Around the time of his eighteenth birthday, he gave up on trying to figure out the universe. Space was too big for him to wrap his head around. He didn’t understand the science behind black holes, the mathematics behind relativity, or the physics of multi-verses. What he did understand was how much money he had in his bank account, and how many hours he’d have to work at Franklin’s Paint Shop before he could afford a down payment on that Honda CB750 parked on the front lawn of the Lipka’s place. He understood that God would forgive his sins, and how many unchecked boxes were left on the refrigerator calendar before he shipped off to basic training.

While his friends took long trips to distant mountains and gathered around bonfires to recite the latest cosmic musings from last week’s scientific journal, he thought about kissing pretty girls and running his fingers through Montana wheatgrass.

He liked the way that bourbon burned his throat, and how Chrissy McClyde looked in her smock when they were in art class. He liked the way that his grandma’s house smelled on Sunday afternoons, and the way that “Kind Woman” by Buffalo Springfield sounded after he’d smoked a joint. He could feel these moments. They occurred and expired right before him. These moments were tangible and earthly and corporeal and they were his to ponder and decipher.

Sometimes his friends would rag on him, and they’d say, “Who cares about Chrissy McClyde or the smell of your grandmas house? What about your place in the universe, man?” And he didn’t know what to say, because he didn’t know his place in the universe.

He knew that he didn’t want to be sad, and that he didn’t want to die alone. He knew that everyone who was older than him told him to enjoy it while it lasts, but never told him what “it” was. He often felt guilty that he didn’t understand space the way that his friends did. Maybe they had it all figured out. They knew that it took a photon 170,000 years to travel from the core of the sun to the surface, and that the furthest galaxies are spreading away from us at more than 90% of the speed of light.

Around the time of his fortieth birthday, he gave up on trying to figure out why his wife left him. He didn’t understand why his daughter wore such heavy eye shadow, or how his credit had gotten so bad. And on some ancient desert nights he’d stand eclipsed in the fluorescent light of his trailer, looking up at all the stars that had burnt out thousands of years ago. He remembered his friends from back home telling him that every atom in his body was a billion years old. And while he understood this, he also understood that atoms are mostly made up of empty space.


4 Responses to “Space (prose by Eric HEHR)”
  1. Bo Johnson says:

    You lost me at Montana Wheatgrass

  2. Lilli Keeve says:

    Truly beautiful.

  3. BoKBellard says:

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