Fiction Issue 2013: “LOS” | Fiction | Chicago Reader

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Fiction Issue 2013: “LOS”

“When I look out the capsule window all I see is the moon. . . . If I landed where I was supposed to I would be able to see home.”

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When I reacquire the radio signal I will state the mission status and Houston will copy that and all will be well. Sometimes Houston asks me to repeat what I have already said. So I will state the mission status again if they ask me to. I will speak clearly and calmly and precisely and they will copy that and all will be well.

Usually I say Houston this is Artemis 6 trajectory is good thrust is good guidance is good. Mission status is good.

Mission status is good means there is no malfunction with the computer or the rocket motor system or the control system or the instruments. There is nothing to say when I mean there is no malfunction with me. When there is a malfunction with me sometimes Houston knows before I do. There are wires and electrodes and monitors and doctors and psychiatrists and CAP COMMs and crew members and newspaper reporters and TV anchors and six billion people who will all know when there is a malfunction with me.

When I reacquire the radio signal Houston is the only one who will respond. I cannot call home or that Chinese delivery place on Third Avenue or anyone in customer service. If I want to talk to someone I have to talk through Houston. Houston what was 17 Down means I did not do the crossword with Captain Reis last Wednesday and I do not get the Times in the capsule. Houston how are Jonah and Ruth means I do not know where my children are or what they are doing. Houston please explain everything to John means I am sorry I have no explanation for my husband.

Most mothers go to their children's special events and wave and clap and take pictures and hold signs and cheer. My children come to my special events and wave and clap and take pictures and hold signs and cheer. Most children do not have a mother who goes to the moon. Most children love and admire the people the president sends to the moon.

The mission has been the moon since the president said we're going to the moon. When the president says the mission is the moon then we go to the moon. When the director says I am going to the moon then I go to the moon. When my children say how long does it take to get to the moon I say it takes hours and days but it takes months and years to get ready. When my children say when are you coming back from the moon I say I love you very much.

When I look out the capsule window all I see is the moon. It is only black out there but I know it is the moon. The moon is the mission is the moon. The mission did not include landing in the dark of the Sea of Solitude. If I landed where I was supposed to I would be able to see home. I cannot see home. But home is not the mission the mission is the moon.

I have enough food on this mission to last three weeks. Mission food is not good food. When I cook at home it is also not good food. Jonah and Ruth prefer when John cooks the food at home.

They might ask is Mom going to be home for dinner tonight.

John will ask what they would like for dinner.

They might say they do not care as long as he cooks it.

John will ask when was the last time Mom cooked dinner.

They might say they do not remember.

I do not remember what time it was when I hit the far side of the moon and loss of signal. I do not remember how long it has been since I left home, and my instruments cannot tell me that anymore. I do not remember how long it has been since the last transmission to Houston when I said mission status was good. I do remember that LOS was only supposed to last until 04:05.

I cannot remember when Jonah and Ruth get out of school everyday but it might be at 4:05. 4:05 is when the bell rings and all the children make noise for the end of the school day. The children make noise in my head but I have never actually heard them. After 4:05 the children ride home on buses or with their parents, and they do their homework and eat their dinner and do their chores and go to bed on time. 4:05 is the end of school for the day and then it is everything else. I never picked up Jonah and Ruth at school. I never made it to 4:05.

When I reacquire the radio signal the wires and electrodes and monitors will report back to Houston if I have a malfunction. Usually my heart rate is an even 43 bpm. Under most forms of physical or psychological stress I can still maintain a heart rate under 98 bpm. There is an excellent reason why the astronaut in charge of a mission is called commander. Most mission commanders have excellent control over their minds bodies and spacecrafts.

Everyone vomits their first time in the vomit comet, even mission commanders. The vomit comet is the KC-135 that ascends and dives at extreme angles to simulate the effects of zero G without leaving the atmosphere. This is when most astronauts first feel weightless. I first felt less than my own weight when I was a five-foot-eight 82-pound teenager. I felt more than my own weight when I was carrying Jonah and Ruth. One thing in common with trying to be a great astronaut a great wife and a great teenager is that I vomited a lot all of those times.

Even when I reacquire the radio signal Houston will still not know when I vomit. But they can read my electrocardiographic levels my blood pressure and my respiration. They can tell me when something inside is not doing what it should be. Maybe they can also tell me if Jonah is allergic to penicillin or if Ruth has ever had chicken pox because I cannot remember. Maybe they can hook up wires and electrodes and monitors to my children and when I reacquire the radio signal Houston can tell me if Jonah and Ruth have high blood pressure or are sick or feel completely fine. Since there is nothing to say when there is no malfunction with people, if I do not hear from Houston I will assume that my children are feeling completely fine.

My heart rate is absolutely under control.

Failure is not an option.

There has never been a complete mission failure in the history of the Artemis program. No woman has ever launched a Phoebe vehicle and not returned home safely.

I have things from home in the capsule that do not belong to me. I asked my children if they would like me to bring something to the moon for them so they could always look at it and say that one time that thing was in space, that thing was in outer space with my mom instead of with me. Jonah gave me a little rubber rocket man with a perfect hole between his legs so he could sit atop a pen or pencil. He liked to carry it around in his pocket. He said he had another rocket man, rocket man's archenemy, that he could carry around while rocket man was off to the moon. He said rocket man's archenemy would be plotting to take over the world while rocket man was gone so rocket man had better come back and bring some serious moon stuff with him if he was going to foil all the plans of his archenemy. If the world ended before I came back he said that rocket man would be responsible for rebuilding everything. Ruth gave me a comb. I have never seen her use this comb but she told me that the moon was no reason not to take care of my hair.

