I watch a bit of air flit from the bottom of the glass to the surface and pop. Carbonation terrifies me. These specks of gas, contained for who knows how long in the aluminum, know only the water’s cold womb. They’ve never seen daylight. The refrigerator slowed down their world until all they could do was twitch. And then — crack — this sudden, desperate bid. Racing through the water, the light streaming overhead, dodging ice cubes, eyes burning with gin, just to burst through the surface and disappear.
I stare at those who follow, who just watched their companion hope and rise and fail and who choose to try anyway. They’re the brave ones.
Across from me, another glass stands, towering, and behind it a person sits quietly. She stares at hers too. Then she wraps her fingers around it and pulls it in circles, absent-mindedly swirling the tonic as hundreds of bubbles erupt.
“You’ve overthinking something.”
I smile a thin smile and sip. She sighs and says
“You really think this will help you?”
“Yes.” I can’t hesitate. How many nights have I fretted with my sheets over that same question? I don’t have any energy left to doubt myself. It’s a peculiar comfort.
“Okay.” And she finishes her drink in a gulp.
I’m not sure when I first heard of it. It’s one of those ideas that sinks into your mind quickly, then presents itself as natural. It’s your childhood family dinnertime routine, or the pen and paperclip you drop into what then becomes the junk drawer. It’s of course, not a question.
I’ve been thinking a lot about courses recently. It’s funny that our phrase for obvious is of course. On track. According to plan. If it’s going steady, it’s good. I’ve generally followed this wisdom. But — and this is when I grab my sheets and twist the stitching — maybe it means the opposite. Maybe change would help more than routine. Once I’d thought of it that way, it was over. And who wouldn’t want to go to the moon?
I was hoping she would do something besides agree. Maybe object, or ask for more explanation, or bring up some logistical issues. I had all my responses ready. But she just drank, agreed, then lay down with me and slept.
Part of my fantasy was this same scene: her and I curled up in the shuttle, in stasis but so, so close. Getting further and further from everyone else. Waiting until the door cracked open and we emerged from the cabin. Just us, just so.
It’s a short flight, and the views are great if you choose to stay conscious. I won’t. I’ve seen it in my sleep: the concrete launch pad getting smaller and smaller until I can’t stand it and scream and call it all off. All while she just leans back in her chair, unsurprised. Can’t have that. Once I’m there, I’ll be fine, but the launch worries me. I’ll just take the sedative and awaken on the moon. With her.
There’s moonlight on her face now and I can’t look away. The soft white light washes her cheekbones. She has an errant eyelash in the slope of her socket but I don’t reach for it. It shimmers, an unclaimed wish.
Once we go I won’t see her in this light for a while. Or maybe there’s earthlight? Does the sun reflect off this place? I want the moon to be special, the only thing to reflect light like that. And maybe once we’re there I’ll actually see her in this light all the time.
“You’re overthinking something.”
She whispers at the same volume as the rustling sheets. Her pupils catch the moonlight and white specks glint in the void. I don’t say a word.
The ticketing office is a nightmare and I pass time imagining funny stories for every person there. So much so that when I make it to the window and the secretary asks me why I’m booking a trip I don’t remember. And then that’s funny itself and it takes me another moment.
“I want to take my life in a new direction.”
“Ah,” he says. “Of course.”
The background check is painless because I’m clean, although they ask a lot about my medications. I show them the pharmacist’s notes. Finally I breeze through the sliding doors into the next room where everything is quiet and calm and the colors on the walls are soothing.
There’s a travel agent sitting at a desk who eagerly calls out my name. It’s chitchat until she asks when I want to leave. I have to pick a date. I have to pick the date, the one that will change everything. I’ve already ruled out all birthdays and deathdays I know of. Holidays are gimmicks, they’re out. It has to a random day, but purposefully so: a whimsical, charming day that just happened to come along at the right time, the friendly stranger of days. I pick one. She says okay and that they’ll be in contact soon.
I keep telling her the date is coming up but she doesn’t react any more than when she first agreed to go. Maybe I’m telling her too often. She just says as long as it will help me — really help me — she has no other concerns. I really think it will, because what’s there to worry about on the moon? I thought I would have to convince her to come but she has her own reasons for going and I guess they’re good ones. Or maybe she doesn’t think we’ll actually go at all. Tonight she came over again. When I was sure she was asleep I opened the curtains and let the light in.
I’m on the shuttle. Boarding was easy. They’re offering an inflight movie and it’s one of those kids’ movies that adults enjoy and I want to watch it but I think I should sit and prepare myself instead. But the anesthesiologist has already passed by and I don’t think I’m getting any sedative, I ask and they say I opted out and that it’s too late, the world is roaring, I open my window and look and the ground falls so far away, and now I’m racing up just to pop into nothing. I take my seatbelt in my hands and wring it, tearing at the fibers with my fingernails until I can get purchase and proceed to pull it apart string by string so that they have to stop, they can’t take off, I’m not safe, they can’t take off because I’m not safe, and, where is she?
She leans over me and firmly, finally pulls the sheet out of my hands. It’s shreds. Dotted with blood that trickles from half-moon incisions on her wrist. My fingernails. She kisses the tears and curls into herself away from me.
Then it’s morning and I say
And she says
And then she says
“I don’t think it will work.”
I smile at something and say
“Of course it won’t.”
And she nods and smiles quietly and says
“I have to take off.”
And that’s why she’s the brave one.