The email appeared in my inbox late one night. It was well past midnight and I was nowhere near sleep, just mindlessly scrolling on the internet. That was pretty typical for me these days. Sometimes I had booze to lull me to sleep, but it was coming up on the end of the month and my stash was long gone. I had honestly been too lazy to go back out to the grocery store, not even for food. I’d spent the past few weeks existing on mostly pizza and takeout.
It was definitely an intriguing email. An invitation, an opportunity! A company was seeking volunteers to go on a voyage to a new planet. Of course I thought it was a scam at first. This shit was definitely only in the movies when I was a kid. But it was surprisingly legit. A warning in huge bold letters at the bottom said each person has to go into stasis for 30 years, and there was limited space. Ah, there’s the catch. Not that it stopped me.
I’m not embarrassed to say I jumped at the chance. Why wouldn’t I? It seemed like it would be some kind of a fresh start. Or at the very least, it was something new. I was getting tired of these dingy four walls. Tired of the reoccurring bedbug infestations, the screaming neighbors, and that dog in 2B who never shuts the hell up. So I signed up.
I had to break my lease to do it, the fee was a pain but it was worth it. My landlord will probably be pissed when he sees my apartment. I didn’t really bother to pack much. There really wasn’t a whole lot I wanted to bring besides some clothes and a few mementos. It all fit in a single suitcase. So now here I stand, surrounded by 200 other people in the middle of this gargantuan spaceship. It really is insanely huge.
The room we’re standing in is crowded and way too hot. There’s a big stage in the center, which I’m assuming is for events or something. Or cult indoctrinations. I snort once, a woman to my left gives me a glare. I’m not paying attention. There’s a man standing on the stage giving a whole big speech that I don’t really care about. It’s all about innovation and the courageous human spirit, blah blah blah…
Finally the speech is over and the man starts to call out names. Each person gets a lovely new space suit and is assigned a stasis pod. It takes an eternity, but I finally hear my name “Brown, Victoria.” I step up on the stage, and grab my suit. All eyes are on me and I really don’t like it. Thankfully, a woman comes to show me to my pod.
It looks pretty nice, cozy even. Large and oval shaped with a cushy little bed in the center. I step away for a moment to change into my suit. I stare, my reflection in the mirror barely even looks like me anymore. I don’t look at it often. My hair, once pixie short and cherry red, now hangs limply at my shoulders. I haven’t cared to touch up the dye in a while so it’s sandy brown almost to my ears. It looks stupid, I know, but oh well.
I don’t even bother to look around or try to socialize. Really not interested in talking, don’t want to know anything about anyone. I lay in my pod and relax for a while until the speakers inside crackle to life. A voice lets me know that they are preparing for stasis. I close my eyes. A different voice, a robot voice, counts down from 10…
I am eight years old. Rain is pouring outside and drumming the windows. I’m sequestered in my bedroom with the TV on. I can’t concentrate on any cartoons, all I can hear is the shouting. My dad isn’t even trying to be quiet anymore. I can distinctly hear the insults he’s screaming at mom. She tries to shush him, to remind him that I’m here. They agree on counseling, but their marriage won’t survive the rest of the year. Dad will disappear entirely in another two years.
I am sixteen years old. The colorful striped candles on my birthday cake are melting into the frosting. I glance over at my mom. She has bags under her eyes and a never ending cough, but a bright smile on her face. I squeeze my eyes shut and blow out the candles. As she kisses the top of my head, I have the sinking feeling that my wish won’t come true. I was right.
I am twenty years old. I’m on my second year of college. My roommate takes me to a bar where she swears they won’t check IDs. That’s where I see her. I see her long dark hair first, tumbling over her mocha colored shoulders. She glances over at me, she’s beautiful. I feel a flutter in my stomach, but she just wants me to close the door. I’m letting all the cold air in. I make a fool out of myself that night, doing karaoke songs to get her attention. It blows my mind when it works.
I am twenty-three years old. Elena and I are moving in together. She stacks the last box in the corner and smiles at me. I melt immediately, my legs turn to jello. I can’t remember the last time I felt this happy and I tell her so. She embraces me and I bury my face in her hair. I smile, she smells like lemon and coconuts as always.
I am twenty-six years old. My stomach churns as I stand and wait in my stupid off white pantsuit. Just when I feel like I’m going to throw up, I see her. She’s beautiful, otherworldly. She’d opted for an elegant white dress that suits her so well. I almost can’t believe that she’s walking down the aisle at me, bouquet clasped in her gentle hands. The reception is so much fun, I don’t even have time to think about how empty my side was.
I am thirty years old. I am alone. Completely alone. The cell phone drops from my hand and hits the ground. It was a drunk driver going way over the speed limit. He ran a red light and she was t-boned. I cry harder than I’ve ever cried before. I can’t believe my last words to her were so stupid. The dumb, menial every day stuff of picking up milk on her way home or taking out the trash. I hope she knew how much I love her.
I am thirty years old. I’m burying the love of my life. They have to get her sister to give a eulogy on the spot. I tried to give mine but couldn’t stop sobbing long enough to form words. I didn’t hesitate to sell the house we’d bought only two years ago. Traded it for a cheap apartment far away. I see her everywhere, especially in my dreams.
I am thirty-two and I still can’t bear to live on the planet where she died.
I wake up slowly. A voice from the speakers tells me that we’re nearing the planet. We have a couple of weeks to enjoy the ship before we land. The pod opens and I sit up, taking a look around. There are full families here but I see a few stragglers like me. A girl in a pod across the way sees me and waves. I give a weak wave back.
Am I ready? Probably not. But I’m willing to try.