The Lunar Salaam by Kiwara
I have been waiting for this for so long, ever since I was a child. Now, thirty years later, my dream has finally come true. Who would have thought it would be me, me of all people, me of all the dreamers in the world who got to walk on the moon? Sure it would be dangerous; no one has ever realized such a feat. I was to be going up on Apollo 11. You would think that its name would be a red flag for concern, but I wasn’t concerned at all. In fact I was exuberated.
My wife and daughter on the other hand… not so much. Well, my daughter, Russell was excited for me. She had even given me a note to place on the moon for extraterrestrials. Russell had handed it to me, bouncing up and down with excitement gleaming in her young eyes, upon my departure to the Kennedy Space Center.
Now I sat on my bed, the night before the launch staring at the folded piece of paper that fit in the palm of my hand. The light from the bedside lamp played on the paper, bouncing off the attempted folds of a child’s inexperienced hands. For a second I thought against it, but then my curiosity got the better of me, my hands delicately opening the paper as if it would disintegrate upon my touch. Within the note another piece of paper, another note I’m guessing, fell fluttering end over end to the carpeted floor. I stared at the folded paper for a second, frankly quite shocked to see it. I hadn’t expected that to happen. I reached down and picked it up off the floor, placing the note for the aliens on the creased bed sheet next to me. I heard it slide over the blanket, coming to a stop next to my thigh as I bent down to pick up the second note. Now I carefully unfolded it, just as delicately as I did with the first. What greeted me was the careful cursive of my wife’s gentle hand, also the sloppy print of my daughter.
Dear my beloved Brendan,
I’m so proud to call you my husband. Now you are going to be doing a feat that has never been attempted before. You’ll be living your dream, and it’s my dream now as well. I’m thinking of how excited you were when you found out. I haven’t seen your eyes so lit up since our wedding day.
Be careful my love, you’ll be in our prayers. We’ll be watching the launch and thinking of you.
I stared at my wife’s note a smile spreading on my face, before looking down the page at my daughter’s messy scrawl.
I am so excited to see you launch off in your shuttle. I will be thinking of you when you go up to the moon. Mommy says that the shuttles name is Apollo 11. That is a funny name! Do you think there will be aliens up there? Promise me you will give my note to the aliens! They probably come out of their spaceship to say hi! Don’t you think? I can’t wait for you to come back home daddy.
I love you.
I continued to smile as I read my daughter’s note, the warmth of their love and my love for them swelling in my heart, before folding the piece of paper and placing on my nightstand. The alien’s note, momentarily forgotten, grumbled from the onslaught of being squished. I glanced down, briefly startled by its cry before picking it up.
Again here was my daughter’s untidy scribble that passed for writing. I quickly scanned the paper.
My name is Russell. I am a girl from Earth. You must have seen Earth and the moon. Have you ever been to the moon? My daddy is going there! Maybe you will meet him! That would be so cool! Please send me a note back if you get this and say hi to my daddy! Tell me what it is like in space and come and see Earth too!
I folded Russell’s letter, placing it on the nightstand next to the other note. That’s when it hit me. I was going to the moon. The first time anyone has ever gone to the moon and it was me. I, Brendan Candver, am going to the moon. I, Brendan Candver, am the first man to set foot on the moon. Wow, that sounded good, really good. I didn’t think about the accomplishment like this, now I was probably going to be too excited to sleep. I wasn’t nervous, not in the least bit. I fell back on my bed, head hitting the pillow. I’m going to the moon…the moon! My final thoughts echoing in my mind before I fell asleep.
I was up at first light, nerves betraying my usually calm demeanor. I wasn’t necessarily nervous, just excited. At least, that’s what I told myself, though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t winning myself over.
Before I knew it, I was at the launch site, looking over at the shuttle that’ll take us to the moon. Wow, I’m really here. I’m really going to do this. This is really happening. Are you serious? I’m going to the moon! I thought, my brain nothing more than a bunch of jumbled thoughts.
I was vaguely aware that I was being patted on the back by my two other crew members who were equally happy. I remember checking my pocket for Russell’s note, finding it and then I was walking toward the shuttle, my two crew members talking about the last minute things we had to do.
