Moon and Back
Good evening. I suppose I should start from the beginning. I’m a former astronaut that now, after everything I’ve seen, fully believes in the unbelievable. When I was a young boy, who couldn’t have been older than maybe ten, I was fascinated with the stars, desperate to see what else the universe could show us. The Earth itself never really held interest to me, anyway. It took me time, but I was able to become an astronaut and explore the stars.
I was using one of the more advanced telescopes at our disposal, looking up at the moon shining ever so brightly, studying the finer details. I even took the time to look at the old landing site from the decades past, even noting the condition of a footprint left by a certain Neil Armstrong. During one of these little study sessions, as the moon was waxing, I saw something that both fascinated, yet equally horrified me. About a mile or two away from the old landing site, I kid you not, there was a small, yellow house, complete with living bushes in the front yard and smoke coming from a traditional, brick chimney. The entire complex surrounded by a white picket fence, like it was pulled from some 1950’s, small town neighborhood.
I gasped, “What the heck is that...?”
It defied all logic. Several questions flowed through my brain. How could an actual, functional house be on the moon? What kind of plants can thrive on the moon? How did it all get there without any notice? Why is it up there? Biggest of all, who the heck is actually up there? There had to be someone, but there was no rocket and our scanners would pick up a rocket leaving our atmosphere.
I quickly told my superiors about this. They didn’t believe me of course, until they saw it with their own eyes. When they saw it, it instantly became an “all hands on deck” situation. We pooled together all our resources to start building a new rocket and trying to figure out how the heck this was even remotely possible. The fact that there is any life on the moon defies all logic as we know it. The fact that smoke was escaping the chimney had all our physicists in a tizzy. The thriving plants in the front yard had the biologists in an uproar. Everyone was trying their hardest to explain it away. But how could they deny something right in front of them? They just wanted answers. We all did. That wasn’t even the most exciting part.
On the second day of close, careful observation, that front door opened and there appeared a man. He wasn’t wearing a space suit or any form of protection from the harsh nature of deep space, aside from a regular, black suit and a long, yellow tie. We all stood in awe at the literal man on the moon. He took a deep, dangerous breath and began to walk along the surface. He was acting like he was unaffected by the moon’s gravity, treating it like he was right on planet Earth.
It was incredible, baffling, even. Imagine an entire warehouse worth of people staring at the monitors with their jaws wide open and eyes growing dry from refusing to blink. It was like we collectively saw Jesus Christ crawl his way out of some magical hole. We didn’t know if we all collectively went mad or if there was a legitimate man walking around up there.
After a few seconds of his stride, he looked up and it was almost like he could see just as clearly as we were staring at him. His eyes widened as he stopped moving. His eyes began welling with tears and near non-existent gravity pulled them down, making them drip off his skin. He smiled and, with a wave of his hand, he gestured for us to come to him in a very calm manner. After a few seconds, it was like he couldn’t contain his excitement and began jumping around with genuine glee. If we weren’t already working our hardest to get up there, we certainly were after that display.
We all began the stressful, year-long process of rounding up our resources for a round trip to the moon. We had to account for many more things than we normally would for a trip like this. We had to pack even more food than usual, assuming that our new friend needed to eat. We added an extra seat in case he was going to be a new passenger. And had to have a separate area designated to have the void in it, assuming he needed it to breathe. We even began looking for a translator in case he couldn’t understand us. God, this was the mission that changed the world and how we viewed outer space.
I was the one specially tasked with keeping an eye on our easily excitable moon man. I was asked to keep tabs on his daily activities, his mannerism, his potential threat level to us upon our arrival, and anything out of the ordinary Yeah, “Out of the ordinary” he said, as if a man living on the moon was a common occurrence.
The only time I could observe him was in the evening and almost every single night was all the same. He would go outside and look down at us, happily smiling. Every few hours, he would come outside and read part of a book. I didn’t know what he was reading, as I just couldn’t zoom in. About once a week, he would come outside and tend to his bushes with these remarkably tiny gardening shears. He did so with what looked like a glimmer of pride in his emerald eyes, occasionally stopping to look up at us. It was as if he was keeping tabs on us, just as much as we were on him. For whatever it was worth, it felt like we were bonding.
