We Choose to Go to the Moon
The AC was broken, so I left my bedroom window cracked overnight. Usually it wasn’t a problem, until yesterday, when an amorphous little alien strung down between the layers of Earth’s atmosphere and slithered through the gap. Sometime before the sun, the alien slimed up my nose and into my brain – or so I assume. I only noticed when my alarm chirped, and instead of being inside my body I was hanging over it.
The alien in my body turned off the alarm, tangled himself in the sheets, and tripped out of bed. He examined his – my? – fingers, then pulled off my threadbare socks and examined his toes. I tried to shout, but I’d been rendered good as a ghost. If the alien was aware of my presence, he didn’t acknowledge it; instead, he peered into the mirror, leaning so close his nose smudged the glass. Over his shoulder, I had no reflection. All I could do was watch as he touched my face enough I knew it would incite a future acne flare. He gaped at each eyebrow like a miracle.
The alien got into the shower. I’d forgotten to take one the day before. I mostly averted my gaze; I rarely felt ownership over the tilt of my shoulders or the spare spot at the crown of my head, but now even less so. The alien read each ingredient on the shampoo bottle. He laughed and drank from the showerhead.
Afterward, he ate a room temperature Pop-Tart and shoveled a pile of wrinkled clothes into the dryer, then put them on and hugged himself, marveling at how warm they were. One more Pop-Tart and he was out the door, locking my apartment behind him.
At the bus stop, he pet a lady’s dog unprompted, and squealed with joy when it licked his hand. He spent the bus ride looking at people’s shoes or watching them drink coffee from Styrofoam cups, as if this dirty city bus were a museum and each passenger a fleeting piece of art. He got off at my office building. This raised some concern – how long had the extraterrestrials been watching me, to know about my dryer and my bus route and the appropriate time to clock in? – but I mostly felt relief, because I’d already been late to work twice this week.
My job is mostly spreadsheets, which the alien seemed adequately versed in. At the staff meeting, he examined how everyone held their pen and attempted each method in turn. No one asked his opinion on the topic at hand, but he smiled and nodded anyway. Afterward, he checked my inbox; my mom emailed a video of a deaf baby trying on hearing aids for the first time. The alien watched it four times, tears streaming down his face – I can’t remember the last time that body cried. Over the cubicle walls, co-workers gossiped and leaned across desks and made evening plans. I was never included, and so no one included the alien. Normally it didn’t bother me, but seeing it from above made my phantom heart turn in on itself. The alien didn’t mind, though. He waved at everyone. They waved back, with varying levels of enthusiasm.
During lunch break, someone brought sandwiches for our department, and the alien swung his feet as he ate. He picked out the onions, somehow knowing I was allergic. Later, he wandered the parking lot and pressed his palm to the hoods of sleeping cars, feeling how the sun cooked them. He crouched to examine the scrappy dandelions growing by the sidewalk, his fingertips gentle when he counted the petals.
I expected him to take the bus home after work, as I usually did, but instead he walked to the nearby grocery store. An old woman squeezed avocados, searching for a ripe one, and the alien copied her, holding each one to the light. A tank of live lobsters bubbled by the seafood counter, and the alien peered through the glass, waving at their twitching antennas. I was worried he would break my bank trying to experience Earth food, but he settled on a single banana.
He peeled the banana as he walked, sometimes stopping to read store signs or observe pedestrians fidgeting at crosswalks. He plucked an abandoned newspaper from the curb and sat at a restaurant’s outdoor seating to complete the sudoku.
Rain piddled from the overcast sky – it had rained every afternoon that week, but the alien hadn’t brought my umbrella. He stretched a hand from the awning and watched water collect in the creases of his palm. Thunder murmured, too distant to be of any concern. Cars crashed through puddles, headlights like spilled butter.
He resumed walking, and within a few minutes hair pasted wet to his forehead. With an ache, I realized he was heading to the bridge spanning the river. He stopped in the middle and grasped the rail, tipping his face up to meet the rain. I’d only stopped on the bridge once before. At that moment, I’d been consumed by the height of the drop and the depth of the slow, chugging water below.
Now, the alien looked toward the horizon, and I followed his gaze, suddenly desperate to see what he saw. Far away, the dripping city skyline was made of mist. Waves of rain sighed over it again and again. A single boat drifted in the river, toylike; the sailor had taken down the sail, leaving an empty mast to weather the warm summer storm.
The alien smiled and leaned forward, but it was only to feel the wind blush against his cheek.
At my apartment, he cleaned the crusted dishes piled in the sink and put my bed sheets in the wash. He microwaved leftovers and watched movie trailers on my computer. When the sheets were done, he put them back on the bed, climbed in, and went to sleep.
This morning, I’m alone in my body. I close the window and go to take a shower, where I laugh and drink from the showerhead, pretending that it’s rain.