Space

I came home late from work and found you sitting in bed, ankles crossed, laptop hot on your thighs. You looked up at me with that crinkle-eyed grin and said, C’mere, so I dropped my bag, climbed over to you, and put my head on the thumping cave of your chest, knowing I had to be back at the hospital in several hours. I shifted my position until your heartbeat was no more than a vague vibration – those precious sounds are not mine to analyze – and then, a few minutes into our conversation, I began to cry. It was nothing you said; these bouts of dysphoria had been happening for months, and for no particular reason; rather, it seemed all the hospital's anguish was a liquid column that filled me up until I could no longer contain it. You accepted these stochastic episodes with love and patience: Here, you said, pulling up a photograph of Pluto, which had been beamed back to Earth weeks ago by the New Horizons space probe. We examined the image together. Do you like it? you said, and I nodded. Then you pulled up an interactive map of the solar system, cranking up the speed of time until the planets looked like marbles rolling around at the mouth of a funnel. When the clock struck 2006, a symbol representing New Horizons was ejected from earth’s atmosphere; it careened through space until 2015, when Pluto swung around to meet it, the two objects nearly grazing each other, the timing so perfect it hurt – this was it, the Say Cheese moment – and then the probe sailed off the screen into oblivion, and Pluto swung away from it like a boomerang. We looked at each other and smiled. Then you lifted my chin and kissed me, slow and deliberate. When we turned back to the screen, the planets were still in orbit and the clock read 2232. Look, you said, stroking my hair tenderly, now we’re dead.

This post was written by Emily Silverman, MD. It was published in the fall 2016 issue of The Examined Life Journal at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

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