There is a difference in seeking quiet and solitude. She craves solitude and lots of it. There is rarely quiet here, too many machines, everything is brightly lit and it’s hard to hear yourself think. Solitude is non-existent, except when you step outside. Everyone craves solitude, but it was a far deeper yearning for her. The hunger for solitude had driven her for the past week. Whenever she looked out of the window, she saw her salvation.
It was her turn to go outside. She was ready, but it wasn’t quite time yet. There was the preparation left to do before she could step outside.
She had built a plan since they told her it was her turn. She knew what she was going to do and how she was going to do it. It was radical and would cause a ton of trouble, but the drive for remoteness, the peace, the quiet, was deep within her. She was giddy with excitement.
At last the preparation began. They passed the checklist around to make sure everyone on the Team knew what their responsibilities were. When it was passed to her, she barely gave it a glance. She had studied it so many times over the past week, she knew it by heart. She had to dress in layers before she could put on the protective suit. The team helped her into the suit, attached her booties and gloves, then put her helmet on. They tested her air supply and secured her to the line. It was impossible to walk without help, so the team guided her to the airlock. Once outside, it would be easier to maneuver herself. She had the tool box for the repairs and she was ready.
The airlock door made a whoosh sound as it opened – and her heart started to quicken. She was alternately excited and scared; they all felt that way once they heard that sound. You never knew what you were going to find on the other side of the airlock door – to the outside.
As she closed her eyes to calm herself, she thought of what she had planned. The repairs would take a few hours and then she would finally have her solitude.
As the airlock door opened to the outside, she checked her tether and with the toolbox in hand, stepped out into space.
As always, she was awestruck by the vastness and how small she felt. The blackness of the galaxy stretched all around her. In the corner of her mask, she could make out the blueness of Earth. “How bright it looks tonight,” she thought. “How beautiful.”
As she floated away from the Station and around to the arm that needed fixing, her soul drank in the peacefulness that it had craved all week. She was relaxed, she felt peaceful and she couldn’t wait until her repair work was completed. Then she could set her plan into motion.
She was startled by the voices coming through her headset from the Team. They started to guide her to the area of repairs, and she began. “This doesn’t look good people,” she said. “This might take longer than planned.”
As she started the repairs, the thought of the special tool in her toolbox (which she put there when no one was looking) that she planned to use after the repairs, propelled her forward. After what seemed an eternity, her repairs were finally completed. It took two hours longer than planned. She still had plenty of air left – enough for at least 16 hours, but she was tired. When you wear a big bulky suit with big gloves and you have to maneuver a tool that you can’t really feel, it takes a lot of concentration and skill to hold on to it and to do the repairs. It exhausts the brain and the body.
She thought of the tool in her toolbox. She thought of the plan she had made once the repairs were complete, and she thought of the blackness that stretched out before her. The solitude that was waiting for her, that her soul was screaming for. Finally, she thought of her Team. She hadn’t really thought of them while making her plan. She couldn’t. Now, when it was time to put her plan into place, she thought of them and what she was going to do. This would devastate them sure, but it would also leave them short-handed. She knew they would eventually reassign her tasks among them, but these were not just co-workers. These were also her friends. She felt bad, she really did. But the pull of the vastness before her beckoned her.
Just before closing the toolbox, she pulled out the tool. The tool that would untether her from the Space Station. The tool that would set her free to wander the vastness of space and the solitude that it would bring her, for at least 16 hours. This was joy waiting to happen…an adventure.
As she made her way around the arm she had just repaired, and floated back to the airlock on the Space Station, she prepared to untether herself. She could hear the Team talking in her headset, preparing the airlock for her return. As they were going through the checklist, one of them commented that the untethering tool that was usually hanging in the inner airlock was missing. The only other tool was in the airlock leading to the outside and none of them could get that one. It required getting dressed in the spacesuit and that was time-consuming. They searched the Prep Room, but couldn’t find it.
Finally, a member of the Team asked her if she had it. She thought about how to respond. If she said yes, they would wonder why she had it, and if she answered honestly, it would create more problems, and if she said no, they would tell her to grab the one in the outer airlock. She was conflicted, more than she thought.
She was almost to the airlock…decision time. As she gazed out into the blackness, the blue ball of Earth came into her full view. It took her breath away how small it really looked, and how beautiful it looked at the same time. It was a magnificent sight from her vantage point and her longing for solitude seemed to eased. Oh she still wanted it and always would – but what she was looking at and from where, seemed to put things in a different perspective. She had forgotten what it was like out here and the incredible gift that space walking gives her. She didn’t get the chance to space walk often, none of them did – but they all said the same thing when they returned. “It is absolutely beautiful and peaceful out there.” They all marveled at how they could float around in the vast blackness, a solitude that you can’t find anywhere else, and what a privilege it was to see the Earth as it really is. A planet in space.
With that, she told her Team that yes, she had the tool. The question’s from the Team came, just as she expected, but she deflected them by telling them she must have grabbed it by mistake.
She sighed and thought of her plan. As the tether pulled her to the airlock, she debated with herself one last time. The tether was now all the way in and the Team was preparing to open the airlock.
Whoosh went the outer door…and she stepped in.
This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Bewildered Bug, who gave me this prompt: Insatiable Solitude. I challenged Michael with the prompt: “The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of life,” a quote by Oscar Wilde.