CHAPTER ONE

11/04/2015 


1.

 

Am I a good person?

I often wonder, but I really don’t know, and the more I think about it, the less I can be sure about anything at all. When I look back at my life, when I try to look at myself as an objective thing that exists, I see a person who has lived a sort of decent life, a person that has known death, a person with perhaps a bizarre outlook on mortality. I look at myself and see somebody who hasn’t always made the best decisions, but hasn’t ever really fucked up too badly, despite having fucked up a million times in a million tiny different ways. I see a person with the potential for greatness, and a clear path set out before them, and I do try, I really do try, to have faith in myself, and in the future.

But it’s not always easy.

I have to conclude this all has something to do with the human condition, but I really wish somebody would just sort the answers out for me already. I really wish somebody would just console me, kiss me on the forehead and tuck me in at night like the little boy I am inside. Is that so much to ask? Is it such a vile thing to desire that nothing change?

At the end of the day is Peter Pan really just a bedtime story?

It’s funny to me how the scariest part of me being here is simply that it’s me. It’s ridiculous, honestly. I hate it. I hate the fact that I can’t stop thinking about how it’s me, here, now – and how just knowing that it’s me can somehow be more intrinsically terrifying than all the real threats, the real and unforeseen dangers that could end my life at any moment. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen the life go out of someone’s eyes, I know how easy it is – I know how frail our bodies really are. But my ability to dwell on nothing, the frustrations I force upon myself, when I redundantly consider all those people more qualified, more specialized, and consequently more dignified than yours truly. I imagine them all; sometimes I think I know them better than I know myself. I mean obviously I haven’t met them all. I have met a few – and I can say I know at least more than two of them personally. But I do imagine all of them, recursively, out there in the world, living their lives, completely unaware of the fact that it should be them, not me, right now, sitting here, dealing with this unimaginable situation.

Take Brad Bailey for example. Guy is basically undisputed god amongst planetary scientists. Chief Operations Manager for the Jovian Transit Program, he was twenty-nine when he captained the first manned mission to Jupiter. Since then he’s been back twice, and before that he spent two years on Mars. He has a double PhD in astrophysics and extraplanetary geophysics, and I haven’t even mentioned the millions of dollars he gets paid to do market brands when he’s back on Earth. Sure he’s a fucking asshole, to me at least, but I can forgive that, because seriously, I am a nothing compared to Brad Bailey. I’ve only got a measly master’s, and it’s only in measly electrical engineering. I did get the opportunity to do some modeling though, before I left. Such are the benefits of being an astronaut in the twenty-second century.

But how many of us would ultimately be willing to go? At the end of the day it’s a fucking crazy thing to do, to never come back, to never see the Earth again. I mean of course I had the wholly massive incentive of getting to spend the rest of my life with the most beautiful woman in human history, even if she hates me. How many would kill to be in my shoes for that fact alone. It’s really weird to think about. The fact that I might only be here because of her, while simultaneously considering how much she hates me – how much she has always hated me. They never gave me an explanation as to why they chose me; they just said I was the best fit. I figure this has to be either a blatant lie, or the absolute truth. But if it is true, it just makes me feel sorry for her.

I’m mean look at Perinder Bhola. We’re the same age, we were recruited at the same time, put in the same division, they partnered us for training, and then we shared a desk during our first year together in systems development. He got his first promotion way before I did. On average he got his work done almost twice as fast as me – he is virtually twice the technician I am. I never again held a position equal to his, in my time with the organization, and then suddenly one day for no apparent reason I’m honcho-numero-dos.

And then there’s all the others, every man, woman, and child out there living their lives and being better humans than I am on a day-to-day basis. This has to be the part that terrifies me most of all. They have no idea how much better they are than me, no idea how perfect they are, how ideal, how high above me they would tower on the scales of judicial integrity. And I’m not just being delusional or paranoid. The existence of these fictional persons is a statistical guarantee. There has to be at least a thousand of them out there, perfectly suited to do my job better than me, their personalities less flawed, their skillsets broader, their theoretical performance less hindered by my permanent psychosis. And that’s not even including all the poor souls who were born too late, or too early.

How many people do you think have ever dreamt of discovering the first habitable planet? And how many people have dedicated their careers, their lives, to making it actually possible? The massive significance of the whole thing is insane. It’s completely insane.

How did this happen? Would any of it have happened if I hadn’t met her when I did? Is it all simply a matter of destiny? I mean it’s really, really hard not to take the whole concept of destiny into account. But what is the difference between luck and destiny anyway. You can interpret anything, anyway you want to, and really luck and destiny are pretty much the same coin, flipped and tossed and perceived through whichever lens of bias you have chosen. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe it’s my destiny to die a quiet, violent death, here in the middle of this bright vacuum. Maybe it’s my destiny to float off for the rest of eternity, my frozen flesh slowly transforming into the nucleus of icy comet, left to roam interstellar space until the end of time. Would it be such a tragedy? Yes it would, but not because of me. The tragedy that would be the untimely death of yours truly is nothing compared to the tragedy that would be her death; the death of our mission: the failure of this paramount voyage.

But we haven’t had to deal with anything like that yet, and so far so good. Well sorta.

Let me go back for a second. Anne Politz – beautiful to say the least, and quite possibly the smartest human alive, to quote the newspapers. When I say I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her, I really mean it. We have to go all the way back, to when we first met, through that most random act of provincial circumstance. Would I have ever become the person I am now, if my parents hadn’t had the wonderful foresight to send me off to camp one fateful summer?

Who’s to say?