Since Eric’s return it was rare for him to go out in the day time. He was mostly nocturnal, but on some occasions would stay up through the sunrise and, rather than go to sleep, take a pair of binoculars to the balcony in his bedroom. He sidled around a four poster bed too large for the room, the posts an inch away from the textured ceiling. The tops of his feet disappeared in fibers of high shag carpet. Furniture from at least three different bedroom sets filled the remaining floor space: a clean birch writing desk, an elm bedside table, a chest of drawers made of cedar wood that towered higher than most but came just underneath Eric’s nose. He was six foot two with the long frame and solid shoulders of a swimmer, the steady feet of a dancer. Something he attributed to years training in zero gravity where steady footing was the difference between taking one calculated step forward and catapulting yourself hundreds of feet until something blocked your path, or you carried on flying through eternity.
The room was purposefully overcrowded and claustrophobic. Eric had grown to find a snug suit full of pressurized air and the tight accommodations two people share in a shuttle, as comfort. How did you know you were alive if you weren’t suffocating just a little? A steady asphyxiation temporarily relieved by a deep sigh. On the balcony of his home, Eric was as close to the sky as he could manage without climbing onto the roof. On nights the moon was particularly grand he would lean a ladder on the edge of gutter hanging over the balcony. A blanket underarm and the rope to a pair of binoculars between his teeth. Shoeless, his toes gripped each rung. He would stay on the roof as long as the moon would keep his company. It was cold but the sun was bright, warming the previous night’s frost. Eric lived in a green bathrobe that hugged him from all angles. Sunglasses hung onto a playdough nose, the sides completely boxed in over his eyes. He placed the binoculars over his lens and focused on a shadowed fissure of craters down the moon’s face. Eric was brought to a familiar sense of eternity, a feeling of confrontation that he had in boyhood and most recently when he took his first steps on the moon. He stared at the sphere through bulbous eyes in search of it again.
He was twelve when his mother pointed to the stars where she saw afterlife but Eric could only see mortality. Looking at the stars, planets, suns, galaxies, all of which would continue to burn, swallow themselves, and burst to life again long after they were forgotten dust, the back of his throat closed. He pressed his mother, How can you be so calm? She scooped his chin in her palm, shook it gently, Why worry about that, boy? Little needed explanation outside of what faith deemed necessary for either of them to know.
While Eric was not religious, when his boot tossed dust and he saw the moon’s erratic surface through the dark tint of a sun visor he felt something that he could only compare to a religious experience. The same sense of awe and fear that came when he stargazed crept into existence again; the tightening in the back of his throat; the slight suffocation. For a time he would not look back on Earth. He refused to become accustomed to the paper mache replica in the distance, too small and easily hidden behind a well-placed thumb. The surface of the moon was grey valleys and mountains, the elevated outer lip of craters were like scattered bowls in the desert. Eric climbed the side of a large crater and took airless hops down to the deep middle of it. It was impossible to see over the edge from where he stood. A single ant in the center of a mountain a million miles from anything. Kicking his feet out from underneath himself his body was parallel to the moon’s surface. He was not laying down, but his body floated, making a slow descent to the ground. He drew his knees into his chest and rocked.
Eric set the binoculars in the gutter and wrapped himself in the blanket. He would not sleep until the moon did. He stared at the moon like a man looks at his wife in the morning haze with quiet and coffee, before the rest of the world screams to life. There is no sound but he does not mind enough to break the silence.
I hope you enjoyed this piece, another first draft I’ll be submitting to my creative writing professor, so constructive criticism, comments, and feedback is welcome and appreciated. Thank you for stopping by 🙂
I read way, way, way too much information on astronauts, astronaut suits, moon and sun cycles, earth rises, and information on what happens to the body when exposed to space (this was going to be a very different story at one point…) and I notice I end up researching a lot of tidbits on things I may include in a story to add more authenticity to it. I’ve learned tons of useless, obscure things because of it. Do any of you spend an absurd amount of time fact finding for a story?