Missus Major Tom
Castaway Writing Contest winner Patricia McCowan of Toronto, Ontario lets us in on the no-nonsense perspective of an astronaut's wife at her husband's launch...
“Tell my wife I love her very much.”
Bloody Ground Control goons, all thick glasses and pocket protectors. Pissing their polyester pants when Tom said that, saying he loves me from out in the ether, from past the ether, broadcasting it to the whole damn universe. “She knows,” they said. Probably all they could do to stop themselves from plugging their ears and going, “La-la-la-la, we can’t hear you.”
They gave me a hard little chair to sit on for the launch, in the back of the room, safely out of the way of all of those important buttons and gauges. A chair and a ginger ale and a thin smile or two while they fiddled with their ties and talked about “this awesome moment in history”. Tried not to look down the front of my blouse from where they stood above me. I had Tom’s favourite bra on, pink push-up, like good luck for him, so I know I was a bit distracting. He would have laughed if he’d been there, proud of my figure. And then they all turned their backs to me so they could get their hands on their beloved instruments and do what they had to do to send Tom away.
Men just love to do that to other men. Separate them from their women. Ridiculous the lengths they’ll go to: sports teams, religious orders, businesses, wars. Space programmes. All that work just so they can feel like they’re still up in their secret tree fort together, playing with gadgets and drawing up long lists of rules and punishments. Keeping the girls out.
“The papers want to know whose shirts you wear.” Ginger ale nearly came out of my nose at that, trying not to laugh while everyone looked so serious. Well, their backs looked serious. Not one of them turned around to ask me. Of course Tom has no idea whose shirts he wears. No man should know the first thing about his shirts, not if he’s man enough to have a wife. I buy them, wash them, press them, hang them up, lay them out. He just has to slip into them every morning and cut a fine figure of a man. I don’t think Tom even knows the size of his own neck. That’s my business. So I wasn’t about to pipe up with that information. Besides, the papers just make up whatever the hell they feel like printing.
They might mention he said he loves his wife. Now that he’s lost, I mean. Adds some nice poignancy to the story. A useful quote. If they’d got him back safely, if he’d walked out of that damned capsule and grabbed me around the waist and kissed me hard in front of everyone the way he likes to, they wouldn’t put “Tell my wife I love her very much” in their papers. They wouldn’t have to. Now they do. Now that they’ve stranded me here they do.