Unusual. The sky above the neighborhood was nearly black, but you could see pink and orange in the distance coming from the freshly setting sun. The colors quickly disappeared when the storm clouds crossed the sky. Then it was like night.
He sat with his head directly in front of the fan, sweat dripping down his face and off the tip of his nose. His shirt clung to his skin and he wearily stripped it off, dropping it to the floor beside his bed where his shorts and boxers had already been discarded. He reached for the glass of ice water on the nightstand only to find it was just water. He finished the glass in one gulp and rubbed it across his forehead before replacing it in the puddle of condensation.
Turning toward his only window, he glared at the broken air conditioner. Of all the days it could stop working it had to be this one. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do because the city had practically shut down due to the unexpected heatwave.
Groaning, he fell back and lay spread-eagle, allowing the slight breeze from the fan to reach his obscenely sweaty crotch. I’m going to die, he thought, staring at the familiar crack in the ceiling. My roommates are going to find my shriveled, dehydrated corpse and say, “Wow, this idiot deserved to die because he couldn’t afford a decent air conditioner, let alone rent.”
Resigned to his fate, he closed his eyes and concentrated on what little comfort the fan brought him and his balls.
The sound of chalk on the blackboard echoed throughout the quiet room. The sleep-deprived students in first-period algebra stared blankly at the board, trying to follow the teacher’s problems. Most had spent all of last night trying to comprehend what they learned yesterday. Most failed.
The teacher stopped writing, turned to face the classroom, and took a seat at her desk.
They had 30 minutes to answer all five questions.
“Uh-huh…” uttered one boy, turning to his best friend in the seat next to him.
“Urrrr…” the other boy responded. He tapped his girlfriend’s shoulder, who conveniently sat in front of him. Usually she would keep her paper in his line of sight but today he could not see anything.
His girlfriend jumped and turned to look at him, her eyes half-shut and unfocused. He nodded toward the board and she shook her head with a shrug. “Mm-mmm…” She moved her paper so he could see it and all that was written was her name.
“Umm…” He turned to his best friend and also shrugged.
The first boy groaned and rested his forehead on his desk. There was no point trying. He was just going to sleep until the period was over.
Alex sat sipping his coffee at the breakfast bar when it suddenly dawned on him. The apartment was unusually quiet. In fact… it had been for a few days now. At least once a week he was woken up by Tupperware falling on the floor or doors slamming shut when his roommate, Ben, came home wasted in the middle of the night. At least twice a week he wanted to buy earplugs to drown out the sounds of Ben and Ben’s girlfriend making too much noise in the bedroom. At least three times a week he wanted to move back in with his parents.
This week he had slept a full eight hours each night. This week he had been able to enjoy his coffee and morning HGTV programs in peace. This week he had not called home once.
Where was Ben?
Alex checked Facebook Messenger and saw that Ben had not been active for more than a week. The last time they texted one another was a week-and-a-half ago when Ben made him buy more toilet paper because he was “shitting his brains out,” and then Alex had only seen Ben’s hand reach out of the bathroom for a new roll.
Alex opened Google and typed in “Benjamin Hudson.”
The first search result was not any of Ben’s social media profiles, nor was it another man with the same name. The first search result was Ben’s mugshot with the caption “Ex-boyfriend charged in murder of student teacher.”
Alex stared at his phone’s screen in disbelief.
He set his phone down for a second, took a deep breath, and looked at it again. That was definitely Ben’s face staring back at him but with cold, unfamiliar eyes. Alex clicked on the article and read the story.
Apparently Ben’s ex, Lori, had been sending Ben harassing and even threatening messages about his current girlfriend, Beth. Lori also somehow got a hold of Beth’s number and was sending her worse messages and stalking her at work. Basically, Lori was crazy and Ben felt the need to end things. Permanently.
Alex pocketed his phone and slowly pushed his chair away from the bar. He picked up his backpack from the floor, made sure he had everything, and left for work. When he was done he was going to call the super, get out of the lease regardless of the cost, and move back home. He was not going to stay in the apartment he had shared with a murderer. Yes, Ben was behind bars and would be for some time, but Alex knew he would no longer feel safe there. He could not, not when someone so normal–albeit an inconsiderate roommate–could do something so terrible.
Time is strange in space. The sun does not rise in the morning nor set at night. We use artificial lighting to indicate when it is time to wake up and when we should go to bed. We get eight hours of sleep, but I have a very close relationship with my bed and sometimes will cover my lights and set my own alarm. Nine or ten hours is more ideal.