The rest was nothing more than a blur. We got ourselves strapped into the Apollo 11 shuttle. I was momentarily overwhelmed by the moment, not to mention the seemingly millions of buttons and knobs, some occasionally flashing or beeping depending on their purpose. I was glad I wasn’t alone. I could tell the two other men felt the same.
After what seemed like an eternity, I heard someone from mission control count down. “10…9…8…” The three of us counted too with whispered breath, my hand on the button that would send this thing into the sky, to the moon. “7…6…”
Oh gosh I can’t do this! I have to get out of here! I can’t believe this is happening! My eyes momentarily darted for the door, before I stopped myself.
“5…” Why am I doing this? This is dangerous! I can’t I can’t…
“4…3…” Nervous sweat poured down my face. Oh my gosh…oh my gosh…Why didn’t I tell them no? Why did I agree to this?
“2…1…” Here we go; I guess there’s no turning back now.
“Lift off!” Upon hearing those words, I slammed my hand down on the button, feeling Apollo 11 start to vibrate as it came to life. The shuttle leaped up vertically, shoving the three of us back in our seats as it bulleted through the atmospheric layers leaving a trail of smoke in its wake. I could hear the people back at mission control cheering temporarily; I couldn’t tell if we joined in or not before they went back to telling us our current position. I couldn’t think; I was too excited. The only thing that replayed over and over again in my head like a broken record was: We’re going to the moon! I can’t believe it! We are going to the moon! It felt as it does when a plane first takes off, that rush of adrenaline racing through your veins, the only difference was that this was no plane, and no ordinary launch. The creature that was Apollo 11 made it into orbit, finally quieting its rumble as friction didn’t try to hold it back any longer. With our help, Apollo steered toward the now looming mass that was the moon. We were freeing ourselves from our seats, finally getting to experience real zero gravity. Such a feeling! Such weightlessness! I’m really here. I’m in Apollo 11 going to the moon! Can you believe it? The moon! Oh how I wish I could describe this feeling. The feeling of complete and utter joy that was zero gravity. I’ll I could think to describe it as joy. But it wasn’t just joy, it was accomplishment too. I don’t think there is a word to describe that.
I stared out of on of the shuttle’s windows, seeing nothing but pitch blackness, only to be broken by distant stars. Sleeping, well functioning in general with zero gravity was rather difficult to adjust to. Everything moved, except what was strapped to the Apollo’s structure. I quickly grew annoyed with zero gravity, especially trying to eat something that constantly tried to float away from me, while I myself was floating. Three days, I thought in brief despair, three days up and three days back. Three days of zero gravity. Well six, but three each way. Gosh I hope the moon is worth it. It better be worth it. I chuckled to myself at that threat. Of course the moon was worth it! What was I thinking?
The days passed quickly, before we knew it we were preparing Apollo 11 to land on the moon, in a spot known as the Sea of Tranquility. It really wasn’t a sea. There were no seas. It appears as a sea when the moon’s surface is viewed from Earth.
Apollo 11 landed nicely on the moon’s surface. To put it candidly, the three of us were excited, very excited. We helped one another into our bulky space suits, making sure our oxygen tanks were working correctly. I realized rather quickly that moving in those suits was a new challenge all together. I fumbled my way toward the door, eager to step out onto lunar soil, to be the first man to set foot on the moon. To be the first human, to leave their space suit shoeprint forever indented into lunar earth. Forever. That word echoed in my head, reminding me of my, our accomplishment. Here it was, the big moment.
I opened the door, heart pounding madly in my chest. Man it’s just a big space rock. No need to get so worked up about it. But, it’s the first time we’ve ever been on this space rock! My brain was saying. I tried to block out my thoughts, they were ruining the moment. Talk about annoying.
I felt myself start forward, clinging to the edge of the door as I floated over lunar soil. Just a little bit closer. That’s it, a little lower. Almost there. So close! Touch down! I felt the satisfying crunch of dirt giving way under my rectangular boot.