A couple of the mannerisms I observed from him were that he was absolutely ecstatic at just about everything related to humanity. I’m not sure if he could hear us, but he could certainly see us as easily as we could see him. It was wonderful. He would look down on us in a simple, calm manner. It made me feel like a child again. He made me feel like a child again, blissfully rediscovering the stars.
A year of our back and forths went on and it was finally time to physically meet him. I was so excited, I could’ve had a heart attack. We packed up my supplies and I headed on my way to the stars. In the end, it was just myself going up there. For this particular mission, my superiors saw fit that I go up alone. I’m the one that found him, I’m the one to introduce us.
It took quite some time, which felt even longer than what it actually was. Much of the staff back on Earth waited with baited breath, patiently awaiting to hear the progress on our venture. Others were scrambling, frantically trying to get things in order, making sure every single detail was being recorded and documented for future generations.
I looked out one of the windows and saw the man on the moon getting closer and closer. I safely landed on the surface of the moon and almost tripped over myself to meet him. I got out there and he was very calm with a smile across his face. We both stood still for what had to be roughly three full minutes. I know it doesn’t exactly sound like much, but imagine sitting there doing nothing, counting up almost two-hundred full seconds of nothing, but pure silence.
I went to ask a question, “Hello—”
He shushed me, “Shh. Sh sh. Not yet. Not yet” he peacefully spoke. “Please. Let me relish in this, just for a moment longer” he continued, closing his eyes and raising his hand, as if to tell me to calm down.
A few more quiet seconds went by between us. A single tear rolled off his pale cheek as a smile formed across his face.
He took a deep breath, “Please, come inside. You must be exhausted from your longer journey.”
“...Thank you...” I said, nearly exploding.
Every word he spoke came off in a very ghostly, yet soft and soothing whisper. He took me by the hand and slowly ushered me inside, giving me a closer look at his home.
I saw no sign of the extraterrestrial: no space equipment, no advanced technology. If anything, it was a perfect time capsule of a much simpler time. The living room and kitchen were conjoined, making the main area wide open. There were little doilies under serving plates set on the table. It all kind of reminded me of my grandmother’s house. Rest her soul.
“How do you do?” he asked.
“I’m doing incredible” I responded to this man’s question.
I looked over and saw smoke rising from an oven. The moon man walked over and put on an oven mitt.
He gently pulled out a roasted chicken and placed it on the table, “Please, forgive me. It didn’t occur to me that you would have to wear your helmet in here.”
“Believe me, it’s perfectly fine. Thank you for even considering...”
He smiled, “So, at long last, what is your name?”
“Charles. Charles Banks. A-and yours?”
“Alright, Charlie. You may call me Ralph.”
We sat at his dining table with the chicken sitting between us. He stared right at me and smiled, loving every second of our encounter.
“Thank you,” he said. He took a deep breath and looked out his glass window and looked down to Earth, “Thank you for going so far out of your way to come and visit me today.”
“What even are you?” I asked.
He chuckled, “I’m the man on the moon, of course. And I’m so happy to see you, up close and in person. I’ve been up here watching for a long time, you know...”
“How long have you even been up here?”
“Far too long. I was there watching the first fish crawl out of the ocean. I watched the first caveman clack rocks together. I saw the first flicked switched, the first button pushed. I’ve seen it all and I never get bored of it. And from day one, I’ve been nothing, but absolutely proud of you.”
I was stunned. Whatever Ralph was, he’s seen everything. Every mistake, every pitfall, every great historic tragedy, yet he was still proud of us. How the heck was that possible?
I hesitated, “Is it just you up here? All alone?”
“I was. For a long time, I was. Not you’re here and I’m not alone anymore. At least, for a little while... All my life, I’ve been up here watching each of you grow and develop in your own time.”
“You said you were proud of us. Why?”
“I remember a sour time in human history. They would attack each other for no real reason. They were animals” he shuttered. “Then something beautiful happened. You learned. You developed. You evolved. I had the privilege to sit and patiently watch you grow from up here. It was at that moment that I loved you. All of you.”
I was left speechless. Ralph not only seemed excited over human things, he was beyond enthralled with them, loving all of it.
“You’re very lucky, Charlie. Very lucky, indeed. I hope and pray you know that...” Ralph said.
“What do you mean?” I asked, expecting a simple answer.
“You’re a human being,” Ralph responded with a sweet smile. “I want that more than anything.”
“Why do you envy us so much? What makes us so different from you?”
