Author: Alex Z. Salinas
I pressed my palm against the reinforced window in my bedroom. The glass felt cool, exactly like they felt in my previous life. The difference was that on the other side of this one, there was stretched before me an infinite and ever-expanding black canvas. It was filled with mostly nothing, and we knew mostly nothing about it. This put me in a mood.
I removed my hand and focused on my ghost-like reflection. My face glowed amber, a result of the Himalayan salt lamp by my bed. My eyes, naturally dark brown, were reflected as two small black craters, which seemed appropriate given the indescribable state of my soul. I tried to grasp reality as it was, but I couldn’t.
Two small hands wrapped around my waist. They gripped me comfortably.
“What’re you doing, baby?” I heard my wife’s voice ask softly.
“Zoning out,” I answered, caressing the tops of her smooth hands.
“It’s beautiful out there, isn’t it?”
“That’s one way to look at it.”
“Well, not to interrupt your sesh, Mr. Space Cadet, but came to let you know that dinner’ll be ready in five. We’re having Mexican tonight.”
“Didn’t we have Mexican last night?”
“No, we had Guatemalan. There *is* a difference.”
I didn’t feel like turning this into a big deal—I easily could have—so I said: “Thanks for letting me know, sweetie. I’ll be out in a bit.”
My wife kissed the back of my neck and I heard the satisfied patter of her footsteps fade away.
Mexican, Guatemalan, none of it mattered, I thought. Our dinners were at the mercy of a professional cooking staff. Most of the cooks looked Mexican, though I’d noticed one of them was Asian.
I selected a random point outside my window to zone in on—probably an unmapped coordinate of space irrelevant to everyone except me.
I fixated on the point with laser focus, like a sea creature spotting his prey from a distance.
An announcement briefly stole my attention.
*Attention passengers, this is Chef Johnny speaking! Tonight’s main course will feature enchiladas verdes, brown rice, black beans, and flour tortillas so soft my dear abuelita would’ve had a cow! ¡Perfecto! For desert, there’ll be tres leches cake prepared by yours truly! ¡Delicioso! Don’t miss out! Bring your appetites and your maracas!*
As I continued fixating on a piece of unidentified space which I knew to be much older than anything I’d known on earth, I felt something inside me unspool, like a piece of fabric come undone by pulling on a loose string.
We were having Mexican tonight. We’d had it last night, I was sure, and we’d have it tomorrow night and the night after that until we reached our destination. These decisions were out of my control, as were so many others. What little choice I’d had, I’d given the rest of it away. And for what?
Suddenly, for a split second, I hated my wife. I hated her with everything inside me. My gut burned. Looking into space, into the cold oblivion none of us knew a thing about, something crossed my mind. An idea. It told me something had to be done about my situation. Something drastic. My hands trembled.
I closed my eyes and touched the window again. The glass felt cool. Its cool familiarity calmed my nerves.
I was resigned to Chef Johnny’s enchiladas verdes tonight.
Mexican, Guatemalan, it didn’t matter. In space, your meals are determined by hired cooks. Things could be worse.