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Proxima

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I've been writing this same letter to you for eighty-nine years.

We're pushing out now past the rings of Saturn, the beautiful orange light glowing through the starboard window. I expected to find signs of life out here, the teeming and expanding humanity that surrounds it, but all I see besides the planet are the stars; even the moons are too small for my eyes to see.

I wonder if you saw this, or if this planet was on the other side of the sun as you came by. I wonder if you've seen anything more startling out here and if I'll see it, too.

I wonder how long it will be before I see you again.

♥♥♥

We’re passing not too far away, but I can only find Uranus by using my lenses; I zoomed in far enough to see a couple of gray specks against the icy blue-green clouds, float vessels or tankers, I'm not sure which.

It’s likely the last planet I'll see for a long time, between twenty years and forever, and the notion makes me feel even more alone.

I carry you in my heart just as I carry the letter I'm writing to you, but against this window the rest of me is only twelve centimeters from the cold and nothingness. I don't regret this journey but sometimes I wish I wasn't travelling alone.

We're gaining speed now. We've been accelerating since we left Earth orbit, but now I understand just how this tiny aluminum egg can travel from one star to another. When I was young and my body still aged, I remember wishing there’d be a reason to go out and travel to other stars. But there is no reason, not with robot eyes and hands around to take the trip.

I’ve wondered since you left what it was that made you go. I’ve wondered if I had something to do with it.

There's nothing but black and white in front of me now. I have the time to try and figure you out.

♥♥♥

I miss the Earth. I miss my home. I miss the smell of new growth in June and the sound of the wind as it whips the branches of aspen trees. I miss my children, and their children and children and children, and I miss their mother, too, though I doubt she misses me.

She knows now that I have several kinds of love in me.

She knows now that I kept the best of it for you.

I imagine your ship is just like a miniature planet, only inside out and moving farther away from everything we've known. I'm sure when you stand in the fields on your little world it feels like home, and your eyes grow itchy, and your cheeks are warmed by an artificial sun.

When I close my eyes I can see you there, wearing your black and white striped sundress with the bouncy red fringe. Sometimes you're holding wildflowers and sometimes you're fidgeting with those frizzy tips on your brown and copper hair, and always you smile at me, that pursed-lips smile you carry when you're thinking of the right words to say.

I never know what should come next when I imagine, so I just leave the scene as it is, you wearing your smile forever and me staring into your blue-green eyes until I fall asleep.

♥♥♥

I've been writing this same letter to you for ninety-two years.

Sometimes it grows longer and sometimes I cut it down until it's "I love you" and nothing more. Today I’m going to write about the moments that were good, the day you and I went for a ride in the park and the sky opened up, and for a moment it looked as though there'd be enough rain to wash us into the lake. The day I baked cookies and left a handful on your doorstep, and you called me pretending you were worried they might be poisoned. The day not long before you were married when I first saw you in your wedding dress, and you were so completely beautiful, and for the first time I knew that you were happy with him even if I could never believe he was good enough for you.

I wrote these moments down but I'm not sure they'll stay in; I like to think you remember those days, too.

♥♥♥

I still see nothing but the stars. I know that there are a million icelets out here and that someday there will be life in this expanse, people falling in love and people drifting apart and all of it so far from our sun that it feels like treading water in the middle of the ocean.

We're so distant now that the computer can't decide which system we're in. I guess it has no need to measure the pull from Sol and Proxima and the other Centauris; its only job is to bring me to you as quickly as it can. That's why it was built, why I traded everything for it, to be with you even though you never asked for me. The computer is scanning for you now, seeing if you're still here where comets are born, or if you've kept pushing on towards the little red star.

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