Author: Breeze Navarro

This is it.

I remember the nights the scent of mint would gently pull me to consciousness. Our home would be lit by a single candle. You don’t want to disturb the darkness too much, mom would say. I’d sip tea. She’d sip whiskey and tell me the history of what we were about to see in hushed tones, as though someone was trying to listen in when they weren’t supposed to.

The telescope called us like a lighthouse. It stood alone, facing the phenomenon. When we stepped outside, the air revolved around us like ocean currents and invited drops of sweat. Mom would ask me to look with my bare eyes first. Mars was small and red. When I matched my eye to the telescopes it was glaring, though I don’t know at what. I knew I wanted to go. I knew I wanted to do more than see the heavens through a magnifying glass, bulbous and unreachable.

“The stars carry infinite possibilities. And we are stuck on a lonely planet,” she might say. I was standing next to her though. I was always next to her, coming to her room to say good-bye before I walked myself to school, making dinner because she didn’t seem to be able to make it herself.

She didn’t give hugs or read bedtime stories, but we were always outside to behold something you could only see “once in a lifetime.” Even if it occurred twice a year, or every 10 years, mom said you never knew when you would see it again. Maybe that was something beautiful. Even though she couldn’t be my mom, she sought rare beauties in the sky. Maybe I should have thought about those moments more, instead of how we didn’t have any others.

She knew Mars was my favorite. The night came that I didn’t fall asleep because I was waiting for the scent of mint to drift through the air but it never did. The candle wasn’t lit. She’d forgotten or perhaps she’d slept too heavily to hear her alarm. I left the next day. I went to many places but I never went back.

I sent her a letter when I applied to go to Mars. I didn’t expect to get in, which is why I didn’t go see her. But once you get an acceptance, you can’t say no. We trained for a year before the launch but she never appeared on the days families visited.
I felt the engine disrupting my heartbeat and shaking my bones. This would be my first and last journey from Earth to Mars. Once you leave, you don’t come back. I thought of the boiling pot and the melting candle and imagined her watching a streak across the sky, first with her bare eyes and then through the limiting lens of the telescope.