Traffic was almost none existent at this hour of the day. They took the seawall route because she’d wanted to get a look at the beach and then they turned northward rocketing over the causeway. The Saab purred as Myrah ratcheted through the gears. She loved driving it.
The astronaut next to her was another matter entirely. She actively despised Winston Wallace. She hated everything about the man. She hated his sweaters and his loafers and his square face. She hated the way that he talked all the time. She hated the sweet smell of wine on his breath. She thought he was a total bastard.
Myrah didn’t like the way that Wallace had recently inserted himself into her life. She loathed the fact that he’d become friends with her husband. She dreaded his visits. She detested the way that they’d stand around like two old frat buddies.
They’d drink beer in Jack’s study and socialize over that gigantic deer head that he’d gotten mounted on the wall while she hid in the bedroom or the kitchen trying avoiding them both. She didn’t want her husband to hear anything about how she wasn’t happy. She didn’t even want to hear the sound of the astronaut’s stupid voice in her home.
His comments that day in the grocery store had bugged Myrah more than she realized. As she drove him back to Shady Acres, she couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d said. How dare he accuse her of being unhappy?
She turned, fixing Wallace with an icy stare. “Why’d you say that I was unhappy?” She asked. They were driving now at 70 miles an hour causing her to have to shout the words as the wind ripped over the vehicle.
He closed his eyes. “I don’t know why I even brought that up.” He said. Slowly he began to shake his head from side to side.
Past his profile she could see the factories and refineries along the ship channel. They belched cancer into the air. Gulls swung low over the marshes. It was still too early for heron.
“You must have had a reason.” She snapped.
“You looked great breaking that bottle over that sign.”
“You said it like you knew something about me.”
“A car like this will ruin your hair.” He commented.
She took her foot off of the accelerator to accommodate for a slow car. “Tell me why you think I’m unhappy dickhead!” She spat. The words came more forcefully than she’d intended for them to.
The astronaut sighed. “You had over a hundred different kinds of frozen food in your shopping cart.” He answered wearily. “I didn’t mean anything by the observation. It’s just that you weren’t shopping for yourself.”
“I had nail polish and Greek food.” She argued. “You told me to throw them away.”
“That’s grasping at straws.”
“Well you’re the drunk.”
He looked over at her. “I’ve been into space.” He said with a wink of his eye.
She eased around a tanker truck that had merged into her lane. The landscape was still all weeds and salt grass around here. She looked at the sides of the interstate wishing for a place with a nice clean quiet atmosphere to stop and sit down. She didn’t like having to have this conversation as a shouting match with the top down on such a beautiful day.
“I don’t see how space has anything to do with it.” She said glancing over at Wallace.
“After space, everything else is a disappointment.”
A blue metal building just off the exit had a sign out front that said it sold beer and lottery tickets. She made note of the number. “So you’re unhappy too?” She asked.
“Well I don’t understand what that has to do with me.”
“When you’re in space, you know why you’re there.” He said lifting his arm to point lazily at the sky. “You’re up there and you’ve worked your whole life just to get up there. People who couldn’t go are counting on you to tell them what it’s like up there. They want you to do experiments for them. Folks who are in that rocket with you are looking to you for you to tell them what to do. You know your purpose in space. You exist in the moment. It’s that way the whole time that you’re in space.”
“Are you saying that you think that I don’t exist in the moment?” She asked.
“I’m saying that you haven’t even found your moment.” He said dropping his hand and turning in the seat to look at her.
She wanted to stop. She wanted to be able to stare Wallace directly in his bloodshot eyes while they talked. She needed to get to the bottom of what he’d said to her in the grocery store that day. It had haunted her. In her mind she’d thought that she was relatively happy person.
“Everyone has a moment.” He continued. “That was my moment and it’s done come and gone. I loved my moment and I want everyone to have a moment like I did. That’s why I try to teach people how to love everything. If you’re not full of love for every second of the day you might just miss your moment.”
She pulled into the slow lane easing up behind an old beaten truck. “What’s Jack’s moment?” She asked.
“Jack?” The astronaut smiled. “Your husband has a moment every time that he completes a new shopping center.”
“So you’re telling me that Jack’s whole purpose in life is to open shopping centers?”
“No.” He said shaking his head. “I’m telling you that, that’s his moment. That’s his reason for existing. Jack wouldn’t be Jack if he didn’t have those moments. That’s why he’s a builder.”
“So Jack builds things just to open them?” She asked with an acerbic curl of her lips.
“Why do you think he’s a builder?”
Myrah shrugged. “He builds things to make money I guess.” She answered, giving her hands a little flip on the steering wheel. “He’s excited about building for the Japanese right now because he thinks it’ll get him to where he can afford a boat.”
“How long has Jack wanted that boat?”
“He’s been talking about getting a boat forever.” She growled.
Wallace nodded. “The boat is not his moment.”
They drove in silence for a while. Slowly, signs of civilization began to emerge. The Peak, Jack’s shopping center with the huge plastic mountain top that rose above its center began to creep into view. It was still too new to have good restaurants.
“I don’t think that opening shopping centers is his moment.” Myrah said. She moved over to let a van enter the freeway. “He pitches a fit almost every time that he has to go to one.”
The astronaut shrugged. “Taken literally, you’re right.” He agreed.
“So what’s his real moment?”
He laughed. “You’re just doing everything that you can to avoid looking for your moment.”
“Jill doesn’t have a moment.” She quipped. “Why didn’t you jump on her that day?”
“The girl that I was with!”
“Oh her!” Wallace nodded. “She’s got astronomy. You can see the stars in her eyes.”
“She just picked that up!”
“She’s very taken with it.” He smiled. “I can tell. I’m an astronaut.”
Myrah couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This alcoholic buffoon who lived outside of their cul-de-sac and who barely knew them all was passing judgment on her over Jill? Jill was about as aimless as they came.
“You know that she bought that telescope for Thom?” She asked.
He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. She’s the one who’s using it.”
“But you just jumped my ass for shopping for other people.”
“It’s not that simple.” He said boxing his hands. “You can’t compartmentalize like that. Let me ask you this, do you ever use the things that you buy for your family?”
Myrah thought of all the soccer gear, computer software, video games and hunting jackets that she’d purchased. She didn’t see the distinction. Sure, the girl may have been fascinated with the telescope but still she’d it bought for her husband at Christmas.
She shook her head. “I don’t think you know Jill.” She quipped. “She changes her hair constantly.”
He lifted his eyebrows. “It’s been the same style ever since I’ve known her.”
He was right. Even so, Myrah was pretty sure that Jill had no idea what she was looking at when she stargazed. She was a nice person but she had never had a moment like what he was talking about. The girl was nothing but a pin up body with a bland personality who was searching for something to occupy herself with.
“What about Dan?” She asked.
“You’re avoiding the subject.”
“Screw you.” She argued. “You tell me; what about Dan? He’s a walking Ken doll. He doesn’t even make the money in that household.”
“Dan’s got more going on than you think.” He winked.
“Well I designed a sign!” She said pointing to herself.
The astronaut laughed. “That’s Clara’s moment.” He answered without a hint of sarcasm to his voice. “She’s the designer.”
“Up yours.” She spat. “I didn’t steal Clara’s moment.”
He looked around at the Saab as if he was seeing it for the first time. “Honestly,” He said. “It looks like you stole Clara’s car.”