“Selling Transcendence” by Ashley Anderson

Issue 8 / Winter 2017

 

T he message gathered itself and shaped its form before traveling from fingertips to device to satellite to device sub prime, bouncing from Earth to space to Earth again.

“Did you know that meteorites are for sale?” my sister asked, her black letters arranged in a gray bubble on an iPhone screen backed with a rose gold aluminum alloy. Searching for extra credit for college freshman level geography, she came across ways to price your meteorites. I imagined her red brown hair tied atop her head bobbing back and forth as she laughed at her discovery. Ways to buy and sell a piece of the galaxy.

I always wondered how I could land amongst the stars. Not movie stars or television stars or video killed the radio stars, but the burning orbs settling in the darkened night sky. If I stood in my childhood backyard, I could wrap myself in the midnight blanket of still air and rest my mind on the light from distant stars.

Quiet.

Serene.

Away from the anxious city sounds and lights.

When I was ten, my parents bought a telescope so we could watch the Hale-Bopp comet as it passed close enough to Earth to be visible from the warm midsummer ground. In preparation, we picked a night forecasted to be clear enough to see a cloudless sky. One by one, we turned off the lights. Living room, dining room, porch lights, even grabbing a ladder and turning the motion sensor bulb bolted to the precipice of the garage just enough that, inside its fixture, the whole world stopped. Standing in the backyard with the grass between my bare toes, pajamas enclosing my plump prepubescent body, I looked down to aim upward, quickly finding that our telescope had a broken lens. Resting upon its black tripod, a rogue slide in the telescope’s long, black body distorted the streak of light as it crossed the late night northeast Ohio sky. Its tail soared above the fully leafed treetops, zigzagged among the stars, and charged full force toward something else, something off screen, something far away. Several eyes became one as I peered into the self-contained cosmos, a ball of light falling from the sky to rise from another solar system’s depths.

 

“D id you know that they can cost anywhere from $355 to over $1.1 million for a rock?” my sister added. A chance to possess the galaxy restricted to a select few, modern-day Greek gods perched atop a privileged Mount Olympus, already poised to pluck one out of the sky and sit it upon a shelf. Future resources for poetic inspiration, its family tree cataloged by Plato and Aristotle.

When it was announced that Space X would be taking civilians into space, I shuddered at just who would get to break free from the atmosphere and become a part of the heavens. So many figures to exchange in order to rise from the Earth, secured only by straps and shells and advanced applications of astrophysics. One miscalculation could cause you to burn into nothingness, like a star imploding, its gases run out.

A dwarf reduced.

A dead star, no longer shining.

A black hole in the making.

Not qualified to become an astronaut, a commercial rocket bus tour for celestial tourists would be the only way I could ever reach the stars, but for so much money and so little time, I would want to be among them.

Reach out.

Touch one.

Feel its burning gases against my pale bare hands instead of cold, dead windows three planes thick, aluminum silicate and silica glasses fused together to keep the vacuum at bay.

 

“I ‘m just saying, who would have thought to buy a rock that fell out of the sky?” my sister replied. The light from her words passed through the air, going through a shape shifting accommodation from my glasses to eyes to nerves to brain, enabling me to see what she thought.

“And then, what would you do with a meteorite? It’s not like you can use it for a paperweight,” I said, white letters in blue bubbles on the same iPhone screen, a smaller galaxy contained in the same rose gold aluminum alloy.

A meteorite paperweight for my heirloom desk would prove futile. Instead of merely convincing sheets of paper to stay in place, to resist the whirling air stirred by fan blades, air conditioning, or open sliding door breezes, a celestial desk garnish would only serve to press slices of chronicled existence into one another.

Reducing.

Compressing.

Merging.

Disintegrating, mixing the ashes to ashes of one realm into those of another, creating nothing more than word dust to dust, left to blow away in the wind, grain by grain.

Instead, I know what I would do with a meteorite. I would take it outside, far from anything and anyone, and lay it to rest atop the cool green grass. The center of the universe, a twenty-first century model for sixteenth century Copernicus. An out-of-orbit body becoming the center of its own lonely galaxy.

Maybe I would sit on the meteorite, if it were big enough, and try to feel the stars. If not, maybe I would hold it in my cupped hands, like trying to catch flowing water before gravity and spaces in flesh whisked it away. Try to channel what this hunk of rock saw on its journey through the stars. Try to imagine how it felt to plummet through space, through air, just to crash into land, hard and unforgiving, wondering how this ambassador from spaces we only peek into via satellite kept itself together so well when its destiny was to fall apart.

Maybe I would feel the grass between my toes, losing myself in the space around me, try to be like this meteorite at the end of its life.

Serene.

Quiet.

Still.

I would try to blur the edges of our bodies, fusing with stone. Listen only to the wind as it waves to the tree leaves. Think about how to let myself dissolve into this fallen star, Caillois’ legendary psychasthenia sine alienation taking shape. No longer distinguishing between myself as myself and myself as celestial debris.

Quite possibly, I would still my soul and turn toward the sky. Try to imagine myself passing by the moon. Reaching out for a star, grasping at nothing but the remnants of gas and light, chemical reactions settling into my hand, finding a final place to rest.

Maybe I would, on a trip through the assemblage of planets and moons and stars suspended in suffocating nothingness, find a way to be amongst the stars. Suspend myself in less than thin air. Hang myself upon a child’s wish. Guide myself closer to a sailor’s light.

If I could, I would try to find what it was that one could find by buying a meteorite for sale.

A ticket outside of ourselves.

The origins of the dreams we dream at night.

The place where we wish we wish we could reside, nestle in, and blur our edges to become less defined.

 

Ashley Anderson is an essayist, writer, Ohio native, and graduate student in literary nonfiction writing at the University of Cincinnati. Her work, which includes exploring form and structure as well as the relationships between memory and narrative, has appeared in Peripheral Surveys and Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies. She also holds a master’s degree in American literature from Kent State University and a B.A. in creative writing and journalism from Ashland University. When not writing, Ashley can often be found cooking up a storm for her friends and family.

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