What I Did on the Moon
Well, I had some drinks. I yearned for you. I dug up my father’s bones and watched them float off into the ether. I ignored my infirm mother. I engaged with various shadows. One night, I saw a light flickering flickering below me. I went to a tower I’d crafted from rocks and climbed it so I could better see the light. It was coming from my house. My children were signaling to me. I went to the special crater I use for listening. I listened. I could hear their voices like so much mewing. I whispered into the whisper-hole I made with a blow torch.
“Are you mewing for me?” I said.
I waited to hear their voices but they’d fallen asleep.
I listened to their sleeping all night.
I had memorized the sounds of their sleeping.
I could sing along to the smell of their breaths. I knew the scores of their dreams.
When I was without them, I found the nearest people. It’s what you do after a divorce. There are some people, you think, I’ll sit next to them. You’re healing from a fracture. People see it when you say, Hi, everybody!
That’s what I would say, sitting down at, say, the Applebee’s bar? Hi, everybody! What are the app specials? Wow, check this out: Mega Mug of Miller! $4.99!
The Applebee’s often closed early on the Moon. I had to find other resources to expand my circle of friends.
On the moon, there is a swiping app that assists with this, with finding people to sit with. To sup with. Lo, I stand at the door and swipe. Swipe swipe swipe.
One woman made me dinner. She made a pasta dish in an overly lemony sauce. I was thirty-eight and having dinner with a woman I’d just met in her cluttered dining room. I kept thinking to myself how notable it was and how her hair was piled on her head, how her earrings shimmied as she grated the parmesan. What notable earrings! They were handmade, she said. Handmade!
By an artist!
An artist in Santa Fe!
It was also probably notable-feeling because I was on the moon. I was skinny that year. I ate my pasta without self-consciousness. I don’t ever want to be that skinny again. Jesus. Yes I do.
Afterwards, I helped the woman do the dishes. She started the dishwasher and put on Sade and I went for my keys but she asked me to unzip her dress. This. Is. No. Ordinary Love. I hadn’t dated since college, so I asked for clarification.
All the way, I asked.
Mm-hmm, she said.
Is this a request for practical assistance before I leave for the night, I asked, Or is this an invitation to stay?
Mm-hmm, she said.
I see, I said, and started to unzip the dress then stopped.
I’m sorry, I said, if I am ruining the mood but I need clarification. I didn’t ask a yes/no question but you keep saying, mm-hmm.
Stop talking, she said.
Afterwards, I got up and went to start the shower.
What are you doing, she called from the sweaty bed.
Taking a shower, I said. And then I realized I was only taking a shower because this is what people did in movies after they slept with, let’s face it, a stranger, which was a new experience for me.
Isn’t that what people do? I said. Shower?
I was already in the shower though. Wet. Nothing to undo.
Maybe in the mornings, she said. At night, most people either leave or sleep.
I was fully lathered up by the time she said, I have to work in the morning.
Which one should I do, I said. Leave or sleep?
I had to say this three times, each time progressively louder, because she couldn’t hear me over the shower and the running water.
You’re in charge, Boyo, she said.
I left. I went back to my moon tower in the teetering teetering rubble. The lights were off back home. I heard no noises through my whisper-hole. No sleep songs or dream ditties.
I drove a small motorbike on the moon. Mainly to the market where I could buy some sundries with my dwindling funds. The shopkeeper was a lot like my father. His thick accent, his mustache gone to gray, his refusal to extend credit.
I didn’t know I would be end up here, I said. I have no provisions.
How much you have? he said.
I have a cinnamon stick and some dead flowers, I said. This was leftover from a gift basket someone sent me, someone who needed something from me in the professional realm, but the good parts of the basket, the salami and almonds, were so long gone I missed them the way you might miss a dead pet. How ravenous I suddenly was! How sick of being skinny!
We had chuckle about that, me and the shopkeeper.
You don’t know what you got until you’re wrong, he said.
It’s gone, I said.
What’s gone, he said.
The saying, I said. It’s not wrong, it’s gone.
Beggars can’t be chosen, he said.
In the end, I was allowed to take some dented cans from a dusty cart in the back of store. The appearance of Chef Boyardee’s cherubic face made me moan in gratitude. I’d known him my whole life. The can opener was a loaner. The shopkeeper stressed this.
It’s only one on the moon, he said.
This seemed hard to believe, but so was everything else that year.
Everything okay will be, he said. You have good lawyer.
Back at my camp, I lit the fire. Fire is blue and red on the moon. You don’t even recognize it as fire. It looks like sloshing liquid. Like the slime my children make from glue and Borax. Thinking of them with their bedheads making slime back home, though it wasn’t my home anymore, made the wind blow harder. The slime fire keeps me warm though. You don’t expect to be on the moon for long, and these differences in things like fire are tolerable for short durations. I suppose you’d eventually find yourself missing the crack of the hatchet, the smell of wood smoke, the shower of wayward sparks.
Nobody came to visit. Sometimes acquaintances would float by awkwardly on their way to make photocopies or sweep up the rain. My lawyer kept trying to reach me. The phones would ring but nothing was audible once you picked up.
The flickering lights went on again one night. I listened at my crater but the whisper-hole was too clogged with debris. I climbed my tower, but it was settling, more pile than pinnacle.
I knew I had to build a ladder back to the earth. So I did. What a shitty ladder it was! Unsafe and ugly to the eye. Those on the moon mocked and jeered at me as I lowered it. People whispered their doubts as I descended.
“It’ll never work,” they whispered as I swayed precariously above the stratosphere.
“Nothing does,” I shouted. “Assholes.”
Upon my arrival, I whistled for my friends. I whistled for my dog. I whistled for a taxi. None of these things came. I was in a cornfield. The corn was taller than me. I came out of the field covered in moon dust. I looked up and down the road.
I recognized nothing.
Dean Bakopoulos’s first novel, Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, was a New York Times Notable Book; he co-wrote and co-produced the film adaptation, which debuted at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival starring Jeffrey Wahlberg and Rashida Jones. His second novel, My American Unhappiness, was named one of the year’s best novels by The Chicago Tribune, and his third novel, Summerlong was an independent bookstore bestseller and is now in development as a feature film based on Bakopoulos’s original screenplay. The winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as NEA fellowships in both fiction (2006) and creative nonfiction (2016), Bakopoulos is writer-in-residence at Grinnell College and also teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program and at the University of Iowa. He is also co-writing the television adaptation of Alissa Nutting’s novel, Made for Love, for Paramount Studios, and developing an original series, The Off Weeks, for television.