“Waiting is the Hardest Part”

Before the red planet was tamed, when it still carried some mystery as it rose in the west, twinkling and desolate. Before I watched your feet kick up dust on the Martian surface, before I followed your image through oxygen farms, young forests that seemed to stretch into infinity. Before you told me what it felt like, how the sun shone dimmer, how temperatures barely rose above the freezing point in daylight. Before you told me the night was colder and lonelier than the month you trained in Antarctica. That you were jealous of the men, of me, because we could grow beards.

Before the commendations. Before the monument. Before the marketing moguls put your face on everything, there was June 15, 2174. A warm Wednesday morning, the day I kissed you goodbye in front of the cameras. There was only the roar of the crowd, the sun shining on us from above, the wrinkled fabric of your flight suit hiding your body, my mind still remembering each curve. You promised you wouldn’t cry, but did anyway. I stood with the crowd, watching large monitors, as you stepped into the shuttle. There was the countdown, blasting off, the lingering smell of fumes in the air as I waited for the live video feed to pan to your face.

Now there is only silence. A bed that sags without you. The constant glow of the television. I listen for the sound of your voice, imagine your gentle breath brushing against my chest as I sleep. In the morning, I brew a cup of coffee, wait for you to appear on screen. Watch your eyes for signs of weariness or regret.

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Stephany Daniel

About Stephany Daniel

Stephany Daniel is an MFA fiction student at Emerson College. Her work has appeared in New Delta Review.