In 2015, we didn’t yet know that when somebody said, “I’d like to go to Mars someday,” in that offhand revealing-but-not-too-revealing way that people share information on first dates, the tentative sniffing around the butts while remaining fully clothed, we didn’t yet know that meant get up, walk away, throw a $20 on the table and never come back.
Because eight years later your husband is going to walk into the bedroom and say, “Glass: Display,” and there it’ll be on your shitty apartment wall, plastered over your malnutritioned-turd paint job:
Applications for NASA Volunteers
First Mars Colonization Mission
And in the subsequent conversation, which will be recorded in the yet-to-be-created Reddit.com/r/MarsWidows as happening in dumpy houses and terrible apartments all across the country, you will learn that two things are true:
- Your husband is going to Mars. There will never be a conversation about this. He decided the minute he saw the ad, and you decide to hate the person who messaged it to him, even though he would have seen it on a dozen sidebars by the time he got home.
- You are welcome to join him.
I’m not going. I like Earth. Everyone I know is here. Plus, I’ve got shit to do. We’ve got, like, our parents, it’s not like fucking Friday Night Lights where you know Coach and Tami were orphans because in seven entire seasons they never once had to take Grandma to the neurologist.
Those are cheap, killjoy-wife reasons for not wanting to be part of the biggest adventure our generation will ever see, the single thing that could eclipse the invention of the internet, which, you know, I’m just old enough to remember what life was before, but in that moment when I stared at the NASA ad on the apartment wall, I knew I did not want to go to Mars, and he did, and it was over.
There were couples, on that night, who decided to go together. Families. Even intergenerational families, bring Grandma to Mars, NASA wants to see how the atmosphere affects the aging process.
And then there were the rest of us. Our husbands or our wives jumping on the chance to finally play Han Solo. Emphasis on the solo.
It didn’t take long for the news sites to start spitting out data: people who signed up for Community were more likely to be college graduates with low incomes, they were more likely to live in apartments, they were more likely to have played with LEGO as children and to have owned the Kirsten American Girl doll.
They were definitely more likely to be Game of Thrones fans than FNL fans — write that damn last book already, GRRM — and they were more likely to be Slytherin, House Targaryen, INTJ, all the shit things. Someone counted up all the shit things, and there they were. Why would a fucking introvert want to climb into a spaceship with strangers? That thing has got to be all small talk.
They were also more likely to be childless, and it took me a few months to realize that my husband’s decision to go to Mars meant that I would never have children. I turned 38 two weeks after Community was announced. One year to mourn him and learn how to be single again, one to two years to meet someone new, six months before you can have the DTR conversation and at least a year before you can start to hint about marriage and family, and there you go.
By the earliest possible time I could become a mother, my former husband’s body would have already started to lengthen and adapt, his gut stretching flat — look, they finally found the one weird trick! — and his wrinkles lifting away as my body continued to sink downwards. Community is for people who don’t have any pull on them, gravitational or otherwise. The rest of us are left behind, passing along cheerful memes like “he’s not going to Mars at you” and “imagine he’s dead”.
I lost the apartment, with the broken toilet seat and the leaky handle that you had to turn around twice, a full 720 degrees, before it shut off. Without his salary we couldn’t afford a one-bedroom. When NASA said “volunteer,” they meant it; the Mars Community project would be an exercise in communism, I guess, but in a method that was finally exciting enough to be acceptable. Volunteers would get all meals, lodging, training, and clothing provided for life, in exchange for building and maintaining facilities, arable land, you get the idea. I asked him how that could possibly work. I asked him if NASA was expecting everyone to die. I compared it to slavery and he called me a racist.
That was when we were fighting, when it was inevitable, when we decided without deciding to break our marriage apart before he broke it himself by leaving. He says we both broke it, because I decided to stay.
Now I live with Bella, another Mars Widow; back to roommates again. We drink wine and share clothes and sometimes I think I should just kiss her because she’s here. We eat frozen saag paneer straight off the plastic plate and sometimes she tabs over to the livestream site, watching them pull out vegetables that look like fully-nutritioned turds, wondering aloud if she would have been happier if she had gone. I don’t ever wonder that aloud. I like Earth. Everyone I know who didn’t go to Mars is here.
It’s been two years and they’re still not dead. Project Community is up there and thriving despite my hope that they would all burn upon impact. You can see the faces, thinned and slightly alien, as they evolve away from us. There’s an adorable couple, and I don’t mean adorable in the good way, where the husband left for Mars while the wife was pregnant, and later she helped write a children’s book called Daddy’s In The Sky, and now they have a weekly show where he stares at his child and tries to look human. Tries to remember that humans sit in high chairs and eat Cheerios. The Mars babies come out skinny and start walking almost right away because of the low gravity.
Except they don’t walk, on Mars. They bounce, and dance, and I hate to look at them, everyone who looked at us and said we would give you up, for this.