Oh my gosh I’m walking on the surface of the moon! The moon! I can’t believe it! This isn’t happening! It’s a dream! Such a wonderful satisfying dream! I heard cheers come up from my crew, no doubt mingled with people back at mission control. I added my own whoop of happiness, while I took another step. This is never going to get old! I thought now as I pulled the American flag back toward me.
I looked around, seeing my two members in history start forward. I didn’t like how their footsteps mingled with mine. Okay, I’ll just come out and say it: I was jealous. Me, jealous! Now there’s a shock. I get such a wonderful opportunity, I was the first to step down on the moon and I was jealous? I don’t really know why I was jealous. Maybe my brain was still reliving the minute ago triumph of stepping down on astral ground. That could have something to do with it. I didn’t want them to share in my spotlight.
I got over it though when I shoved the floating American flag into the Sea of Tranquility and turned around. I felt my mouth drop open in a silent “O”. What presented itself before me was a spectacular view of half the Earth. It was simply beautiful; the seas were nothing less of a brilliant blue, mirroring that of our sky. The continents were rich greens and browns. Not to mention the different layers of clouds. From here you could see mostly the high flying clouds like cirrus, but other low flying clouds are also visible. The Earth seemed to have a radiant halo around it, the spot where its atmosphere met space. Oh wow. That’s beautiful. Did they let us bring cameras up here? I think so. I have to take a picture of this and show Russell!
I…wait a second. Russell’s note! Where is it? There’s no way I’ve lost it! That’s impossible. If I haven’t lost it, then where is it? I quickly discovered that searching for a piece of paper in a space suit was extremely difficult. Yet still I felt the guilt only a parent could feel. The guilt makes you feel as though you’ve failed, no matter the success. Way to be a father, Brendan. Why don’t you rip out her heart while you’re at it? You’ve already crushed her dream, which isn’t fair; your dreams never got crushed.
It sits on your heart as well as your mind, replaying your child’s face, their happy, gleaming eyes until you feel as though you’re going to die of the guilt. Of the 21 hours that we had spent on the moon, much of that time was spent trying to find my daughter’s note. Eventually I faced the facts and deemed it lost for good. Probably floated out of Apollo without me noticing was my conclusion.
The rest of the time I did what I was supposed to do. I gathered rock samples, rode around in a light weight space car, took a bunch of pictures of the moon, and the American flag as well as our equipment and of course Apollo 11.
By the time we were to return home, I still felt guilty. It didn’t completely ruin my expedition, but it was there, a nagging feeling in my heart that something has been forgotten. It was only after I pressed the button that would start Apollo 11 and get us off the surface of the moon did I realize what I was to do. I looked around frantically, a plan already formulating in my mind. I snatched a piece of scratch paper. I honestly had no idea what its purpose was, but I was desperate. I figured a piece of paper could rather easily be missed. Then I searched for a pen or pencil, though if one was no found, I could write with my own blood if I had to, or I could wait for this to be over. Would I have time before my family came? I didn’t think so.
I found something I could write with and it wasn’t my blood. Good. I guess I wasn’t that prepared to go that far. I used my knee as a desk and waited until the worst of Apollo’s shaking was over. I sat there as the other two started to free themselves. We had three days before we struck Earth’s orbit, three days to write this. Well, three days to keep it somewhere as so I didn’t lose it.
A smile sprouted on my lips as I found the words. It wasn’t easy writing a note from the “aliens” to Russell. I could already hear her astonished, jubilant voice echoing through my head.
Dear Earth Girl Russell,
We’ve been to the moon and the Earth. Keep a lookout for us in the night skies and if you happen to see one of our ships, wave at us and we will know it is you.
I smiled down at the paper, the guilt of being a failure of a parent finally fading. I already had a plan to tell her, since she’d most likely notice that it was written remarkably like my own handwriting. I wasn’t lying to Russell, it was only to right the wrong. I was helping a child’s dream stay a reality, much as my parents had done for me.
I guess you could say that I’ve accomplished two things: One, I was and will always be the first man to walk on the moon and Two; I’ve learned what it really means to be a parent.