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confessions {18+}

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mrs fears
(@mrs-fears)
Joined: 6 years ago
Posts: 13
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May 8th, 2024.

I have a bad feeling about being assigned Astronaut Rex Grayson.

I know where it comes from: I've seen Rex Grayson one thousand times online and on the TV screens. We even have a poster of the Exploration-Mission 3 crew hanging above the coffee machine. Rex is center right, his black hair swept neatly, a smile on his face. He's pale, at least in comparison to your local Floridian. I guess with all of the training astronauts get, they don't have the time to hit up the beach. 

What you can't see in the pictures is that this man spells trouble. If you look closer, it's more of a smirk than a smile. In a way, it's roguish. His classic look makes the girls in the office weak kneed and competitive. They'd pour buckets of ice over their heads while reciting their ABC's backwards just for a chance to be assigned Rex Grayson. For them, it was a pot luck of a lifetime. Being assigned the commander of a historical mission was a big deal. 

The big leagues.

Exploration Mission-3, EM-3 for short, launched on April 19th, 5:45 PM. I won't forget it. We stayed late for work and got invited to the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building to watch it. Thousands of people jammed the roads to watch their rocket blast off the launch pad. 

I've never seen anything like it. The 4 astronauts who were (in my opinion) crazy enough to strap themselves to 7 million pounds of thrust went racing to the moon. When they escaped the atmosphere on a towering stack of white clouds, maybe someone muttered 'cowabunga' under their breath. 

Then when the launch was over, the roads were backed up for hours again. People stayed in hotels for another day to turn it into a vacation. I hid in my condo to escape the madness. 

When the astronauts were on the way to lunar orbit, the same people who came for the launch turned on their TVs to ogle the astronauts on their work commute. The astronauts floated around in their sharp, blue suits and placed the first module of the Lunar Gateway into the moon's orbit.

Whether they like it or not, they're celebrities.

From the public affairs perspective, people love the new race to the moon. Some people are borderline obsessed. Space exploration has never been so hip. At least, not since the Apollo days. 

People fly and drive into Florida to buy posters, stickers, tee-shirts and come to the space center to become astronaut groupies. I call them space hipsters.

Traffic is up, but I can't complain. We're accomplishing our jobs, our dreams, the boss is happy, and my bills are paid.

And now, the kicker. Being assigned Commander Rex Grayson. Now that I've been assigned a top priority astronaut, I guess I can consider myself seasoned in the public affairs office. All of these fancy words that come with the seniority are starting to making me sweat. 

This is where I'm starting to feel anxious.

Lots of people would pay to meet an astronaut. It's a magical experience, complete with bragging rights. Except that meeting an astronaut is something that I do on a daily basis. It's my job, in the end. I do it to buy groceries, keep my AC running, and put gas in my tank to do the same thing over again. Getting to talk to the astronaut is a bonus perk if you consider it that.

The girls in the office were hyped up Rex Grayson for over a year. The fact that I was assigned Commander Grayson was a topic. The girls complained, then ultimately laughed about how it isn't fair

What did Clara do to get him? 

Rex Grayson is so popular because he's the hot one.

I tried to laugh to fit in, after all, I stay late and I always take over work for Kristin who leaves early to pick up her son. I've bought baby shower gifts and donated to ice cream socials, but in the end, I will never be a true gossip girl. 

It's not in my blood.

I refuse to wear sandals, messy buns and fake nails to work. I don't start conversations that speculate about the astronaut's personal lives, and I surely don't care about what Sara said over the phone last Monday morning. Life is too damn short to care.

I've reminded myself this 10 times on the way down the elevator. I brought my work tablet during my lunch break to sit outside in the pavilion next to our building. 

All of this is strategic. 

I feel like it's in my best interests that no one hears my first call with Commander Grayson. When one gossip girl hears, there's another ten gossip girls waiting for some fresh news, and by time it reaches girl number five, the story has changed six times. I don't need anyone else to shoulder hover over my job.

That's all this is. A job.

The pavilion is usually an empty place because it's too hot outside. After 1 PM, it's no man's land and I have the place to myself. I sit so that the tablet screen faces away from the building. 

Yes, I'm this freaking paranoid. I have my reasons.

In the dark tablet screen, I check the corners of my mouth for smudged lipstick. The screen brightens.

Ring, ring. Lunar Module-1 is calling.

Accept. Deny. There is no in between.

My pinky finger swipes an arrow to accept. My heart races while pixels dance across the screen in random patterns. The blocks of color come together to form a fuzzy picture. 

