December 9, 2007

As I walk into the guarded hallway I am almost blinded by the polished white walls, floor, and ceiling. My pessimism is currently covered with blood, lying in the middle of the ring like a beaten boxer, while my optimistic dreams become reality greeting a cheering crowd like a champion. I carefully measure every step in my head so that I can stay exactly in line with my fellow, awe-stricken comrades. The lines in the linoleum floor pass under my feet like the rungs of a ladder. I am wearing a solid white uniform with a NASA logo over my heart and a never retreating red, white, and blue flag patched over my shoulder. A cool draft swirls from a fan past my face and chills my buzzed head. I breathe deep letting the minty taste of my toothpaste fill my mouth then try to hold the flavor in my lungs. My strong and cheerful muscles fall limp before the cold grey eyes of my new boot camp sergeant.


All the blood in my body seems to be rushing to my head and I can’t even remember my name. WhatamIdoing? WhereamI? HowdidIgethere? A huge panel of sparkling lighted buttons starts to blink and before my mind can register what to do, my finger pushes the right one. This is really happening. I am going into space for the first time. My eyes are filled with the memory of lying in bed looking up at the ceiling, a poster of the glowing earth taken through a window of a space shuttle cockpit. My dreams are just an atmosphere away.
As the engines start, failure blurs my vision and I panic. I can feel every rattling bolt all the way down the fuselage. I focus skyward through a thick circular window and don’t dare blink. Before I know it, I am surrounded by darkness and my ears are flooded with celebration.


Bouncing from rock to rock I feel like a child again. I am dancing through a dream in a magical and unknown world. In my life I have seen many beautiful beaches, magnificent mountains, and peaceful prairies but they were nothing like seeing clouds slowly wind around the silent planet I usually call home. Frolicking on the moon with my plastic-looking playmates makes me feel like a real live action hero. The flag pole is completely dry in my clammy and sweaty hands. Every step I take is a leap and sends a shockwave of dust flying into the air like a fast car on a gravel road. The smiles of my friends are shadows behind the reflections from the moon’s surface on their helmets. Hanging the flag is a group effort that everyone is thrilled to join.


As I strap myself into my seat, my mind takes another vacation and my hands do all the work. This time I am much more relaxed, but my mind keeps trying to tell me that I should pay attention. The stale space food turns the butterflies in my stomach into exploding popcorn. The ocean makes a foamy thin line as it meets the shore. Grey mountains that I have seen touch the sky look like insignificant ant hills. As the earth gets closer everything seems more real, like waking up from a dream. Crop fields take their usual geometric shapes as I zoom over them faster than my mind wants to comprehend. The black worn runway is like a stray black hair lying on a flat desk. Numbers rush through my head but only my fingertips listen. The thud of the wheels knocks me back to reality but all I have to do is look up in the sky and I am greeted by a familiar face.

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