Listening (Story by R.C. Peris)

You have to narrow your world to expand your world. I don’t know who told me that. Maybe I read it somewhere. I was a mess as a child. ADHD. I went from one thing to the next. It was all a blur. I’d get midway in a novel and then pick up another. I’d watch half a show and then flip the channel. I convinced myself it was because I was so madly interested in everything. I was in love with the world. Maybe I was. But all the interests and their inevitable pursuit made me feel desperate rather than invigorated. Around 18 I started listening on radio frequencies. I was simply mad about radios and the possibility of talking to someone far away. My Mom wasn’t happy.

“Can’t you go to a dance and find a boy?” She tightened the strings on her apron. It was meatloaf night and her apron was stained red with splotches of ketchup.

“Leave me alone, Mom.” And she did. As I was flipping frequencies, I was reading a National Geographic on dinosaurs. I considered that as my next pursuit when I heard something.


“Copy. What did you say?” I fiddled with the knobs.


“I can’t understand you.” I was about to turn the radio off and plan my next obsession with dinosaurs when I considered that I may be talking to an alien. There was no fuzziness in the radio communication. It was clear but in a language I couldn’t understand.

Aliens. I was talking to aliens! At that moment, my world narrowed as the universe expanded. I became a radio astronomer. I never heard that alien language again. I knew they were out there. I vaguely wondered if they went away because they didn’t like the sound of my voice. Should I have been nicer? It has been years since teams of scientists and myself have worked on finding communications flung across the heavens. It has been so quiet. So quiet. Sometimes I cry out of desperation. I’m weary of being alone. I narrowed my world so much I never bothered with relationships or babies. But I don’t regret expanding my focus to the universe. Each night I go to work and I listen. I fiddle with knobs and computers and I listen. What else can I do in a narrow world?

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