Oct/Nov 2013  •   Fiction

The Privilege of Distance

by Avital Gad Cykman

Electronic/fiber artwork by Phillip Stearns

Electronic/fiber artwork by Phillip Stearns

He is my third astronaut, and the one I married. There is something irresistible about a man who follows his childhood dream. And there was more at the time. He sank into my thoughts, then my feelings, and then my life as if he'd moved in—instead of seizing them like a treasure hunter.

Along with my growing knowledge of astrophysics, I now acquired an intimate familiarity with the space community, its intense race for excellence, worry for the absent and fiery affairs among the present. And so, I walked into our marriage. And Into our wedding, I floated in a dress sewn like white clouds, to meet my beloved in his Earth-blue suit. Those were metaphors we'd constructed together.

A month passed, honeymoon in Toscana, then another and another, and the fourth month arrived and disappeared, shorter than any other piece of time, because he was leaving and I was pregnant.

We had planned to have children as soon as we settled our little family in the unsettling routine. Our baby would naturally grow to be proud and accepting of a father who splits. But I? I had to learn to peel my beloved from my insides.

"You lack perspective," he told me, his slightly misadjusted palm resting on my pregnant belly.

I might have. He had the privilege of distance. When he first left the Earth, we had already met. He winced inside his spacesuit, as the diminishing blue ball marked him with a hole of longing. And yet, at the same time, home was ephemeral and in constant change, and we vanished with grace. It eased the pain and relieved him from a burden.

"Time is our own idea, too," he said. "People measure it in order to stay sane. But you suffer. We're together everywhere, all the time, okay?"

"Well, nothing like a big belly to keep my feet on the ground. I'd take your word that life is my perception of it if I didn't have to pee," I said seven months later. The baby was performing acrobatics as if the womb didn't limit the movements.

He laughed, almost snoring. His lungs hadn't yet returned from different airs.

"Take it easy..." he said, as I returned from the bathroom.

"Why? You're leaving again? Won't you be here for—"

He tried to take hold of my hand, but I slipped my arm away from him. Then, I regretted it and stepped forward until our bellies touched.

"It's rather strange," I said.

"My love..."

"I only gained the baby's weight plus hardly anything."

"Of course."

"Of course?"

"This lightness..."

My ankles were tingling. My toes almost left the floor. If I only let myself, I could float in the air like the baby floating inside me.

"The law of gravity, too," he said.

"You're a scientist," I laughed. "It's not an invention." But it felt good to leave the ground.

"Always, everywhere," he promised as the baby was born into the crystalline air between planets.