That was the high point, wasn’t it ? How’d we get from the low point – I use Hiroshima as my benchmark low point for the US but your mileage may vary – to the high point in less than twenty five years ? And don’t tell me it was JFK. I mean I get that he did the vision thing but really that guy was no completer finisher. It was the egg heads and boffins behind the scenes that should’ve got the glory, even more than Armstrong and Aldrin and the other one – who was the other one ? All of those “right stuff” guys. It wasn’t just them, it was the techies and scientists. Probably the same ones who carved out our low point, right ? Funny how they get the credit for that – Oppenheimer, Feynman, Fermi – but you never hear about the lab coat brigade at NASA that put a a man on the moon. It’s all astronaut suits and suspiciously horizontal flags and one small step. I know the flag was wires and shit. I don’t think Kubrick faked it all. I mean, have you seen “Eyes Wide Shut” ? He couldn’t even get Tom and Nicole to look convincing having sex and they were married.
Michael Collins. That was the other one. Floating round the moon, staring out into the abyss whilst his buddies got the kudos. Armstrong always gets the same questions – how did it feel being first, what was it like looking back at Earth yadda yadda ? And Aldrin doesn’t get off any easier – how does it feel being second ? Always asked with that same slight sense of “that must suck, you were *this* close buddy”. I mean, come on, he was the second guy on the fucking moon. It’s not like he was the runner up quarterback in the Superbowl. Second. Person. Ever. On. The. Fucking. Moon. He should just get a badge or something made up that says: I’ve been on the moon, unless you’re one of the other eleven people to share that privilege then shut the fuck up. Maybe something snappier than that but you get the idea. Anyway, where was I ? Collins. He never gets the same questions because everyone’s forgotten about him. Everyone’s forgotten about the guy that was first to orbit the moon and sit on his own, zero contact with Earth, and stare out into the void. I don’t know much about him – be honest, who does – but he must now either be the most Zen guy down here or out of his mind. This is me. That’s the endless reaches of nothingness. Fuck.
I don’t know. Maybe Collins and Armstrong and Aldrin went through all the same thoughts as the Enola Gay pilot. Maybe, up close, the low point and the high point didn’t feel so different ? He must have contemplated something as he pulled the big old lever to drop the bomb. Look, if you’re a World War 2 flight nerd then don’t bother to tell me that it wasn’t a lever, alright ? I know it wasn’t a lever. A button or something. Probably red with one of those little plastic flick up covers over it so you couldn’t accidentally lean on it too soon. What was that Tibbets ? Ah, shit, sorry guys but I just caught the nuke button with my elbow when I was drinking my coffee and… They didn’t get coffee on the Enola Gay, did they ? Anyway, the point is that surely being on top of something that momentous gives you pause. Why are we here ? What’s it all about ? What’s out there in that featureless expanse ? How can I justify killing thousands and thousands of people ?
Just ignore me if this is bugging you. I get like this sometimes. Especially when I see Trump on TV, you know ? How’d we get from 1969 and landing on the moon and the Stones and free love and LSD to 2016 and building a wall across our border and the Kardashians and no love and the NRA ? I can see the steps but I can’t see which one was the mis-step. If you could go back – McFly, McFly ! – then where would you undo it ? Maybe Armstrong’s not the hero. I know he never claimed to be but maybe that was the start of all this need to make someone emblematic of everything else. Is that even a word ? Emblematic ? I guess it is now. We made him the star. The greatest achievement, scientific or otherwise, of mankind and we made it about a man. That stuff belongs to all of us. We did that. All of us. I mean, not me obviously – and probably not actually you – but metaphorically we did that. Armstrong just got to wear the suit and fluff his lines leaving the lunar module. Aldrin probably gave him an impatient nudge and put him off.
Ah man I don’t even know what to make of it all. We came back from the moon and the best we found was Trump and Clinton. What the fuck ? We went with less computational power than you’ve got in your phone and all you use that for is watching videos of cats and playing Pokemon Go ? If I was Tibbets I’d dust Enola Gay off, take her up for one last flight and put us all out of our misery. Flick up the little plastic cover and give that big old red button a push. Another low point and maybe, just maybe, in twenty five years we can do something worthwhile again. Or better still what would I give to swap places with Collins ? Circling, circling the moon and watching the darkness for hours before getting to see the Earth reborn, shining in space, on each rotation.
This is story 35 in a series of 42 to raise money and awareness for the mental health charity Mind. My fundraising page is here and all donations, however small, are really welcome: http://www.justgiving.com/42shorts
Honestly I don’t really know what this is. It’s the anniversary of the first moon landing today and it came as a character led stream-of-consciousness splurge from that. It’s pretty much as it came so apologies for the lack of edit. I am not the narrator but I can see where he is coming from. Troubling times.