You told me they had found a New Earth. A planet with rocks and rivers and a sun to keep the plants warm. You said it with an air of optimism, as if you could envision yourself on the New Earth, taking strolls on a different wing of our galaxy, and looking back on Old Earth through a telescope, waving, even, for whoever had been left behind. But the light travels forty years to get from New Earth to Old Earth, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever catch you waving before it was too late. If maybe my time ran out before the light could go the distance. Or if perhaps you saw me there next to you on New Earth, working around the problem by bringing me with you, just as I would bring you anywhere.
But I said none of those things aloud. It didn’t seem right as we were lying on the floor, glancing up into the ceiling and talking about the open space on the other side of it. How very unconnected would I seem to ask such self-centered questions when we were considering galaxy plateaus and light years. I turned my head to look at your ocean eyes, feeling myself drown as I realized half a life too late that half a life is halfway dead, and I had already spent seven-thousand days without you. It was then and there I decided to appreciate the elasticity of time and make sure every minute of us would count as an hour, and every hour would count as a lifetime. There were no rules until we made them. There was no distance between us as long as we held on.
Someone has to go first. It’s not a competitive claim; it’s purely logical. There’s no such thing as complete simultaneity. At least not when it comes to human bodily movement. Not even in those terrific synchronized swimming competitions where the athletes practice four years to do things exactly the same way at exactly the same time in teams. Even then there’s still a slight difference between when people’s legs drop into the water.
And I guess we should have foreseen it. It seems silly now, standing here, looking back (metaphorically, of course) on all the things we didn’t take into account. Like: how long would an Earth-minute feel here? Longer, is my current observation. Definitely longer. Hopefully longer. And would the planetary rotation make any difference? Would the transfer of energy end up corrupting the whole procedure? I’m not saying no one thought about any of that. But if they did, I sure didn’t hear anything about it.
I probably should have prepared something about small steps and great leaps. But then again, what’s the use? If anyone’s listening in, it will likely sound to them the way a fox sounds to me. Desperate; hungry; incoherent. Just sounds. Plus: there was never the notion of being in this Neil Armstrong scenario. Our time had been spent wondering what sorts of creatures might be ready to jump at our throats as soon as we materialised.
But someone has to go first. Someone has to be the inter-galactic Neil Armstrong, even through large, round, easily-big-enough-for-two-people portals, it seems. And the honour and trepidation has been bestowed upon me.
My watch would say at least 10 minutes has passed, if it were to say anything. The only thing it seems to say is that it was another thing we didn’t think carefully enough about. At any rate, it has stopped. 12:01. The last moment before I took a step forward, outpacing my companion by an inch. Or, should I say: outpacing my companion by 2.5 million light years.
Now, I’m no mathematician. But that’s quite an inch.