I did not make a promise to my plum-cheeked best friend Daisy, to go to space and take pictures at the ripe age of seven years old to not actually follow through with it. As seven year old kids went, we were the most serious of creatures. The pact sounded something like this– I’d go to space and explore the universe from far, far away, and when I came back Daisy would be there, waiting for me.
In the same way that I spent many of my days looking up into outer space imagining what the moon might look like close up, I envisioned how Earth would look to me from space. My visions of the round sphere that I lived on were always the same in my head. I’d always see the two of us.
Josie ❤️ Daisy =’s 4ever.
“When you look down at the earth what do you think you’ll see, Josie?”
It was a pondering that Daisy often presented to me.
“Blue. Layers and layers of blue, and you of course. I think I’ll always be able to see you.”
My dad always told us, “There are two things that are certain in this life, girls: Death and taxes.”
In my little world there were only two things that were certain to me: Daisy and space.
But for Daisy she was certain of other things that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. Like how she could pick my laugh out of a crowded classroom without even having to look, or how she knew to pick out all of the green Skittles from the bag because she knew I couldn’t stand them.
“What do you think you’ll see when you look up into space Daisy?”
Sadness pooled from her lips as she stared at me waiting to deliver the words that made me feel the most seen.
“I’ll always see you, Tom. Always you. No matter how far away we are.”
Daisy nicknamed me Major Tom the moment she realized my bedroom ceiling was covered in luminescent glow in the dark stars.
One day dad snapped a photo in which Daisy’s eyes were like tiny dwarf planets, expansive and deep.
Our hair tangled with no beginning or end, as our baby hairs floated around our young faces in the picture that rested by my bedside.
The gravitational pull I felt to stay and explore her cosmos was strong. On the bottom of the polaroid Daisy scribbled a quote she’d read in one of my astronomy books. We were little kids who had no idea what the words could have possibly meant, but I felt them all the same.
“We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.” R. Bradbury
When Daisy learned that I could name all of the planets ranging in size from biggest to smallest in less than ten seconds a smile concreted itself into her little girl face.
The planet's names would whistle through the gap where my teeth should have connected with such intensity that Daisy believed me to be a genius the first time I rattled them off.
I wasn’t as smart as she thought I was, but I let her think as such. My ability to memorize facts about space, the very thing I loved the most was the front I wore to convince Daisy that she should continue to orbit me always.
We spent all of our days together, me telling Daisy how a day on Venus was longer than a year. Daisy would occasionally hit me with her own facts about space; How space was a hauntingly subdued version of planet Earth, complete with the kind of calm that she brought me when we were together.
Between the stars and the spheres I could feel her existence everywhere. I was young then, but I suspect what was happening between us was the act of falling in love. Simple and pure. Like watching a shooting star crest across the sky, our love story was an obvious burst across a clear night. The kind that makes people stop and open their eyes as they bear witness to the magic of the universe.
Daisy’s latest email said she was deploying to a country with far more syllables than my tongue knew what to do with. I found it while in orbit once with one of my many telescopic cameras. I zoomed in at the beauty of the ridged terrain and searched for some sort of life.
I sent her an email with the image attached. “I can see you.”
It was a delicate lie I was happy to tell. I needed her to know that I would always try to find her, wherever she might be.
I spent my days on the Astrophel III docking at the International Space Station photographing the universe around me. Documenting space dust and the day to day of the other flight members was my joy, but it was half of my reason for breathing. The other half being the emails I’d receive from Daisy. She’d joined the Army days after I departed the ground we lived on together for so many years. Each correspondence ended with- “I saw you when I looked up last night. You sure did sparkle. The stars look very peculiar today, Major Tom- xoxo Ground Control.”
The summer we were both twelve I’d broken my leg and was on strict orders from my family doctor to avoid weight-bearing activities for at least two months. The worst part of those orders was that no swimming was allowed. There was nothing worse than being forced into sitting out water activities with a bulky cast covered in love notes from my family. A t-shirt covering my body at the peak arrival of my curves was a crime against my developing love/lust for my best friend.