Ralph’s eyes began to water, “I want a family, Charlie. A community, a warm hand to hold. I want to have to pay bills and have small talk with neighbors. I want to be able to say, “How do you do?” to every single person I see on the street. I want to experience these things with my own two hands, not just watch others do it from the heavens above. To feel it on my own skin, to feel sensations I’ve never felt before... I want to live a life worth living, not sitting on a barren planet.”
Oh, my God. He didn’t just look like us. He was a human being, at least, in every way that actually mattered. I felt bad for him, genuinely. He had been up on the moon his entire life. I could only ever imagine how lonely that must’ve been. Even worse, being forced to sit and watch the world move on below him, happy people living their lives without him, just outside his gentle grasp.
That’s when I made him an offer.
“Ralph, I have another question. This one is a serious ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ Do you understand?”
“Please, ask me anything, Charlie. Anything.”
“How would you like to leave this floating rock behind? To actually live among the people you love so much, not just observe them in their happy lives?”
Without saying a word, Ralph stood from his end of the table and slowly walked over to me. I stood to meet him at his level and before I could do anything, he hugged me tightly and closely. After a few seconds, I could feel him shaking and quietly sobbing.
“Yes. I want that more than absolutely anything. I don’t even know what to say to such kindness...”
I began crying as well, hugging him in return, “Then don’t say anything. Thank you, Ralph. Thank you...”
I expected to learn more about the stars from him, but in the end, I learned more about people on this venture.
“Pack your things, Ralph. We have a journey to Earth.”
“No need. These are just simple items and I cannot wait to interact with all of you.”
While on the way back, we were in constant communication with the folks down on the surface. They wanted updates every few minutes about how Ralph was doing and how everyone wanted an opportunity to personally speak with him. I would have just cut communication and left it at that, but Ralph took the time to speak with everyone who asked for him. With each new person, he would first ask, “How do you do?” and their conversation would carry from there. Each of them were nothing but bright and happy experiences for him. Some people asked about the moon business and Ralph answered and would ask them about their personal lives, just talking about their days, what their families are up to and simple things of that nature. This process continued all the way back to Earth.
As we were a day off from Earth, he looked out one of the windows and stared at the Earth with the same eyes I stared at the moon.
“More beautiful than I had ever imagined...” he said.
I looked down to Earth with him, “Earth?”
“It’s people... I can’t wait to meet them all.”
“It must be an amazing feeling, Ralph. Everyone ready and waiting to see you.”
Ralph’s eyes began tearing again, a sight that I had grown used to, “All my hopes and dreams are finally coming true... I couldn’t be more excited. Thank you for making them come true, Charlie.”
“No. Thank you, Ralph. You’re the one that gave me a fresh look at people. You reminded me of just how far we’ve come. My entire life, I’ve looked to the stars for happiness and whimsey. Because of you, I see that people are full of both of those things if you know where to look. My only regret is that I didn’t realize that sooner. All the time I’ve wasted just looking up, rather than also looking to my sides...”
Ralph smiled, “You’re never too old to learn something new, Charlie. Make up for that time lost by enjoying that feeling in the future.”
The day finally came when we arrived back to Earth. I was the first to walk out and there was an ocean’s worth of people out practically screaming their heads off to meet Ralph. Ralph slowly emerged from the shuttle, smiling to the general public, ready and excited to greet them all. He stepped down and without saying a word, picked up a small insect off the ground and gently began petting it with his finger, like one would do with a cat.
He took a deep breath and said, “How do you do?” to his captivated audience.
They screamed with joy. It took quite some time for the world to get used to Ralph’s very existence. Ralph could have gone anywhere in the world, yet he refused to go anywhere without me by his side. When I finally asked him about it, he gave me a simple answer.
“Because you are my best friend, Charlie. I was left alone, isolated for almost all my life. Now I have my freedom, people that I can confidently call my friends, a place to truly call a home. I am no longer shackled to the surface of the moon. I have you to thank for all that. I refuse to part with the person I owe my life to.”
I swear, every word that escaped his lips was ear candy, but then guilt set in that Ralph was actively denying himself part of his dream to stay with me.
“Ralph... If you refuse to part with me, how about I show you the world, personally. You’ve only ever seen it. I want you to experience it to its fullest and I want to be the one to introduce you to it.”
Ralph wiped a single tear away and extended his hand, “I gladly accept these terms.”