone besides the kemmering pair are still asleep, the pair are then obliged to have sex again.
Unlike the rations we could not eat into, this part of kemmer-odds Harth and I met with fully, passionately, and with a great deal of satisfaction.