A journalist once said to me,
‘Mam, can you tell us what is you love so much about space travel? Describe to all of us here in the room, what’s your perfect day?’
I said something like, any day when nothing breaks in the capsule is my perfect day, or maybe I said any day without power problems. The press pack laughed and my colleague, my buddy sitting next to me, us both in our flight suits, patted me on the back and it was all in good taste. It made for a nice quote. The journalist might have preferred me to talk about the never ending sea of stars, or the trinket wrapped in cotton clouds we call home – how seeing those things from the capsule makes me feel big or small, or proud or humble. She was probably looking for some kind of one-liner that could be put on a postcard. I would’ve given it to her if I’d thought about it a little longer. It might have been nice to do so. But I’m no poet, so those types of things weren’t running through my mind. They came to me later when I was safely into my old age.
And then there was the truth. The real answer to the woman’s question was not something I could bring up. Beauty and flippancy, they were okay, but I couldn’t tell that room full of hacks the truth. It wasn’t the done thing to say my perfect day as an astronaut was in fact the the day I came back to earth. That wouldn’t be right. It might have been true to say that the perfect, most precious day was the day I was able once again to hold another human so close against me that I could say their name and by the miracle of air and energy, the rules of physics that we take for granted, they were able to hear it. It might have been true, but it wouldn’t have been right.
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