It takes my husband the same amount of time to pack his telescope into our Saturn as it does for us to drive there—three hours. There is a point just outside of Jacob Lake, near the north rim of the Grand Canyon, where he found the best place to view the partial eclipse. He shows me maps I cannot read and his calculations, which I don’t understand, but I agree that yes, this must be the perfect place. I tell him it’s a good thing we have an astronomer in the family. He grins and keeps packing.
I don’t ask, but rather hope, he changed the oil.
We drive the winding road through Marble Canyon, a small outcropping of buildings nestled in a valley where river rafters and hikers stop for gas and Fritos and another tube of lip balm. Ed Mell painted these Vermillion Cliffs when he got tired of living in New York City and moved back west to live with the Hopi and paint—his true calling.
I thought astronomy would be my true calling. I had a Sears telescope my parents gave me for Christmas when I was 10. No one ever looked at the stars with me; I simply moved the telescope from my room to the cul-de-sac after my parents went to bed. The sky filled me with fear. The vastness and loneliness of space juxtaposed with the confines and blankness of our street, the cul-de-sac circling and circling to nowhere, really. But wasn’t space also nowhere, really?
I am telling my husband this story of my telescope and asking my space questions again as we drive the winding road between the orange and brown striated canyons. He thinks he knows what I’m asking and assures me that it is all right to be in awe of nature, but that there is no such thing as god. I look out the window.
When I almost died the year before, I didn’t pray, but I kept repeating, “Well, everything happens for a reason,” at the end of the story to my friends who listened politely to my near-death tale, but really had no interest in the particulars because they already knew the ending. I lived. “Yes, physics is the reason,” my husband would interject. “And super strong antibiotics pumped into the hollow around Stacy’s heart and through her veins,” he concluded, finishing my story, which is also his story as well now, I guess.
It was easier to believe the cliché than re-live the exact three things that almost did me in—the clogged PICC line near my heart, the staph itself, eventually, sepsis. Followed by phlebitis, an extra hole drilled into my leg, and my boss trying to fire me while I was on leave because I was costing the company I worked for too much money with my long term disability benefits.
My husband asks what I’m thinking about. Without pausing, I turn from the car window and lie, telling him I’m mesmerized by the beauty of this place and excited to see the partial eclipse. I rub his knee and smile. What I’m really thinking about is the only question my boss asked me before I went out on medical leave. She asked me why I was so damaged.