After Earth-gazing for awhile, the pair of us went for a walk around the Moon. Well, it was less of a walk for me than it was for her: I had to drag a stupidly heavy metal ball behind me while the Moon-Woman bounced around in an offensively carefree manner. She offered to help, sure, but I wasn’t about to let someone else shoulder my load.
“So how did you end up with this thing in the first place?” She asked while we climbed up the side of a crater.
“Your guess—is as good—as mine,” I gasped. At length, I paused to finish, “One second I was in my room, the next I was standing on the Moon with this ball hanging ’round my ankle.”
She cocked her head to the side, “Maybe someone snuck it on to you?”
“Maybe,” I said shortly, preferring to press on with the walk/drag than continue on with this conversation. The Woman on the Moon felt otherwise.
“You sound skeptical. You don’t think someone else put it on you?”
I sighed loudly, “I doubt it. That seems like the sort of thing you’d notice, right? Someone chaining you up? Hard to be discrete about that.”
“Probably,” we ascended, “My guess is that you put it on yourself.”
“What? You think I would ball and chain myself on purpose?” I asked raising my eyebrow. It was an outlandish idea, and she knew it. Or at least I assumed she knew it. I mean, if I had put it on myself, then it would stand to reason that I could just take it off, and if I could do that, then why on Moon would I insist on dragging it along the length of this pale celestial body?
“You wouldn’t be the first.”
I gave her a look, perplexed, with furrowed brows and all, “I don’t get you.”
We reached the crest of the crater. Moon-Woman suggested that we sit down and rest for a bit. I was well tired from the trek, so we sat and tossed space rocks over the side from the crater’s rim. We talked a bit about things here and there, before landing on the events leading up to my arrival on the Moon.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I began, shifting a couple of rocks around in my hand like a pair of baoding balls. They were really soft and pliable. Their surfaces smoothed easily as I played with them. Then I crushed the rocks with my hand, “I was upset. Something had happened earlier—I was sort of-”
“What were you upset about?” She interrupted. Her tone was aggressively chipper, or so it seemed to me, and I shut down:
“It’s never nothing, what was it?”
Annoyed now, I began firing shots, “It’s nothing. Honestly, you’re worrying over something that isn’t even a thing.”
“Yeah? I’d beg to differ.”
I fired her a bullet-glance, but she countered it with one of her own, “I think that if it wasn’t a thing, you’d still be sitting in your room right now, instead of sitting on the Moon with a ball hung round your ankle.”
“Oh is that what you think? Well why are you on the Moon then?”
“Because I wanted to be different.”
“What-,” I shook my head violently in frustration, a quick whip to the side to clear away her equivocal bullshit, “What does that even mean?”
“Not the same.”
“Of course—I know what different means, how dumb do you think I am?” Anger isn’t always the best fuel for quality quips and witty banter. It burns like pine straw, quick to ignite and no lasting flame.
“Dumb enough not to realize an obvious metaphor when you see it,” she said, looking from my eyes to the ball and chain. All I could do was roll my eyes and stand up. I started walking away, back down the side of the crater, but the ball got a lead on me, and started to drag me down the hill. Just as my feet left the ground, a hand clasped my own and kept me from what surely would’ve been a very long and painful fall.
“What do you know? That ball isn’t nearly as heavy when there are two people carrying it.”
I rolled my eyes yet again, blowing out hot air as if it could blow away her smugness while I took a moment to regain my balance.
We passed another minute in silence before I began gathering up my chain again and making my way down the hill. But, before I took off, I paused. It took a second, but I had a mini-epiphany.
“Look,” I started, turning back to her, “Uh, thanks. I would’ve been fucked and… yeah.”
She just smiled and walked over to stand by my side.
“So can I help now?”
The way down the slope wasn’t bad at all, because, for whatever reason, the weight seemed to weigh almost nothing now. Personally, I have a working theory that this woman had some kind of crazy moon strength, but when I asked her about it, she only laughed quietly and sighed. Or maybe it was kinda both at the same time. A laugh-sigh, if you will. At the base of the crater we resumed our walk.
“You really want to know why I’m stuck out here?” She asked, her features becoming overcast.
“Yeah, sure,” I was still grinning stupidly as I said this, but when I caught the note of melancholy in her voice, I sobered up quick, “I mean, yeah, only if you wanna tell me.”
She was looking back up at the Earth almost wistfully.
“I was sick of all the bullshit, you know? This monstrosity of a system that was in place, so totally fucked beyond fixing. It was depressing–just the scope of the whole thing. I mean, once you realize just how messed up things are, it’s not like you can just un-know that,” the tone of her voice seemed like she was trying to justify herself. I hadn’t known her long, but from what I’d gathered, this was pretty atypical behavior for her, this whole being serious thing.
“Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran. I ran away from my home, then my town. I abandoned my friends, and when I realized the rest of the world was just as fucked as where I came from, I left Earth. I came here.”
“I don’t know what to…”
“You don’t have to say anything,” she said, though perhaps a bit too quickly, with a bit too much bite. She took an sorry ‘bout that breath, “I was alone. I lived outside the system. That first day away from Earth was so… You can’t imagine how liberating it felt to be free of it all.”
She smiled in spite of herself.
“But then came the next day. And the next, and the next. After awhile the magnitude of the decision I’d made began to weigh down upon me. If it hadn’t been for Cee, I don’t know what, or if I might have—”
I opened my mouth to interject, but she didn’t take notice. I wasn’t there anymore, it was just the her and the memories of her first days on the Moon.
“I don’t know where she is now, but… She’ll be back.”
Only now did she look at me. There were tears hiding behind levy-eyes, holding back the cry and the chance that this mysterious Cee was never coming back. I wanted to ask, but—
“She’ll be back,” she said one last time before we carried on across the crater.
“You wanna do something fun?” Asked the Moon-Woman, looking over at me as we lay beneath the reflection of Earth. We’d been laying there for half an hour now, pointing at all the places we’d ever been and all the others we wanted to go on that algae-covered fishbowl planet.
“Sure, what fun things are there to do on the Moon?”
“Yes, moon bears,” she said as she stood up. Once she was up, she extended a hand out to me, which I took, allowing myself to be lifted up to my feet, “We can go and search for moon bears.”
“Is that a real thing?”
“It might be.”