The Barrier (Story by Risa Peris)

There is a barrier that cuts the soul. Is oneness with anything even possible? I qualified to be an astronaut in 2017. A woman among a few women. Shortly after qualifying, I began an affair with a programmer at NASA. We went out one night, driving in his pickup truck, to the beach. We sat drinking beers, chatting about ee cummings, Fortran, and Trump. In our brief pauses, we could hear the insistent sound of the ocean and each others swallows of Sapporo. Dan only liked Japanese beer. The moon was bright and looked heavy in the sky.

When the beers were gone we began to laugh about nothing and then I kissed him. Dan was surprised.

“Your marriage?” he asked.

“Doesn’t matter.” It was true. Jake was handsome, made a lot of money owning a car dealership, but we never mentally connected. There was only a physical connection and even that fluctuated. He hugged me when I became qualified as an astronaut but then he asked for what was for dinner.

Two months later, Dan and I were in a wild affair and I was pushing myself at NASA to get on the International Space Station. I was studying and running 8 miles a day. When the time came for me to leave Earth I cried.

“I’m going to miss you, Dan.” I hugged him tight and tried to memorize the imprint of his body on mine and his smell.

A week later, I was on my first moonwalk. I could see the bright Earth and its bright lights. Dan was down there somewhere. Jake was down there somewhere. I looked up and around. Infinity was everywhere. I gasped. I felt overwhelming separate from everything. We are always alone, no matter how many people or things are in our life.

In the light of the Earth, the moon, the sun, and all the stars I felt…sad. That is the human experience. There is a barrier that cuts the soul.