Contemporary Friendship Science Fiction

Dear Niamh,

According to Guth’s Cosmic Inflation theory, “In an eternally inflating universe, anything that can happen will happen; in fact, it will happen an infinite number of times.” 

The pattern will repeat, is repeating, has repeated. We - earth, humanity, me, you - will exist countless other times in countless other ways.

You and I will someday be a senseless pile of ash. All of our hardships, triumphs and memories condensed into nothing but dry Calcium Phosphates, plus water and some minerals. But billions and billions, more than that, really- the most numinous number you can think of miles away- I might be listening to the laughter of your fireplace, watching the snow fall into sculpted shadows of bone-bare trees. 

I wish it was that way, but not in this version of the pattern. 

Okay, I know it’s been awhile. More than a while. And I know it’s mostly my fault. Yeah, actually, it's completely my fault. I could’ve informed you before I took this job, and maybe we could’ve worked out. I am sorry. Really. Really, really sorry. 

But that’s not what this letter is about. 

I’m a physicist, not an astronaut. I never planned, nor wanted, to go to space. You know this. In all honesty, the idea of it scares the crap out of me. Ever since I was young, I’d do the bare minimum to study and get good grades, and the rest of my time was spent researching black holes and Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity. (I know, basic, but not for a ninth grader.) 

I’m an understander, not an explorer. I like to look up at the stars and dream. 

But Nee, we’re returning to space. After a decade. We’re finally able to move past the computer shutdown that cost Dave’s life. That shook everybody up quite a bit, if you remember. Shook me up too. One miscalculation and everything can go up in flames - literally - in less than a second. But we’re pioneering again. And this time, further than ever before. 

I could be a pioneer. 

I could matter in the timeline of humanity. 

And I didn’t volunteer, I really didn’t. Bill (my new boss) asked if I’d be interested. He said they wanted me. They wanted me to be the logical one, the empirical and strategical one. To keep the mission on track, and keep going even if we had to lose one of our own.

I kind of hate that that’s what I am to them. Devoid of emotion, as if these equations don’t mean something to me deep down inside. As if I’m just okay with leaving someone behind in the name of science. (Except, that’s what I’m doing to you, isn’t it?) I haven’t shown them the feelings that connect me to my work like I showed them to you. My feelings scare me, Nee, and that’s one of the reasons it was easier to leave.

If you think I don’t loath myself for this every single day, Niamh…

Okay, getting back on track: before you stop reading this, I told him I couldn’t go. I said, “Bill, I’m a scientist, but I’m not brave.”

To which he responded, “Audrey, you are brave. What you’re feeling is fear. Don’t mistake one for the other.” He said some other stuff about my dissertation but that’s the part that mattered. 

Niamh, this is one version of us. And I royally screwed this version up. I’m so, so, sorry. And I’m sorry that I’m leaving now. You’ll be able to contact me directly (not that you’d want to) until we get far enough away that time will be running differently for us. I could say I’m sorry until the end of time and I’d mean it. 

I’ve loved you with every fiber in my being since we were four years old. You’re my best friend, Nee. Always. 

I guess what I mean is, I love you in every version of us, as the universe is eternally expanding, I love you. Forever and ever, until life as we know it drops from existence. I don’t need your forgiveness, but I need your understanding. 

I don’t expect your forgiveness. But I hope for your understanding.

You understand, right? Like when you left to be a pilot. Because you could help the country, you said. Because flying was freedom and it was scary but also exhilarating and exciting. You were sorry, you said, but this was something bigger than yourself. Because the sky felt like home, because you didn’t owe it to the sky to be a certain way, a certain version of Niamh. This is like that.

When I’m up there, during any given moment, I’ll hold you close to me. The smell of the peppermint hot chocolate of childhood sleepovers. Of the nights you made me sing you to sleep. Of searching for mythical creatures in the wintry woods. Of climbing moss-kissed boulders to watch the Alpenglow illuminate the mountains in pink and orange. Of your patience for my falls while we were skiing. The feeling of your embrace. 

I’ll take with me my mistakes and continue to learn from them. I won’t hide things anymore. I’ll be honest, I’ll set boundaries, I won’t let my fear of losing something get in my way of having it, cherishing it. Thanks to you, Nee, I know that the possibility of losing something is not worth caring about when the thing you have is right in front of you. 

I’ll never take anything for granted ever again. Especially not you. 

You might not see me again. Ever. I could die, and that’s the scariest thing I’ve ever had to think about. (Behind losing you). But if my life, one tiny life, can change the course of the human race? Isn’t that worth it? Please tell me it’s worth it. If it’s not, Niamh, I will step out of that launch pad and say, “I need a plane ticket to Colorado. I’m going to Niamh.” 

Because it doesn’t matter how much I matter to humanity, if I can’t matter to you.

Like Carl Sagan said, love transcends time and space, right?

We transcend time and space. 

I love you. 

I’m sorry. 


Eternally yours, 


November 06, 2022 17:37

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