From the Perspective of a Stargazer on a Clear Night (All Orbits End Up Arcs)
The Moon, in my memory, is a cool rush. It is an airless breath and a septuagenarian's evidently shallow pockets. It is rare beef. It is a January night, a window cracked. A job in customer service strikes me a necessary ingredient in a responsible mind. Which it was, then, for me. I bussed. I busted my ass. You learn things from the things people leave behind. You learn that an umbrella is less valuable than a BJ's membership card. You learn that a twenty-four percent tip is an accident. You learn that you can accommodate others' wants. You learn that a person will wait alone for upwards of two hours before finally deciding to leave. You learn that people can wait if they are told to expect to wait. You learn that smelled smoke instills outrage, not alarm. Most people, I have learned, would rather not remember than be reminded of the things they've forgotten. The Moon is a lesson, too.
Position, I have found, has become an unconscionable concept. Position connotes stasis; velocity, progress; acceleration a pattern beyond our control. Stasis, in today's age, is unforgivable. The position I've taken, then, is that of the Moon. It is that of a forgotten norm, an ineffable origin to which we wish to return. The Moon was once and will soon again be not dissimilar to this Earth. It is a chunk of us incompletely removed. Speaking of: a man at my work the other day supported digging the Mexicans a moat. Which is to say: scarcity-driven tribalism returns, triumphant. Another story: as I was leaving my office, a homeless friend of mine, Elaine, asked me in for a drink. Her home is a mouse-gnawed tarp humped against the front of the library. The drinks were plastic cups of Pepsi and something she told me was rum. As I was leaving, I did not tell her she did not have to live like this. She was content, it seemed to me, and my saying this to her would have only made her upset. Enough, I realized, becomes lacking only when it is for you. Stasis, progress. A body of fixed mass that waxes and wanes is a paradox. The Moon provides romance only in our imaginations, and only for others, I think. The Moon, in terms of its metaphorical heft, is long dead.
Do you remember them, then, those dim early hours when we looked to her for light? Our schedules we molded to hers, our work and rest to her clockwork returns. Liquidity, for us, was an unspoken word. That night—do you remember?—when we went to the bay and stacked our old accounting textbooks to our waists and doused them in gasoline, I told you it would never get better than this. And I was right, was I not? After that night, after you left, I kept tabs on your progress. You were abroad, and then you were not. You were happy and single and aloft in a Chicago high-rise. You were married, father to a pair of adopted prodigies. You bore proud witness to a series of graduations and grandchildren, and then you were dead. In your youth you had sworn to have your ashes packed around the seed of an American Sweetgum, but either your wife or your son, I forget which, convinced you otherwise. Our gravestone was dark agate and gave me momentary pause. From where I then went even our generosities seemed, and still seem, petty. This world is more than enough, and it will never be enough. Man discovered Earth when he discovered space. I cannot remember what it is like to look up at the Moon.
Colin Lubner writes (in English) and teaches (math) in southern New Jersey. His work has either appeared or will appear, temporally speaking. He is keeping on keeping on.