To “Major Tom:”
Do you recognize the nickname? It’s a bit of a silly reference, but I was putting on some David Bowie (it seems to make time pass a little bit faster), and “Space Oddity” came on. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit (to myself, of course) at the line “floating in a most peculiar way.” No matter how long I spend up here, drifting around in my own little “tin can,” it’s never going to feel anything but peculiar.
That’s not to say I’m not used to it. It’s nice, in a way, looking out the window and seeing little pink and brown worlds, so remote they have numbers instead of names. I’m looking down at 4432 now. There’s no water there, no breathable air, no fathomable way to even survive, much less live. I guess there can’t be anything alive down there, so that should complete my mission, right? By all rights, I should be ready to call the mission a success, to confirm that there’s nothing out here, just like we suspected. But I just can’t.
It’s just been so long, “Major.” So long since I’ve done more than brush outstretched fingers or booted feet against solid ground. I want to wander around windswept beaches in the wintertime, just like we did when we were younger, stretching my toes into coarse sand, reaching for opalescent bits of shells half-buried, just inches beneath my feet. I’d always jump away then, letting the water fill the hollows my feet left behind. There, at least the world acknowledged my existence; I’d leave my mark, I’d tell it something, and it heard me. Here, I’m in an indifferent world; I touch walls, floors, ceilings, but always, I’m just another drifting object. I want so badly for it not to be like this, for there to be someone here, some sympathetic voice in this pitiless reach of the universe. So I pretend sometimes, I just imagine what it would be like to be back there (or even on that pitiful nameless world below me) on some sort of solid ground. I think it gives me some perspective to even pretend to be grounded, even if just for a moment.
I’d say I can’t imagine what it must be like, for those people I think of, alone there on that tiny rock on the fringes of space, hiding beneath that wisp of cloud. But I’d be lying. A tiny rock, a little machine, a minuscule cell in Block 4432, they’re all the same, really. All smothered by the cold, suffocating blankets of space. Just imagine it — drifting through oblivion for fifteen years, the stars your only companions, even them so far away that the far-off glimpses of them in the distance have ceased to provide any real warmth.
I talk to them sometimes. The stars. And even to the people I dream up, down below, mistaking me for just another passing star. I don’t delude myself, I know there’s no one there, but it helps me sometimes just to pretend they can hear me. I tell them about how it felt to live next to the park, looking out another rectangular window on the first days of Spring, the grass outside dead and browned from the snow’s chill white omnipresence. It wasn’t much, but at least there I could go outside to meet it, to feel cold that wasn’t fenced off by a Plexiglass helmet. I whine and complain and moan to them about how I want this puny shuttle to somehow be a home. I want it to be a place where someone is there for me to unload my troubles on. Here, I sit, I think, I dance a little, dreaming of tripping just so I can remember what it felt like to be laughed at. And I wonder, like the song says, if the Earth’s still blue.
No one should ever have to wonder that. No man should ever subject another to ignorance of what the Earth looks like, or what it’s like to even have a home. I miss home and everyone there — even people I hated — and I wonder if I was wrong to hate them, or if that’s just nostalgia or desperation talking. It’s too much for me to actually miss the people who wronged me: that girl who cheated on me, that jackass who keyed my car, that stupid, stupid kid who shot spitballs at his friends when I did a guest lecture on astronomy. I tell myself that I’m not that desperate, but then I wonder, too… if I just opened the hatch and let the air out, would I at least have some company?
To whomever is listening,