CJ's son was sixteen months old the first time he traveled to Africa with her. She kept him dazed on a diet of whiskey on the gums and children's Dramamine. When she got off the plane, a delegation of local leaders was there to greet her. After formalities, they would discuss issues of infrastructure. She was used to the drill. What she wasn't used to was the extreme amount of caution the leaders displayed around her. She had seen respect, distance, even distaste, but caution was a new one. She looked at her translator--her right arm on these trips--in surprise. He smiled and said softly, "I think it's the first time they've noticed you were a woman in any way but the parts."
CJ looked down at her son and thought, "Huh."
CJ always voted--always supported the candidate she most believed in. This meant on women's issues as well as more general social issues. CJ wasn't sure what the difference was. She wasn't sure why it wasn't in everyone's best interest to have women happy and healthy and able to live productive lives. Danny seemed to need that from her. A president of the United States had at once time. Why not other women?
Josh had once said, "It's a stupid adjective, but is that really the point?"
"It's a possessive plural noun," she'd told him.
"Now you're just equivocating."
The problem was, she hadn't been.
CJ had found that if she looked hard enough, there was a woman old enough to remember being granted suffrage rights in nearly every African nation. The first time she had talked with one of these women, she had asked, "What was it like? What did it mean?" because CJ had never exactly taken the right for granted, but she had certainly always taken it as her due.
The woman had spoken at length, and when she quieted, the interpreter had said, "It was like learning how to speak."
Despite this, CJ knew as well as--perhaps better than--anyone else that a vote might give someone a voice, but it didn't allow her a loudspeaker. Which was why, beyond satisfying her personal curiosity, she would ask other things of the people she met. She asked if the roads they were building went where people needed them to; if the jobs provided by the building of the roads were affecting the economy of the towns in any way noticeable at a ground level. Mostly she asked what people wanted, what they needed.
Women often told her there was a need for more teachers, particularly well-trained ones, for more doctors, more food.
Men asked for teachers, and doctors, particularly well-trained ones, and food. They mentioned jobs more often, women mentioned issues of water shortages more often, but both invariably came up.
It wasn't that there were never other issues. Women spoke--quietly and loudly--of problems with divorce law, and the way domestic violence could be overlooked. There were differences in what women feared than what men feared, at times. There were more similarities. Not that CJ ever really thought that women's issues were any different from people's issues, but if she had, every day of every trip to Africa would have been a lesson otherwise.
When their son was three years old, Danny asked, "Want me to come out there with you? I could do some freelancing, take him off your hands."
Most of the time CJ left him at home with a nanny during the day while she was out of the country, Danny coming home at night. CJ raised an eyebrow. "Freelancing?"
"I miss seeing you in a power suit. Is that too much to ask?"
CJ laughed. "Danny--"
"You get to see what I do. It shows up in print. I don't have that. I see you being a mother and a consultant, but I don't see any of the results that you get to see."
Danny had accompanied her to meetings with Frank Hollis time and time again. He was never in the room, but she rehashed enough afterward--until he could get her to have a drink and enjoy whatever ridiculous suite Frank had paid for with him--to know pretty much exactly what came of her job. But CJ considered the Pulitzer winning piece that she had framed in her office, much to Danny's annoyance. "Yeah, okay. Freelance away."
One of the older women CJ had met with before, one of the ones who could remember coming into her rights as a citizen, asked CJ, "Your husband?"
CJ nodded. "Danny Concannon."
"You leave him to come here? You leave the baby with him?"
"They like having male bonding time."
The woman looked at her. "What does he think about you leaving?"
CJ looked at where Danny was watching their son play with a couple of the local kids. He had learned how to get involved in games in spite of the language barrier around the same time he'd started talking. She said, "I think he thinks that's my own decision."