I think there's a person, or maybe that's a leg.

Everything snaps into high-definition.

Yep, that's a leg.

I assume that's Rex Grayson, grabbing onto the wall closest to him. He's drifting sideways and seems so nonchalant about it. 

Smooth. 

His black hair has no direction in space; the strands of his hair stand up as if he'd been electrified.

There I am in the little box in the corner of the screen, suddenly stony-faced and totally apathetic for someone receiving a call from an astronaut. 

I don't know why this happens, it's an automatic function. It's my wall going up.

"Hello, commander, I'm Clara Chase in Public Affairs at the Kennedy Space Center. How are you?"

Rex scratches behind his ear. "Hi."

I wait to see if anything else follows, to see what the delay between us is, but it's not the delay. 

Hi.

That's it.

"Oh, uh, good to see you, commander. Do you still have 5 minutes scheduled in?"

 

"Hm, we have been pretty busy."

It's a less than optimistic response, and it was so vague. Open-ended. If he was so busy, why did he call in the first place?

"Oh, OK. Do you want to try another time?" 

I can't believe I'm asking this. My call isn't exactly the most important thing in the world, especially compared to the work they're doing, but I was scheduled in. It's not like this is a total surprise. 

"Let's do it now." He says this after some thought.

I chew on the bottom of my lip. It's not often I get treated like a total inconvenience by astronauts, but sometimes it happens. Commander Grayson is taking it to a new level.

"Alright. I'll go over everything quickly: we need 4 more sessions. We need to talk about food, your spacewalks, what it's like to live in orbit, and then about the experiments your crew set up." 

I look up from my notebook of scribbles and act like I can read my own writing. 

"A notebook. How old school." Rex smirks. It's the same face that I was so familiar with on the EM-3 crew poster. He just smashed down my wall like it's nothing.

I look at him for a while. It's sort of like a test, but he doesn't seem to budge.

I get it. Paper writing and logging nowadays is pretty old school. Now that pleasantries are over with, whatever time I had left has been eaten away.

Rex looks down at his wristwatch before turning his attention back to me.

"All of that in 5-minute sessions?" He asks.

"Yup! Oh. Sorry, I--." 

The ocean breeze tickles my nose and makes me sneeze into my hands. My eyes start to water like someone dumped a shaker of pepper.

Right on cue, Rex asks, "Has the algae bloom reached the East coast, yet?"

"Of course. It does every year, now."

"That's too bad. You know, we won't have these kind of problems on Mars." 

"What?" 

Little does he know, I'm giving him a chance to redeem himself.

"Yeah. When we colonize Mars, we won't have to deal with the super hurricanes, fires and blooms."

I laugh.

"So, what? Screw everyone else on Earth? You do realize you're coming back, right?"

Hands down; starting an argument with the commander of EM-3 is the dumbest thing I'll do all year. I have to give myself some credit, though. I'm doing a decent job totally not losing my mind.

"Come on. You know that we treat Earth like a dump. Look at the extinction rates and ice melts. What about the waste crisis that's going on? The colonization problems on Mars start to feel more controllable, don't they?" Rex says this coolly.

He has a way of talking, I'll give him that. Any other girl would have rolled over by now. 

"Gotta love that one-way ticket to radiation paradise. I've given the pros-Mars crowd a lot of time, but they're still full of themselves. All of the research, time and money could be spent towards fixing the Earth. And as astronauts, you guys should be using your status to raise awareness."

He's shaking his head like he already knows better. 

"The media doesn't listen, wouldn't you know that? Clara, we're about to lose the signal. We'll have to take care of these talks." 

What a low blow.

The picture is becoming pixelated again and the call cuts off. No more astronauts, space, floating and wasting data to transmit a climate change debate from the Earth to the Moon.

Crap. What the hell did I just do? I just gave us an incredibly bad name. 

Did he end the call himself, or did we really lose signal?

He's pissed. He's gonna tell my boss. Michael is going to serve me right out the doors of our office to do the walk of shame.

The cicadas chirp and the sun blasts at the pavement. A delivery truck pulls around to the back of our building and rolls to a stop. About 2 miles away, one of the launch pads across the river is disappearing behind gray sheets of rain.

Part of me was hoping this talk with Commander Rex Grayson would be this big, enlightening event. Something that would have made me forget about my life, where super hurricanes, shitty algae blooms and the waste crisis are real things. 

