by Édouard Ruess
Under an evening sky, the faded clouds induce my eyes to open wider, filling themselves with an ocean of luminous flickering. To be alone–to be cool in the night–to be lifted into the sky, through the mind’s eye. Astronauts. Cooler than the stale, crisp air, gliding along the thermal protection system of their shuttle. How cool is an astronaut? How many children have sat at their bay window, peering through the fingerprinted glass, intrigued by the endless field of flickering-flies, wondering what type of flowers would grow on Pluto, if Pluto were to sprout flowers. Questions, they assume, only an astronaut could answer. But, what of the man in the white button-down, with a pocket protector and nerdy glasses and red neck tie and freshly ironed, black slacks and polished shoes? The man who takes his seat behind a set of computers to speak with the astronauts. Perhaps he knows the color of the flowers on Pluto. Indubitably, the weathered, gray haired man under the lab coat knows. Studying the properties of moon rocks—size, shape, and color—he must know. Alas, an unanswered question slips into the deep space of the forgotten zone of a child’s mind, not quite twilight, but not far off.
The stillness of space intrigues me further, as my thoughts drift back to the men and women who have earned the opportunity to ride a gigantic rocket into the outer-ocean. Their palms sweating as they approach the launch tower—heads high. The nerves that swim through their abdomen, like sea snakes through the water. Their mouths, as dry as Death Valley in the Mojave. Thoughts of children–wives–husbands, circling their minds, as they take seat aboard their new mobile space-home. Shuttle launch. The skin on their faces being forced from skulls—pounding hearts and eager souls. Five minutes of this outrageous force, then calm. Weightlessness. The boosters disconnect. The heroes take a breath. A sight through the window is the part I ponder most. What must it be like to stare out a window and see our planet? To view the ecosystem into which we were birthed—what must it be like?
The chilling wind caresses my neck, my field of vision considering the lake to which my small row-boat is entrusted. Making my way to shore, my mind, restless. Appraising the very shore I claim, a false step, and a stumble. Ruminating the still-shots, taking passes through my head, elaborating on details I hadn’t thought of prior to this evening. Digging deeper still, I ponder themes, such as composite materials, cartoon heroes, and consecutive words that begin with the same letter. Perhaps progressive pondering prevents primitive thoughts, but what provokes progressive pondering in pacifiable people? I feel as though my brain is spinning, at full tilt, inside my head, as if it’s undergoing high G-force centrifuge training. And again, a complete circle, back around to astronauts.
Feeling as though insanity is a glimpse away, I regress my mind to the point of consciously blinking, and I wonder—how cool it is to wonder.
Édouard was born in Hawaii and has moved a total of sixteen times. He served in the Army for four years before deciding to study Marine Biology in Alaska. He likes vinyl records and very old maps, and hopes to one day publish a book of short stories.