The Astronaut

Ivan and Irish are sharing a drink. "Look at it this way," Irish says, "life is difficult and endless. What we can control, what we can’t – what’s the difference?" Ivan looks shifty under the bar’s half-light.

"I knew a woman, once," he says finally, the n draws pictures in the air with his hands until Irish gets his meaning. They each sit back. One hundred miles away a woman stares at her ceiling that way. Lost in space, the topography of plaster above her head swings in broad circles at 1,670 kilometers an hour: fragile mountain ranges, empty valleys, incidental roads to nowhere – she walks the lunar ceilingscape without moving her eyes, an astronaut in her bed. Inside her are the following: organs (e.g., heart, papery lungs), fluid, cartilage, bone. He r breasts could be rainclouds, or monuments to the moon – if viewed from a certain angle.

"There are no angels," Irish is saying, drunk on scotch and ideas. "Intelligent design forbids it, renders them obsolete. We needed angels when we couldn’t find God; now that he is waving back to us from the end of every telescope—"

He is silenced by Ivan’s gaze, which he follows with his own across the rippled windows and into the night. A fat, hazy moon squats behind a grove of pine trees and telephone poles. Wir es criss-cross its face. Irish turns back to Ivan, who has begun to make a church out of ten fingers, and palms. Irish regards his hands, and then his drink.

"The astronaut who did not come back, who chose the lunar life instead, passed every psychological profile without incident. Most mornings, this, more than anything, is what gets me out of bed."


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