It would have been nice to forget about everything and pretend that I'm actually a part of a scientific utopia, where astronauts are honored for their pro-Earth advocacy. 

Instead, the call is over and I'm back in the world where the Mars generation rules the upper hand. 

I think it's a problem.

Mars is popular. It's fun to talk about, and it's exciting and new. Humans want to terraform it and live a happy Ray Bradbury lifestyle. The Earth might as well be an unpopular heaping trash fill by next year. Not everyone can go hop off on a rocket to live on the moon and Mars. Our studies on health aren't even good enough for long-term space flight, still. 

Thunder rumbles and a warm breeze blasts through the palm trees. I get up and sigh. As much as I don't want to go back into the office, looks like the rain will chase me inside. 

I hide my tablet and notebook in the depths of my work bag, this way, no one will be triggered by seeing something that somehow remind them about Commander Grayson.

The office is like a big family with eyes and ears everywhere. The gossip girls have a little game they like to play. Gossip means information, and information means status. It makes you that little bit more likable since it fills in the mundane of the day. It's bullshit.

I guard my secrets with my career life. The girls will have to find the deets about Rex Grayson over my dead body.

The lobby doors close behind me as the clouds open up. I go through all of the innocent motions, but really, I'm a mess on the inside. 

I walk by the tax-free shop and thank god that the elevator to the second floor is empty. So far, I'm lucky. The doors chime open to an empty hallway.

Great.

I pass a row of canvas photos from the EM-3 launch, EM-1 launch and recovery, and space shuttle Atlantis. Right before our door is a poster that reminds us everyday:

"Forgot your badge? You'll be waiting in building 14, room 1454B tomorrow."

Our office is incredibly ugly. The carpet, walls and ceiling are all beige, plain and gray. It always smells like someone's leftover food, which really kills my appetite in the morning. They say a big renovation will be happening by next year. I say it's way overdue.

It's 2 o'clock, but I see coworkers standing up with their coffee cups while they look out the windows. The storm swallowed the sun and made the outside a bluish black. The rain comes down in sheets, beating on the windows.

It's the perfect distraction. Any work has pretty much come to a halt during this afternoon slump.

I sit down at my desk long enough to get comfortable again, but I can't. I'm 99.9% convinced that someone, somewhere, could have the possibility of monitoring the web session I had with Rex.

I mean, there's a chance I could be blowing this way out of the water. I'm not techie, but I'd recognize screen sharing or monitoring software if I saw it. 

But still, what if my co-workers jacked into the call and watched from their cubicles while I made a sucker out of myself? 

A throat clears behind me and I jolt out of my seat. I force myself to look up and see Aubrey Bell. 

"How was your call with Grayson?"

I knew it. It seems like she's trying to act nonchalant about Grayson, but I can tell that she's holding back excitement. Aubery Bell is trying to sniff out anything imperfect from me because, she's, well, perfect. Aubrey is gorgeous, and I don't know how old she is, but she's definitely younger and smoother. Her skin is dewy, her lips are always pink, and her hair looks so soft.

I'm not exactly jealous, since I've already had my time. Listen to me, talking like I'm 85 already. That's just the way she makes me feel. I made the decision to spend my 20's in the sun while surfing my days away. I'm not hideous, but it's like I have more mileage than she does. I'd rather keep my love and experiences in the ocean than give it up for beauty.

The problem isn't about beauty. Looks don't have a light to shine against skills and qualifications. Hard work. The problem is that Aubrey has a problem with me, and there's no fixing it. After hearing that I was assigned Rex Grayson, she was the one who sneered out loud, "Clara?", as in total disbelief. She's been burning me down with her eyes ever since.

I'm a little worried about her, but it's a secret I'll never show. With Aubrey, I'm always on the lookout about what she could potentially do. And the gentle reply always comes, what could she do while at work?

Not much.

I close my mouth and return what feels like a natural smile.

"It was good."

It's the most generic thing I can think of to say about my call with Rex Grayson. I give an extra nod to confirm how boring the call was.

Aubrey smiles, but it quickly disappears. “Talking to the commander of the mission must be so interesting. You'll have to let me in on it sometime."

Yeah, no. 

"Maybe you'll have the chance to work with him after their mission."

I don't know why I gave her that idea, but I can tell she takes it to heart. When she gives herself a mission, she usually goes above and beyond to accomplish it. 

"I should. Thanks for that suggestion."

My face is starting to feel hot again, so I turn around and act like I'm checking emails. Thankfully, Aubrey Bell loses interest and walks away. Her wheels are probably already turning on how she can get a chance to meet the moon man himself. 