On the cusp of trips to the Lake Frontier, and epic bike rides through the woods behind our neighboring houses Daisy forfeited her precious summer memories to stay with me. We’d still gone to the lake with all of the other neighborhood kids, but Daisy stayed on the shore with me playing cards, letting me win occasionally. I’d beg her to dip her toes in the water on behalf of both of us, but she’d refuse.
“Major Tom, if you don’t get to swim then I don’t either.”
A gentle kiss upon my sunkissed cheek followed her promise and it burned me deeper than any summer solstice ever had.
The Harvest Moon was fitting for one of our last summer nights together. A grand lamp of golden incandescence hung in the sky, much brighter than the common milky white moon that we were used to.
Daisy had a habit of tossing tiny rocks at my window to get me to come down in the middle of the night. My parents were fine with her coming and going through our front door as she liked, but this was her preferred method of communication.
“Hey do you wanna do something fun?”
“Are we gonna hide bodies? Because if movies have taught us anything it’s that teenagers are shit at murder coverups.”
Daisy laughed and my heart fluttered around like a moth trapped inside a jar. My stomach twirled like the ballerina I used to be in Kindergarten, filled with wonder and bliss. We were two pieces of metal in outer space that accidentally touched at one point, and now were permanently bonded together, where she went I would follow without question.
“Yea, let’s go.”
Daisy’s idea of fun was climbing our town’s water tower to get a smidge closer to the stars and night sky. We’d sit with our backs anchored to the peeling paint of the tower as the splinters of the aged planks of the wood dug through the backs of our 501’s.
“Josie, you’ll go right? Up there.”
My eyelids pulled shut, holding this moment with Daisy like an undeveloped image into a darkroom that I could view at a later time.
“Yes–of course, Daisy. I’ve lived on this planet for twenty some years now, I’m ready to see it from another perspective.”
“Major Tom when you look at this rock from up there, promise me you’ll look for me okay?”
Five bright sparkles arranged themselves across her eyes like I was looking at the constellation of Cassiopeia herself. I’d elevated Daisy to star status years ago. My wish at bed every night was to take her with me, and pin her to the night sky so that I could follow her with my lens, capturing her as I orbited her for once.
“But Daisy, I’ve always been on this one trajectory. In space, there are definitive points, but only if you know to look for them. How will you find me?”
“I’ll always see you, Tom. Always you. No matter how far away we are.”
It was the closest Daisy had ever come to saying that she’d loved me and it was enough to keep me tethered to the Earth simply so that we could revolve around one another a little while longer.
Her hand captured the bottom of my quivering chin at the realization that we’d be separated for longer than hours and farther apart than two city blocks. My kiss, pressed firmly to her mouth like a meteorite crashing to earth, dense and magnetic.
Space was magnificent and so was love. The stars were brighter the closer I got to them, kinda like when Daisy and I would sit on the water tower talking about nothing at all.
The day before we left one another we stood shoe to shoe with no space in between our warm youthful bodies. We allowed the summer air to move around us, her pinky finding mine locking in secrets only the two of us could promise to one another.
“It’s time to leave this capsule we call Earth, Josie.”
Stars twinkle, planets do not and sometimes detonated hearts can be seen from space. Entire portions of heart chambers scattered across the land like space debris were left there that day for me to capture with my camera lens. My intention to edit the images floated away from me like unanchored items without gravity, they weren’t touchable.
There was a sharpness in her voice when she spoke my name. It cut me with an unexpected finality. I squeezed and pressed tighter, shoving the heat between us aside. Our lips connected, creating a radiant source of stars coursing through each of our bodies. Time and space stood still, because young longing is nothing but a metaphor for things that probably aren’t true.
“What if I can’t see you, Daisy?”
