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A Young Astronaut’s First Moonwalk: Tales from Neighboring Galaxies

A childhood fantasy I still indulge in happens when I take out my hearing aids. I close my eyes and it feels as I imagine space feels to astronauts. I suddenly feel like I’m Neil Armstrong taking a moonwalk. I just unclip my space suit from the ship and I’m off. An entire universe exists between my ears. I imagine the Milky Way twinkling in this big black space where my brain is supposed to be, but there’s not a brain—it’s an entire night sky of stars. — ever expanding, never ending, and so silent. No one touches each other, we just breathe more heavily in our space suits, fogging up the glass.

Being hard of hearing has rarely interfered with my life. I hardly ever felt differently from my little friends. That is, until Margaret Kobernaut’s pool party. Margaret had a pool party with two other little friends of ours. Immediately, it was suggested we play Marco Polo in the pool. The game Marco Polo is a call-and-response game, where one kid closes his or her eyes and shouts Marco, attempting to tag the other players as they respond with Polo. I would have to play without my hearing aids as they can’t get wet.

This gave me pause. Beyond my family, I had never been around anyone without wearing my hearing aids… Except I found that I wasn’t really nervous. No… That flutter in my stomach wasn’t fear. It was thrill I was feeling down to my toes. They were average and I was extraordinary because I wore hearing aids! I travelled between worlds, galaxies even! Without my hearing aids in, these girls would finally see me in my natural habitat: Ruler of the Cosmos. I took out my hearing aids, feeling my old self fading away; my space suit separating from the ship, to float in eternal special—ness– Suddenly, I realized, the game had started!  I had missed it! I could faintly hear the girls chanting, “Marco Polo. Marco Polo!”

‘Marco Polo, indeed.’ I thought.

Margaret was It. She threw herself towards me.

‘Fool.’ I thought. ‘You thought you had me! But a trained astronaut is not so easily caught!’

I was dodging left and right out of the way of my lithe little friends. But I couldn’t last forever. That fateful moment came. I was tagged. I would now be. Marco. Polo. My courage would be tested. But not to worry—after all I was an astronaut! Lux et Veritas!

I closed my eyes and called out, ‘Marco!’, feeling my voice more than hearing it.

I struggled to sense where the faint sounds came from as I wandered in circles. In space there is no sound, so a real astronaut would never face this challenge! How ludicrous! I made a split second decision. I would take a short cut.

Holding my breath, I dove under the water. I opened my eyes and located the girls in my periphery. I doggy paddled extra hard and caught up to my friend, Josephine. I reached out and grabbed her leg with a satisfying squeeze.

I dove out from under the water, poised to celebrate this stunning victory!  Instead I was greeted with:

“You had your eyes open! You cheated.”

I sputtered. Partially from all of the dirty pool water I had swallowed and partially from this reaction. I couldn’t tell exactly what had happened, but it was clear that I had been found out. As I absorbed the shock of being exposed as a cheater, suddenly the oxygen seemed a little low in my spacesuit.

“No, I didn’t.” was all I could muster. But I knew it was true. I had cheated.

“I—“But the girls were already off to another game.

I fought back tears. I pulled my space helmet up and slid the glass down over my face. Gravity suddenly felt very heavy as my limbs took on the weight of a much older person. I wanted to release further into space.

But I remembered my friends. My hearing aids. I climbed out of the pool, emptying the water out of my ears and put my hearing aids in. I gave a strong salute to the Captain, as I released myself from the ship to float back down to planet Earth. My dangling feet brushing the dry, crackly summer grass as I landed. Instantly, the humid air was filled with the shrieks of little girls and water splashing. I could hear my mom’s voice drifting outside from the window above, her soft laughter soothing me.

The prodigal astronaut had come home. I closed my eyes, swaddled in sound. Without my space suit, I felt free in a different way. I felt like a little girl. And that felt nice. Tired from my travels, I laid myself down on the grass.

by Eli Pauley

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