Blegh. What is she, 23? Maybe 24? Grayson is definitely older than her. 

I grab my glasses and open the notification in my vision. Sometimes I use my phone to check messages, but since I started working at the space center, I've gotten into the habit of checking messages on my glasses. The interface is still a little too busy for me and I'll never use it while walking like everyone else manages to do.

A message pops up running across my desk and my heart lurches forward. 

Mom: "I'm on the highway."

What the hell does I'm on the highway mean? I look up and a new message flashes across the dark window panes. 

“He hit me again.”

Jim moves ever so slightly to take a picture of the storm clouds, and the word again runs against his back. So much for my main worry being about Aubrey.

Mom's husband, AKA douche bag, must be on another rampage again. There's not much I can do at work. My heart sinks and the fatigue hits again. 

No. I can't let this happen. 

All of the stress about stupid Commander Grayson, my Mom, my reputation, Aubrey Bell, will be the end of me.

My body starts to feel like lead. My eyes roll over the letters as I start to text back:

"I can't do much at work... 🙁 Storming up here, might want to find somewhere inside and safe."

It took me a few years to begin to realize there's only so much I can do. My walls went up, but they were cracked and crumbling.

If I could slam the re-do button today, I would. If I can make it to clocking out in another hour and a half, it'll be OK. 

The last stretch drags on.

 

x --- x --- x --- x --- x --- x --- x --- x --- x --- x --- x --- x --- x --- x

 

I do everything that I can, but I'm still worried to death about Mom. I've tried deep breathing and ignoring the situation, but it still makes me miserable. I text her at the first red light I stop at.

"You alright?" 

I'm even driving with my glasses on so I won't miss any messages from her.

The tourists are already walking out of their hotel rooms after the rainstorms with their cameras and souvenir bags full of cheap beach gimmicks. I wish that for once I could feel good and enjoy a vacation like that, no strings attached. 

No abuse. No nightmares. No more holding back.

I sighed and pressed the button on the arm of my glasses. I turn off the time, weather and news. I have just enough energy to keep my foot on the gas pedal and turn onto my street.

I wait at the first stop sign for a boy to push through the intersection on his skate board. 

A new notification turns up on the asphalt ahead.

The new message opens: "I'm fine."

I wait for a moment, turn onto my street and fold my glasses into the passenger's seat. 

Mom is fine, whatever that means. Either she found a friend to come pick her up, or her husband called the cops on her again and pressed charges.

I shake my head. No, she wouldn't be texting me in jail. 

Her husband, Mr. Kowalczyk, is a real asshole. If it wasn't for him, I'd still be living with her. Not that living with Mom is the dream set up at 28, but I wouldn't mind the company, or the help.

I want to feel like I can live. Like I can thrive. But when I pull into my complex, I'm worried about whether or not I have the energy to push the door open and get out.

I turn off my engine and sit in the silence. As of now, this is the safest I've ever been all day. No one can argue with me, no one can tell me I'm wrong. Mr. Kowalczyk can't bitch about how useless I am

Commander Grayson can't lecture me about how Mars is better.

My sweaty hands clutch my work bag, keys, umbrella and water bottle as I rush to the front door. At least being home calms me. The trees and grass are wet from the storms. As usual, my door is stuck after the rain, when everything gets topnotch humid. My hair is sticky and I'm in dire need of a shower.

Everything gets dropped by the door. I reach for the side zipper to my dress and pull it down. It's a flashy red Calvin Klein dress, only $3.50 at the thrift store. The dress comes off and the hot water knob squeaks as the shower head bursts to life. 

If I hide in the shower, I can hide from the world and hide from myself. I tug the plastic curtain closed and kneel down into the tub. Taking a shower is a sacred time; it's the only portion of my day where no one can bother me. I can let the water sear my back red and make everything soft and tender again. I wash away a layer of heartache while my mascara running burns my eyes. 

I can't stop myself. Here it comes again, about how my brain won't forgive and forget about Rex Grayson. 

I blew it, I blew it, I blew it. Look at where being a stuck-up idiot got me. At home, living on the beach, the algae blooms, plastic pollution, weather and global warming all matter. 

I wish I could set the re-do button on everything. Even better, I wish I was a super hero who could clean up our planet with the blink of an eye. 

Maybe there's a chance that I can somehow salvage my first impression with Commander Rex Grayson. It's scanty, but I'll take it.

 


   
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