Fiction · 04/01/2020

The Space Explorer Ponders His Break Up from the Outer Reaches of the Galaxy

You want him to say all of the obvious things, how here among the stars, the Earth shrinking like a lost balloon beneath him, it’s hard to believe what we all take so seriously: Instagram and the NFL playoffs, the neighbor’s overgrown hornbeam, text messages in the dark. You want him to tell you the thing we all want to feel, how lucky we are to be here among the solar flares and space rocks, the unlikeliness of it all, the privilege. Or maybe you want him to look down at the spinning marble, the mass of packed dirt and water struggling to contain us, and you want him to remember the way her laugh echoed beneath the streetlights, the summer evenings and the meteor showers and the pull of the lake water lapping at their feet. And he does feel those things. He feels them so deep inside his spacesuit that sometimes he thinks there might be a malfunction — a blocked oxygen valve or a broken heat return. But also he thinks of his last night on earth, all of his things strewn down the stairs like astral residue, like a neutron star exploding, “Walking on the Moon” playing from somewhere deep beyond the reaches of the apartment’s locked door, the place he will never sleep again. He thinks of how the phone rang and rang like a ripple through a black hole, the way gravity pulled tears through his moustache. Mostly the idea of Earth is the weight he’s left behind him. Mostly he is thinking of never going back.

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Sarah Carson is the author of the poetry collections Poems in which You Die and Buick City. She lives in Michigan with her daughter and two dogs.