#22 - Space Travel Is Boring


      I was nine years old when I smashed the Hendersonís window with a rock the size of a tangerine.

      It was a hot, southern California day, the neighbours were on vacation and I didn't have any friends. These are all important things to think about when considering reasons to smash a window taller than I was.

      The glass sold itself like a salesman holding a vacuum, and for just a minute I wasn't a nine year old boy, but a smoking, middle aged housewife, intrigued but not quite sold, not yet. I invited the smooth glass window into my home and asked it if it wanted a drink or if it needed anything else.

      I pondered and thought and pushed the idea around in my mind. I decided I would throw the rock and it would be good. It would be great even, the best decision I've ever made.

      The salesman smoked his cigarette slowly, and I dropped my robe to the floor.

      The glass sprang to life like anxious rain, pausing only briefly, then coming down all at once.

      The sound that came with it was a monstrous thing, big and undeniable.

      Seconds later, my mother was screaming from the side porch, her mouth moving in slow motion and her eyes as big as saucers. It was all action and no sound though as my ears were still ringing from the pop and crash of the six foot glass pane. There were pieces of it everywhere. All over the Hendersonís carpet and back lawn, all over my shoes and legs and arms.

      The blood was a new thing, something I hadn't noticed at first, and it seemed a perfect match for my mother's tears as she scrambled down the side stairs towards me.

      * * *

      It was our last night in this town; our last night together. We sat on the hood of my father's car looking out over the city below smoking and sipping on cheap pilsner. The lights from the streets made the town look like it was on fire, an illusion we enjoyed almost nightly.

      We were on the verge of something, we could feel it. For better or worse we were going our separate ways and seeking out the world; attempting to make a name and a place for ourselves amongst the millions of people trying to do the same thing. The last day of summer before college and the whole town was crying or drinking.

      "Do you believe in God?"

      Your voice cut the nightís silence in half. Just like that, you asked me the question. No warnings or can I ask you somethingís, just a straight up, zero to sixty kind of question.

      It took a while to get there, to get myself caught up to where you needed me to be. It usually did.

      "Uh, I dunno, you know, maybe? I mean, I guess I probably believe in something."

      "Yeah," you said, breathing out a thick stream of cigarette smoke. "Something."

      "Yeah, I mean, the sky is huge right, black with little pinholes all over. And those pinholes, I mean they're so far away. Forever away, you know. And every pinhole has its own dozen or so floating rocks just like this one. And it's all so huge, so monstrous.

      What I mean is, it's all like a little kid's mobile thing right? A baby will stare at that thing and laugh and giggle for hours. But there's always gotta be that hand that reaches out and switches it on. That flips the switch and makes everything go, you know? That's maybe what God is all about I guess."

      * * *

      Your big stupid doughy eyes stare at me in the rear-view mirror like they always do. I move the mirror, and swallow hard. Swallow hard again. Jesus Christ.

      Family before I even had any for Christís sake. Before the wife, and kids, before the house and the curling club and the hockey team before any of it, there was you. Weíd sit in my barely heated one bedroom apartment and watch my breath.

      I turn the radio on, and then off again. I hear what sounds like an expensive squeak coming from the driverís side tire. Radio on again.

      You were there for all of it. Road trips, colleges, first dates. You were there for the first big plate throwing fight and the long silent days that came after. You were around on game days, wedding days, childrenís birthdays, and eventually the second big plate throwing fight. You even came with me later when I went plate shopping.

      And now this, now it all ends here. Too goddamn old to get up the stairs or in the car. Too weak to play with the kids or get on the bed anymore.

      I swallow hard and turn the car into the veterinarianís parking lot.

      * * *

      Itís cold, dark and quiet.

      When the ship went I was pretty sure I wouldnít survive the explosion, but I did. Lucky, I guess. As lucky as someone floating alone through space can be.

      Pinholes on all sides like due dates or promises.

      I canít tell which is up or down, but itís not really like that anymore. Itís not really like it matters. Iím swimming in black, lost and completely helpless.

      I close my eyes, and another memory comes.




©2009 Broken Chair