“Ship’s leaving,” I announce. “Hand me my helmet?” We face each other, eyes narrow, our fingers tangled up. His top hat is eleven inches tall and I’m surprised it doesn’t blow off.
“Will you come back?” he shouts over the engines, his beard whipping back and forth.
I nod and smile. It’s a lie we both need. Roger kisses me through my face shield, leaving exhalation fog on the glass.
I clank and clang down the metal ramp. A man with giant ear muffs meets me and he spins a heavy wheel which opened a heavier door. I step inside and buckle up.
Though a window I can see Roger down on the ground, waving good-bye with the rest of Proxima B. Everyone’s perched in the same red convertible. Tears in all of their eyes. I’m crying too. Roger’s top hat gets smaller and smaller along with everything.
Once the main booster falls off I calm down a bit. Everything stops shaking. We’re through the Oort clouds now. I float out of my seat and slip it in my back pocket on my way to cryosleep.
When I wake up, Earth is blue as ever and Roger has been dead for eighty-thousand years. I wonder if he ever found the letter I left him in his sock drawer. Tucked under his favorite pair. The letter said, I love you. Be happy.
I let my water float up out of its bottle and slurp the globs as they float by. Orbit takes a few days. I’m aiming for a Sunday landing.
Dust is mucking up my sensors so descent is a bit touch and go. But I score a nice spot at Quik Park. It smells like trash. Must be all the trash.
I make my way to 9th and west 46th. A hostile waitress seats me in a corner booth. I’ve been training for this my entire career. I wave my hand, no menu.
“I’ll have the eight ounce country beef burger deluxe. LTOP. With fries please. And a mint chocolate shake.”
She scribbles on her pad and walks away. The Galaxy Diner is buzzing with chatter and silverware on heavy white porcelain. The striped awning out the window is flapping in the summer breeze.