I do not wake up to smell of freshly-brewed coffee, but that is typically all I will have for breakfast. On special occasions I will eat oatmeal with freeze-dried strawberries and a little brown sugar.
With coffee in hand I wander around the station, pausing at every window to take in the various views of space. Not much changes between each window, but I doubt I will ever get over how expansive our surroundings are. It makes me feel very small; it is humbling.
When my coffee is gone I take my empty mug to my desk. There I turn on my computer and look for any new messages from loved ones. I see one from my parents, another from my fiancé, and one from my sister. I know today is going to be a good day.
I look at my to-do list and start working on the easier tasks. Although I slept in, the caffeine has not settled in yet and I am still groggy. I consider making another cup but the number of days left in our trip make me reconsider. I do not want to run out of coffee too soon; you do not want to see me when I have not had coffee.
I fall into my daily routine and before I know it it is lunch time. I do not want to get into details here. Just know the food is passable, but I really miss my kitchen back in Brooklyn.
After lunch I am more energized and push myself to finish early. We are scheduled to pass a rare comet–one I will not see again in my lifetime–so I do not want to miss it. I take my empty mug back to the kitchen to wash it. I return to my room for the book I was reading and make my way to the the community room.
My favorite chair is by the window. I know I will be able to see the comet from there. I open my book and pick up where I had left off, occasionally glancing at my watch or out the window.
I know I have not mentioned any of my crew-mates but that is intentional. My perfect day does not involve them. They are good people, but I chose to be an astronaut for the quiet. After living in New York City for more than five years I needed the quiet.
The alarm on my watch goes off and I scramble out of the chair, pressing my face to the window glass like a child staring out at the first snowfall.
I see the comet come around the side of the station and my draw drops. I have see comets and shooting stars countless times before I moved to New York, but nothing compares to seeing one so close. I hear voices behind me but pay them no mind; right now it is just me and the comet.
Time slows even more as the blazing ball of light passes my window, leaving a trail of burning dust in its wake. I follow it to the next window and then the next until I can no longer see it.
My heart is pounding.
How many people can say they have experienced what I just did?
I feel a tear roll down my cheek and chuckle softly. I did not realize that would make me so emotional. I wipe the tear away and smile. I will never forget this moment. I know I could have taken photos but would they properly capture everything? Probably not.
I return to the community room where the rest of the crew is talking about what just happened. I pick up my book intending to leave but instead I choose to join them. We talk for hours, continuing the conversation over dinner. Surprisingly, I do not want to go to bed when the lights begin to dim.
We reconfigure the lights to stay on a little longer and talk well into the night, not just about the comet but our families, our homes, the lives we left behind… I get a little homesick but never once regret my decision to leave.
A yawn escapes my lips and I finally deem it time for bed. I say goodnight to the few who have lasted this long and return to my room. After getting ready for bed, I am quick to curl up under the sheets and my eyelids immediately grow heavy. Unfortunately, I cannot allow myself to sleep in two days in a row but again, I regret nothing.
Today was perfect.
- So far it looks like 2017 is NOT my year.
- My “little” brother is 15!? When did that happen?? One more year and he can start driving! I feel so old! [crying emoji] Anyways… be sure to wish him a happy birthday!
- Shoutout to my handsome man! I can’t believe it’s already been two years… Time flies when you’re having fun, right? I love you so much, babes. Here’s to many more years to come. ❤
- [Taylor Swift video] Twenty-two years ago today my little sister was born. You know I have a terrible memory, Caroline, but I’m convinced we became best friends that day. You are the nicest, wisest, weirdest, most creative/artistic person I know. Although we are physically apart I feel like we are always together. I love you and hope you have an amazing day and year. ❤
- If you see this kid be sure to wish him a happy birthday! The baby of the family is turning 12 and he’s not quite a baby anymore. [crying emoji] Love you, Luke!
- Happy Birthday to the best dad a girl could ask for. I love you! Wish I could be there to celebrate!
- Happy birthday, my love! You may be aging physically but I doubt you ever will mentally. 😛 Love you lots! [kissing emoji]
- Happy Turkey Day, everyone!
- Happy Birthday, Mommy! I love you! Can’t wait to see you at Christmas to celebrate!
- Wishing my family and friends a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!