Planet B

I drive to this spot when something happens. Like when Pancake died, I came here and thought about all the times I thought to myself: I have the best damn dog in the world. And when Joanna broke up with me back in high school, ending our four year relationship – I came here. I came here when I got my acceptance letter to college, too. And when my Mom said she was getting married again.

I try to get here when the sun is going down because it’s at this weirdly perfect spot where you can watch clouds turn color and then hopefully disappear – they usually do, clouds like to get out of Nevada City even more then its younger residents. Then I just let my eyes adjust to the darkness, because I trust them. You don’t need a flashlight if you trust your eyes to give you night vision, and you have to trust your eyes, even if you don’t trust the rest of your body. I’ve had trouble trusting my elbows recently. I’ve been knocking into too many people.

Then the stars come out. I lay on my back in the dirt with my head propped on a rock and I let them slowly rotate around me. There was some article in a magazine with a circle around a point of light with an arrow to it that said, “Second Earth?” and it went on to say that it was a planet that was exactly like ours, and a couple people were quoted, talking about how infeasible it was to get there within any of our lifetimes.

It was good to know, though, that if we ever screw it up so badly, here, there’s a Plan B. I know that’s what all the scientists were thinking. This Earth could be like, a bad try, and there, right in front of us and a couple billion light years away, was a fresh start.

I need to stop thinking about fresh starts, though. Banish all thoughts of escape routes. I have actual Plan B, a series of three white pills, in my pocket. It’s an overload of hormones, to tell her body not to make a baby. My girlfriend told me to give them to her tomorrow morning if that’s what I think should happen. She believes in coincidences. A condom breaks and she thinks it means we’re meant to have a kid.

That sort of logic never made sense to me. A kid is the sort of thing that coincidences shouldn’t govern. I remember when my sister came home from church saying that there shouldn’t be abortion in the world anymore, and my parents telling her, with me within earshot, that abortion can save a child from growing up in a horrible way.

But I don’t think a kid would grow up in a horrible way with me. I just don’t know if he’d want to be on Earth. He might look at us with fear in his eyes at something horrible on television and I know I wouldn’t be able to say something like, “It’s going to be okay, Chief,” because I know that when I watch those news stories, I think that I should have really gone through with the whole astronaut training plan I had when I was six, because astronauts have the only clear escape route out of here.

The stars spin around me and I’m already back on Planet B. I wonder what it’s like there, if it’s already inhabited – I bet all the vegetation is regenerative, so you pick an apple and it immediately starts to reappear. If there isn’t any threat of people or virus or beetles, I bet you can eat anything, because nothing would have built up a defense. Bite into a tree, it will taste like chocolate – or something even better than chocolate. Something that no one in the world has tasted.

The article said that no one will get there in this lifetime, but I read another article in a different magazine that promised that someone alive today will live to be 1,000 years old. I immediately wrote on that one – Not me! Because I bet it’s one of those things where alive is actually in quotes. They’ll keep your brain tissue alive or something. That’s not alive.

When my Dad was my age, he already had a 2-year-old and I was on the way. I thought about that when my girlfriend told me that the condom broke and she was supposedly in the most fertile part of her ovulation cycle. She told me that it was my decision because I would have to be working while she was taking care of the baby. She also told me that we wouldn’t have to get married if I didn’t want to, but she had that look in her eyes that meant that she wanted to get married. It eas the same look she puts on when there’s one piece of sushi left and she says that I can have it.

Maybe if I raised a kid, he’d get to be 1,000 years old and live on Planet B, and when he was 750, he would get a message from me from an old telegram service – Western Union will still be in business, maybe – that says Hey STOP you know STOP you were nearly stopped STOP from existing. STOP. And when I realize I’m sending my unborn son or daughter intergalactic Western Union telegrams, I know what I’ve actually decided and get up, my backside wet from dew and the stars about 65 degrees arced left from where they started.

I jiggle the pills in my pocket and wonder if I left them buried in the dirt, if a deer would eat them and then a fawn won’t be born, and then I wonder if I’ll let my kid watch all those old cartoon movies like Bambi. I don’t think so.

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