We have been living here for years, and still they call this place “uninhabitable” in the news. “Too arid for growing crops,” they report. “The winds rage at night, with a noise alien even to aliens.” They exaggerate with such rhetoric: we do, after all, inhabit it. And yet, such a description seems apt as I lie here, the morning paper in front of me. Now that you have gone, I begin to understand the word, the one they are using in The Milky Way Herald, suspended and glowing in its holograph above the bed. When I leave our room, my mind still hums with its contents.
I go to the greenhouse and check the plants. They are thirsting for you. I change the cat litter. She has not yet noticed your absence. The bell rings, and a coworker of yours, another overseer at the mine, asks for you.
“He’s out,” I say.
“Thank you, Ma’am,” he says.
I close the door. I watch as he walks back to his truck. His helmet gleams in the dry light; I try to pretend he is you. But he is not you. He lacks that distant gaze. When he walks, he does not look as though he might drift off, never to return. His steps release only so much dirt from the ground.
As I wait for the toast, I look through the kitchen windows at our view. You are somewhere out there, in what you liked to call a world of gases. Why did you go? I still cannot understand. Why not survey the galaxy, my darling? It makes no sense to explore the very planet that we orbit. Its surface is no different from my coffee, when I pour the milk in heavy plops. And yet I know that you see in it something I do not. You must have stared out this window a thousand times with silence on your breath. I remember.
You are out there, floating on the other side. I wonder what our home looks like from there. Certainly, you cannot see me. You cannot see the house, or the rocky yard, or the curve of the crater where you and the other men labored. These are much too
small for your searching eyes to find. Much too far. Yet it must be, if you look out into your night sky, that you can see this moon, making her way across it. She catches your eye in her light. Through the haze of wild storms, not yet as far as the stars, that is where she hangs, waiting for you. Her face a white dial in the darkness, hands red and tangled ticking time.