She shook her head as if I were the silliest girl in the whole entire world. Unlocking our pinkies, she moved my hair back. Her thumb brushed my cheek with a swipe of warmth that burned the freckles leftover from sitting out on the water tower on dusky summer nights. I hoped her touch would leave a scar, just so I could take a little bit of Daisy with me.
“Hey now, Major Tom, you’ll always be able to see me… It’s time for you to float in the most peculiar way.”
I gave her the picture of us together from that day when we learned all about death and taxes. I wanted her to see that love, even if far away, could be held in her hands.
Correspondence became less frequent, and my worry ratcheted to new heights. Each day that passed without hearing from Daisy drove me to stare past my telescopic lens until my eyes would blur from heavy sleep. If she’d promised to always see me, it was only fair that I promised to always look for her.
The last message I got from her was silly. A purging in my stomach elicited feelings that made me long to be on the soil with her instead of out in the expanse. If she only knew that protein pills weren’t as cool Bowie made them sound to be. I commenced a countdown to the days that I would return, and see her with my own eyes.
Ten days until my feet would touch the ground again. I’d scoured through thousands of images looking for some sign of Daisy. My eyes were blinded by the dust of the universe and my hands grew numb with the absence of her touch. Once when Daisy and I were nine years old a neighbor kid threw dirt in my eyes– a scratch and agony much like potentially losing Daisy amidst the stars.
“Daisy! My eyes! I can’t see you!”
I’d whimpered that day, rubbing my eyes with such aggression, not realizing how much I was worsening the situation. Her small hands grappled with my wrists, imploring my wild body to still. She began to sing in the tiniest of voices–“Can you hear me, Major Tom?”
My body came to halt and relief flooded me as my eyes fluttered open.
“Ahh, there you are. I see you now. Can you see me?”
“You’re all I see, Daisy.”
Countdown was imminent and in my desperation I sent Daisy one last message. “Daisy, you promised. You promised that we’d always be able to see one another, and yet, I can’t set my course to you.”
I waited for a reply. To be seen, if only by her.
Living in a shuttle with no gravity did unusual things to my body, there was nothing up there that had a hold on me like Daisy did down here on planet earth. Everything felt heavier when I came home as my muscles had atrophied along with my heart.
I walked the rows with a number scribbled on a small bit of paper. Sweat leached from my hands causing the coordinates of ink to smear as my heart clamored to find a steady rhythm. It felt like someone had intertwined the memories of when I met Daisy for the first time and the day that I experienced liftoff.
I felt her before I saw her, past the pinwheels spinning in the wind and the dried-out, tried looking flowers.
There past the layers and layers of blue-skied background was the marble slab in a celestial glaze. My back against her, I allowed the coolness of the stone to touch my spine and remove the burn of her physical absence. The pressure was too much to contain as sobs wrenched their way from my very soul. I became weightless with no contact force from her that could push or pull upon me.
She was my gravity.
My fingers grazed the engraving of her name, and the quote “I’ll always see you, Tom. Always you. No matter how far away we are.”
Killed in action. That was what her mother had said soon after I’d come home. She’d given me some of Daisy’s things to keep. A box of all our letters that we’d exchanged over the years, with tiny little solar systems and constellations drawn all over them. There was a miniature golf ball in the box too. We’d stolen the ball as a memento on one of our dates and commemorated the artifact with a sharpie marked heart on it between the letters T & D. It was a capsule not unlike the one I traveled to space in. Except this container held the evidence of all our love for one another, together.
“Of course I couldn’t see you up there, Daisy. Your circuit was dead.”
From within my purse I pulled out the polaroid of the two of us and placed it below her name. The edges were mottled with grime and the film itself was warped from the sun of the hot desert. Our labyrinth of hair looked like the sun on fire, glowing and unrestrained. The quote she’d scrawled across the bottom now said, “We are an impossible universe.”
I'd never read anything more accurate to describe the two of us.
Daisy never wanted to go to space, but now she’d be the one looking down on me, always me.