First published in Blood Lotus January 2009, Issue #11
They were worlds apart.
He was Mars, she was Venus.
They met like this: Research conference…martini glasses…ice…smeared lipstick…no condom.
Hers was astronomy and she went off to the North Pole where the sky is cleaner and the atmosphere thinner and Venus more visible in its endless orbit.
His was planetary science and extraterrestrial geology. "It's a very specific field," he had told her, "I search the globe for meteorites." He went off to the South Pole on rumors of a piece of rock blown off Mars by a volcano.
When she was throwing up in the snow each morning, she emailed him like this:
Venuswatcher1: I'm pregnant. It is yours.
Five words bounced off a satellite in geosynchronous equatorial orbit halfway between them. He responded like this:
MartianMan: Maybe we should meet. Again.
They were in the same room, but worlds apart. A hotel in Panama.
She said: I'm Catholic.
He said: I'm an atheist.
Next it went like this: His martini glasses…her light touch…his whispers…her smiles…their promises…no need for a condom.
They took jet planes away from each other. He found his Mars rock. She photographed her Venus. They met again in Nebraska, her girlhood home. It was snowing there too.
"I'd like to marry you," he told her.
"If you want," she said.
"I need to be in California for work," he said later.
"I have a fellowship in New York," she replied.
She got an infection at month eight and he flew to Nebraska from his rock hunting in Nepal. He brought a bouquet of purple Stargazers to her hospital room.
"I'm allergic," she said.
The doctors nursed her infection and in a month she delivered a boy.
"I think we should name him Ben," he said, "after Benjamin Franklin, my favorite scientist."
"I wanted to call him Luke," she said, "my favorite book of the Bible."
Life became like this: Her apartment in NY…his in LA…airports…him in Australia, her with the baby…her in Greenland, him with the baby…two sets of bottles, two sets of clothes…he sat with the baby in July and watched the Dodgers…she sat with the baby in December and watched the snow…
The baby said his first word. They both agreed it was a problem. "Home?" the baby said. "Home? Home? Home? Home? HOME?" It cried the word like a demand for an answer. It pounded its tiny fists.
"Did you teach it that?" he asked.
"No," she said, "did you?"
He got a teaching job in Phoenix, but she didn't like the desert. She got a teaching job in Rhode Island, but he didn't like to shovel the driveway.
They settled in Houston and into separate bedrooms. He had affairs with students, hers were with tenured professors.
Once though, when the baby was six, they all laid in the backyard watching a particularly clear meteor shower. When it was done, he pointed out at a reddish speck in the sky. "That's Mars," he said to the baby, "it is thirty-five million miles away."
"Wow!" the boy said.
She pointed to a tiny drop of light near the moon. "That is Venus," she said, "it is twenty-five million miles away."
"Wow!" the boy said.
"But," they told him, "they are both planets."