Lone Pair

I started. Scrambling to my feet, I stood opposite the source of the voice: a woman poised not ten feet away. The ball was resting behind my leg, somewhat hidden from view. Not that it matters, of course; that’s just how I happened to be standing.

“Who are you?”

“Uh, nobody,” she responded, in a dramatically casual way. There was a shrug, a short puff, an eye roll.. I waited a moment to see if she would elaborate or leave it at that. As it so happened, she left it at that.

“You want to expound on that, perhaps? Nobody’s just strolling around the Moon all by themselves—that doesn’t just happen.”

“Well, you are.”

“Yeah, uh, not intentionally,” I said, waving my arms around spasmodically. Somehow that demonstrated how not in control of my situation I was. I mean, if I couldn’t control my basic motor functions, how could I be expected to control my location in spacetime? Right? Right.

“Wait,” I countered, “are you trying to say that I’m nobody?”

“No! I’m trying to say that I’m nobody,” she said patronizingly, “Who are you?”

“No, no. I asked first. Tell me who you are.”

Crossing her arms, she exhaled a loud *humph* before deflecting:

“Uh-uh. I refuse,” we were in grade school. Two adults, standing on the Moon, bantering like children at recess. However, succeeding a brief pause, she did back down slightly,  “It’s embarrassing.”

“What’s so embarrassing about who you are?”

“Because I’m not!” She exclaimed.

“Not what?”

“Oh. My. God. Why do you even care so much,” she was incredulous, pulling at her hair in exasperation, “I’m not who I am!”

That made no sense. So much so, that I replied:

“That doesn’t even make sense!” With a tenacity that would’ve earned a tip of the hat from Le Petit Prince himself, I asked again, “Who are you?

At long last, she gave in, drew a long, weary breath, sending me her name on the accompanying exhale:

“The Man on the Moon…”

I paused on the subsequent beat. Oh. The revelation had jarred my jaw hinges and a few idiotic words dribbled out:

“But you’re a—”

“Oh fuck off, what did you study in school? Obvious conclusions and Theories of Mansplaination?”

Idiocy, as it turns out, runs less like a leaky faucet and more like a lazy stupid river:

“You can’t be the Man on the Moon then. How can you be the Man on the Moon if you’re not a man?”

Understandably frustrated, she said with finality, “And yet, here I am, and that’s what they call me.”

There was a great, contradictory beauty in that. In a way that escaped me then, I later found the beauty and universal applicability in that statement. At length, I supposed that she may as well be telling the truth, so I in turn revealed my identity.

“I’m Thomas.” That was my name. It didn’t have the grandeur of The Man on the Moon, but it was all I had. It would have to do.

Since we’d begun speaking, she’d closed half the original distance between us. Still too far away to shake hands, we settled for nodding curtly, concluding our introductions.

“Are you sure there isn’t someone else wandering around here that might be referred to as the Man on the Moon, and who might also happen to be a man?”

I looked around the general area as if by some chance I might spot a mysterious third party better matching the description.

“Believe me, I wish that there was. It’s fucking lonely here.”

“I can imagine.”

“Can you? How long have you been here for?”

“I dunno—couple hours maybe?”

“Oh. Yeah. You don’t know lonely. I’ve been here ages. Absolutely dreadful, I won’t lie, but at least the view never gets old.”

I looked to the horizon, to the distant expanses of white lunar rocks and ridges, and then at everything in between before asking, “The view of what? Scarface’s home world?”

“What do you mean ‘the view of what’?” she asked, incredulously, “The view! What have you been doing this entire time?”

“Uh…” The river of idiocy flowed strong, pouring down my body from my eyes, following the trail of chains that bound my ankle to the impossible weight.

“Wow, you Earth people. Too caught up in your own little problems to enjoy the bigger picture.”

“What do you mean?”

She walked over and for the first time we touched. A shiver ran down my back as she sat me down on the ground. Grabbing my shoulder, she pulled me back, reclining us both until we were lying on our backs. For the first time I really looked up, taking in more than just a fleeting, fearful glance. Before, I’d only felt the creeping terror, but now, with the Woman on the Moon laying by my side, I could look up at my home without that filter of panic clouding my view. The Earth was massive, like a giant crystal ball with swirling clouds and weather systems, white over blue against green, all blanketing vast expanses of brown and red deserts. It was also so small. I could look from Raleigh to Rome in an instant, traveling an ocean in the flick of an eye. The Earth hung over us, the eye of the universe, dwarfed by everything it was built to observe.

Many times I’d seen a view similar to this one. I’d seen it in a glass of water. Bubbles clinging to the sides of the glass, but it was a still life. My fingers pinched the end of a plastic bag shut. Inside the bag was a nondescript powder—could’ve been anything, really. This could’ve been any night, really. When the powder breached the water, it created another universe. When I swallowed the universe, it filled me up, and I felt as insignificant as finite Earth drifting through infinite space; I drifted through my own space inside the belly of an even bigger beast. Like the tiny universe inside that glass, my mind had shattered, expanded and frozen—suspended in animation, but broken beyond repair; my thoughts were held together only in the fourth dimension. Time. Frozen on a single tick.

My mind wandered like that for awhile as I lay there, next to the Woman on the Moon.

Next Chapter

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