By Corissa Haury
I am trembling with excitement and fear. I hold in my hands the last of my cash cards… The last of the money I need to leave. I have waited for over a year for this to happen. I finish closing the store as usual, knowing I will return tomorrow to work again. In my mind I plan my purchase of a timely ticket to the Orbital Relay Base. Every night I look for it in the dark star spotted skies, until with my naked eye I find the biggest visible satellite since the start of commercial space travel.
In the empty quiet of the grocery store I am one person left, along with Audri, a girl who works here when she is home from college every summer. I ignore her while she sweeps and listens to her headphones.
The cash cards feel worn and dirty under my fingers. I think of the way paper cash used to feel when I was a kid, just before it became worthless nostalgia and cash cards were distributed by banks. After I put away the money and she puts away the broom, Audri and I lock up to go home. We part ways; streets fade between work and my bed.
My boyfriend mumbles hello in his sleep as I lay down beside him, my head still full of anxious thoughts and fears about leaving. He says something sweet, I respond.
“Hey sweetheart,” I say, “Go back to sleep.” I kiss him on his neck, just below his earlobe, where I can smell the lovely savory smell of his clean hair, and feel his warm skin under my lips, inviting and soft. I love the way he tastes. I will never love anyone the way I love him. I will never hold anyone that way. I tear up as I think this, hovering over him in the darkness of our bed, where all of the most precious intimacy of my life has happened, in five different states and three different regions of America. My eyes water, and I turn away to sniffle in the dark, into a tissue. I truly hope he does not hate me for escaping. After all we have talked about, after all we have been through, I hope he understands.
That night I cannot sleep, so I plan. I write down secret things in my journals that I know no one will look at. I get on my wristwatch, looking up tickets for travel to the ORB. Along the way, I see so many advertisements for space vacations, space travel, space ship ownership, and space games. I try not to be frustrated that I cannot just buy my own ship and go wherever I please. I do not have the money for that. I just need to get to the ORB. That is the kind of money I have, in cash cards from the grocery store. Just a little every month, I have set aside for a year.
The next day, I am exhausted when he leaves for work. We kiss goodbye, he squeezes me close for a moment. It will not be the last time we kiss, I think. Not just yet. Later I get up, shower, and go to work.
Little do they know my bags are packed. Little do they know my snacks are purchased and saved. Little do they know I took four blank notebooks, skinny and plain, an unheard-of luxury of paper. I do not care. I will write about it all in my notebooks. I bought a special pen.
Weeks go by. My departure date approaches. I watch the rockets take off on my wristwatch, checking their schedules and statuses to insure that they are arriving fine. I know in my heart there has not been a rocket ship crash in years, but my father does not believe in space travel. He thinks man is playing God, and he has to hang on to his God or else he may not feel like a man. I think man is playing Escape. I think man, like me, is playing Another Chance. Yet my father’s paranoia haunts me. I look up to the skies. Nothing can haunt you in space, a place void of oxygen and gravity.
The last day I kiss my lover goodbye, I weep alone in his parting shadow. The airport is crowded, everyone anxious as we don our space suits, protecting us with our own oxygen just in case. I read all about this on the website. My ticket is ready on my wrist.
We file one by one into the ship elevator and go up up up to the rocket ship, only 150 people will fit on one flight. The seats are crowded and the seat belts cross our bodies like giant X’s. Outside the tiny window the size of my fist, I see the airport station far below. I see the giant advertising emblem of the rocket flight company emblazoned on the top of it, my last reminder of Earth’s imagery. I shake my head. Commercialism, I think. At least I can take advantage of its success, and get away.
As the rocket ship ascends, I think of my father. I think of my mother, who will cry when she discovers I did not say goodbye. I think of my lover, sad and alone in his bed. He is the only one I will miss. I blink back tears as we rip through the atmosphere, the only time I will ever leave Earth. I look at the flashing glare of the Sun out my window and turn from its brightness.
I think of the brightness of the ORB in the night sky, hovering over me for a year while I planned, and I think of where I will want to go after I reach that shiny satellite station.