When Ruth was younger she swam all the time. Sometimes she would let me comb her hair which was long and got tangled and smelled of chlorine from all the swimming she did. She swam with the Hackensack Park District instructors and she swam with the Maywood Pool Muskrats and she is swimming with the Hackensack High Comets and she will swim with the University of Michigan Wolverines and she will swim with the United States National Team and she will swim with the Olympians of the world and she will swim with the Titans of the constellations and if I could see anything except the black, except the moon, if I could see home, I could see Ruth swimming in the stars.

Floating floating floating.

Ruth is trying to break the 400-meter record for freestyle swimming. She is trying to hit the 4:05 mark. When I ran track in school I tried to hit the 4:05 mark for the mile. They all said that I would never hit 4:05. I never told Ruth that hitting 4:05 for the 400-meter freestyle is almost impossible at her age. When I left for the moon Ruth was still trying to hit 4:05. I am still trying to hit 4:05. My children are still waiting at 4:05. I was supposed to leave LOS at 4:05. Failure is not an option.

Instead of leaving LOS I landed in the Sea of Solitude. There is no swimming in the Sea of Solitude. There is no light in the Sea of Solitude. There is no radio signal in the Sea of Solitude. I am not floating in or exploring around or moving about or even seeing the Sea of Solitude. I am just in it.

I was in a parent-teacher conference for Jonah before I landed in the Sea of Solitude. His teacher told us that Jonah was almost an A student and that he tried very hard. His grades were not something to be concerned about but maybe his behavior was. His behavior was not cruel or cause for disciplinary action but it was odd. Jonah liked to sit in the middle of the playground dome climber by himself instead of playing with the other students at recess. When he read books he timed himself and if he didn't read fast enough he would read it again. When he asked to use the boy's room last Wednesday another teacher saw him not walking back to the classroom but creeping back hunched over and stepping lightly on his tiptoes with his arms outspread and turning his head back and forth very slowly and he was quiet as mouse until he stopped in the middle of the hallway still on his tiptoes and stayed there still for a moment until he sprang up and started waving his hands wildly with his eyes scrunched up and his mouth moving like he was screaming in agony but not making a sound and when the other teacher came up to him and held him by the shoulders and asked what was wrong Jonah just said he was sorry and he would do better next time. His teacher asked us if we could spend some time with him at home and see if there was something he would say to us. I said to the teacher I'm going to the moon and I will have a talk with him when I get back.

When I reacquire the radio signal I will tell Houston to tell Jonah that we are going to have a talk after I find a way to get out of the Sea of Solitude after I complete the mission after I bring Artemis 6 back home after I get out of quarantine after I get better after I do mission debrief after I take a hot shower after I comb my hair after I eat something that is not mission food. After I hit 4:05 and reacquire the radio signal with Houston. I do not know when I will reacquire a signal with my husband but I will put off quiet time with Captain Reis to do the Times crossword until after I talk to Jonah.

I have perfect 20/20 eyesight. I can look at a vision chart and spot that E a mile away. I cannot actually control how excellent my eyesight is but Houston does not let you fly a mission if you do not have excellent eyesight. I cannot control how good my eyesight is like I can control my heart rate. I cannot control what my eyesight will be like in the future but before the launch before the moon before the Sea of Solitude it was excellent. I cannot say how excellent my eyesight is in the Sea of Solitude because there is only black. There could be an E out there a mile away that maybe I could see. There could be an E anywhere out there. Anywhere. Floating.

Most mission commanders have excellent control over their minds bodies and spacecrafts. When I was first with John I did not exhibit enough control over my mind and body and that is why we have Ruth at home. I did not exhibit enough control over my mind and body after Ruth was born after John stopped looking at me with his less-than-excellent eyesight after Captain Reis starting looking at me like I was floating and soon after that is why we have Jonah and why John left for a little while.

I told John about Captain Reis.

He said what do you mean he understands you he wants you.

What I mean is you do not understand me you do not want me.

Nobody but moon men understand you is what John said to that.

I did not feel important I did not feel wanted I did not feel like your wife I said I felt like your daughter's mother.

He said you always have to be first don't you.

I am not going to command the first Artemis mission I said.

Because you're pregnant.

I am not going to give up this child.

When will you ever come back from the moon.

I am the woman you married.

Do you want me or the moon.

I love you very much.

I'm leaving he said. He said I need to be first for a little while.

John left and I had Jonah and I felt like I had a hole in me like rocket man, starting between my legs and going right up inside me. I asked Houston if I could stop the special events and training and trajectory and thrust for a little while so I could see my children's special events and training and trajectory and thrust. Houston copied that and so I did. For a little while. But after a little while it felt like a long while. John came back and my children were good and my status was good but I felt the moon calling.

In the Sea of Solitude I feel more than my own weight and less than my own weight at the same time. I feel the weight of Jonah and Ruth and John and Captain Reis and the Artemis program and Houston and high school and the heavens and six billion people. But all I see is black. There is no radio signal here there is no mission here there is nothing here. Weightlessness. Floating. Houston my status is I feel strangely good.

Houston how long can I live in LOS.

Houston says I cannot live in LOS.

Houston says failure is not an option.

Houston says a successful mission is a mission that ends at home and Artemis 6 will be a successful mission.

I say I wanted to be first. But maybe I am the first failure. Maybe that is how Houston and John and Ruth and Jonah and the world will remember me.

I say rocket man you have never failed you have saved Jonah. I say rocket man now I need your help I need you to save Artemis 6.

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