Fire shot out beneath him propelling him to his future, which was something he had worked for for all of his life, but which I was trying to regard as no more than a minor detour on our shared future together. I didn’t want to say goodbye, but it was impossible to compete with the pull of space.
Two weeks ago we had our last dinner before he entered quarantine in preparation for the launch. I hadn’t known what to cook or order. Part of me wanted to make the meal special, something we could both cling to during our separation. But I also didn’t want to allow this to be an obstacle in our relationship and part of me refused to dignify it with any special measures.
In the end, both parts of me won, or lost. My mind was on him, not the chicken in the oven and by the time I smelled it burning, it was too late to salvage.He kissed my forehead, made a call, and returned a short time later with takeout from our favorite place.
It took me longer than usual to set the table and I was reluctant to sit down to our last meal together. My turmoil must have been obvious because he took a plate out of my hand, placed it on the table, and pulled me toward him. He brushed the hair out of my eyes, tucking it behind my ear and looked into my eyes. I wanted to look anywhere but at him, afraid of what I might reveal, but I also refused to give in to that fear.
“I know this is going to be hard for you,” he said, his thumb gently brushing my cheek. “If you don’t want to wait for me, I will understand.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” was the most eloquent thing I could manage to choke out. “Of course I am waiting for you.”
“I was hoping you would say that,” he smiled. And then he went down on one knee and the blood rushed into my ears. His lips were moving, but I could not process what he was saying. The ring in the jewelry case he produced was gorgeous and I just stared agog at it. The night I had planned to treat like any other was changing my life in a way I had not foreseen.
“I-” Words had evaporated from my brain. I knew it was my turn to say something. He was looking at me expectantly, with his humorous, half-twisted smile. All I could manage was a choked sounding “yes.”
“I was hoping you would say that too,” he smiled before teasing me about being at a loss for words. I hugged him, clinging to him. I never wanted to let go, but I knew we had to share our joy with others, and so I let go and we called our loved ones, sharing the news with them.
Too soon it was time for him to go and the weeks in between have been a period of limbo. It has been a comfort knowing that she still walks this earth like me, even if he cannot walk it with me. Still I did not want to allow anything on Earth to stand between us. I have tried to focus on my work and I know he has had a lot to do preparing for his, but the reality of our separation had not really struck me until now.
Watching the smoke gathering under the rocket as the countdown I tried not to worry about all of the things that could go wrong, all of the calculations that had gone into this moment and how one miscalculation could determine our happiness or misery.
And then the rocket lifted into the sky, a needle piercing the limitations of our reality, propelled by fuel harvested from this earth and from the human heart. I watched it lift into the sky, continued watching the spot where I had last seen the man I loved. When my eyes could no longer pierce the space separating us, I began relying upon my ears. Commentators noted that everything had gone smoothly during the launch. The Dragon capsule carrying him separated from the Falcon rocket and I watched it return to the launch pad, wishing he were on it and returning to me. Instead it will be months.
I assured him I would be fine during his absence, but that is a half truth. I need to focus on the positives, that is how I will survive. He has accomplished his goal, he is safe, and he loves me. And I will endeavor to be worthy of his love. I will set the groundwork for our future here on earth while he sets the groundwork for the future of mankind up there in space.
He laughs at me when I say things like that. He says he just wants to float around space, more of a self-indulgent little boy than a pioneer. I don’t know if he truly believes that; I don’t. I suspect he just says it because he can see how insignificant I feel some days about myself and my career. But we can’t all be astronauts
I wonder what he is thinking now. Everything that usually surrounds him, surrounds us, must seem so minuscule now. He will burn the engine again to steer in empty space. Then he will get some rest. Part of me hopes he will think of me while I am thinking of him, but my more practical side hopes he will sleep and regenerate so that he is prepared for and able to enjoy his achievement. He has been focused on this for so long that I had worried he would burn out before the rocket could propel him to his dream.
Tomorrow morning I will be surrounded by the familiar, sipping coffee in my living room while he docks with the international space station, his new home. But I know in my heart that gravity will pull him back to me. It has to because I revolve around him and he has promised that he will revolve around me.