The group arrives at the San Luis Reservoir, a lake that hasn’t yet totally dried up. There are a lot of people camping around the lake, some of them permanently. Several groups have set up small gardens where they are growing vegetables. The people living by the lake seem wary of Lauren’s group, but there is no confrontation. The group chooses a spot far away from the other camps and settles in. While Lauren is cleaning her gun, Harry comes over and mentions that he knows about what’s happening between her and Bankole. Later, Lauren and Bankole split off from the group to spend time alone. Lauren tells him about Earthseed, and Bankole observes that there are similarities between Earthseed and Buddhism. Lauren agrees, but emphasizes that Earthseed is its own, distinct belief system.
The beginning of this chapter emphasizes the theme of new beginnings, particularly through the symbolism of seeds, gardening, and agriculture. The San Luis Reservoir is another example of the way in which the presence of water can have a soothing presence on people. Meanwhile, the fact that the people living around the reservoir are growing vegetables indicates a level of stability and hope that the characters have not yet encountered on the road. On a metaphorical level, Lauren’s explanation of Earthseed connects to these themes of new life and hope.
Lauren tells Bankole that the “essentials” of Earthseed are learning to shape God, educating and supporting oneself and the community, and working to fulfill the Destiny. Bankole comments that Earthseed seems too “simple” and not mystical enough. Lauren acknowledges that Earthseed will change after she is gone, but that for now she wants to guide it into what she thinks it ought to be. Bankole notes that Lauren is an “unusual young woman.” He tells her that his wife died five years ago, when addicts broke into their house and beat her, hoping to find drugs. They lived in a gated community, which, like Lauren’s neighborhood, was also burned to the ground. Lauren asks Bankole if he’s a doctor, and he says that he is. Lauren points out that “people always need doctors,” and Bankole replies: “But here I am.”
This passage explores the similarities and differences between Bankole and Lauren. Both of them have certain shared experiences, including living in a gated community that was destroyed and having their loved ones be killed. Both are intelligent, with a notably calm disposition in the midst of the chaos around them. However, not only is Bankole much older than Lauren, but he also seems to have a more passive attitude toward his fate. Whereas Lauren spends her time directing herself and others toward a specific vision of her future, Bankole’s words (“But here I am”) indicate a level of resignation.
Lauren believes that Bankole secretly has a place to go up north, or enough money to buy property. She fears that he will leave her, although she understands that they do not know each other well enough for total trust yet. The two of them look around at the peaceful setting of the lake. Bankole notes that such a place cannot last long. The two of them then take a blanket and find a secluded place to have sex. Lauren wonders how she survived so long without sexual intimacy and pleasure. Afterward, Bankole jokingly tells her that she’ll be the death of him. Becoming more serious, he asks Lauren her age; when she tells him she is 18, he is horrified. He tells Lauren that she should be with someone younger, which makes her think of Curtis. Bankole notices that Lauren is overcome with sadness, and he asks about Curtis. Bankole comments that Lauren acts much older than her age.
The beginning of Lauren and Bankole’s relationship is joyful, but—like all moments of happiness in the world of the novel—this joy is tainted by sadness. Lauren fears that Bankole is not being honest with her about the prospect of having somewhere to go up north, and thinks that he will leave her. Meanwhile, she is also reminded of Curtis, and by implication the entire community killed in the massacre. No matter how wonderful a new relationship may be, it cannot eradicate the loss and pain that characterizes life for everyone in the world of the novel.
In the next entry, Lauren writes that she has spent an entire day “talking, writing, reading, and making love to Bankole.” Jill and Allie have begun joining Zahra’s literacy lessons, and during the lesson the group discuss Earthseed. Bankole repeats his objection that Earthseed is “too simple” and needs some “mystical confusion.” That evening, there is gunfire nearby, and the group all lie very still until it passes.
For a brief moment, Lauren’s life appears to be almost idyllic. The community that she has now formed has a utopian quality, with people assisting one another and enjoying each other’s company. However, this idyllic scene is still set against a continued backdrop of danger, violence, and destruction.