The Astronauts Meet for a Picnic on the First Thursday of Every Month
by Rachel O’Cleary
They smush soft cheese into crusty bread, crush ripe, juicy strawberries between their teeth, and slather hot dogs with as much mustard and relish as they can fit on the fluffy brioche buns. They scatter crumbs extravagantly, brush them from their laps to the scurrying ants below.
They lick salt from their lips and tilt their faces to the sky, watching sunlight bounce from one leaf to the next in a cascading glow of green. They lean back on their elbows, no need for straps or magnets to tether them, and they let the easy heat smooth tense wrinkles from their heavy bodies. They inhale the electric blue-raspberry of the sky beneath the atmosphere.
‘This is it,’ they say. ‘This is what we talked about all those times, sitting around a table with a view of eternity and sucking macaroni and cheese from foil packets.’
But sometimes, when they lick sticky dribbles of ice cream from their chins, or when the peanuts they are tossing into one another’s mouths drop, inevitably, to earth, they have to avoid each other’s eyes. They cannot look at one another until the moment has passed, until they can no longer see it plainly in the crumpled brows of the other astronauts: the too-near memory of how the tiny morsels of sweet, or salty, or luscious umami used to float like reverse rain-drops – like edible rainbows – and they would catch them on outstretched tongues like pink-cheeked children re-learning gravity, spoons falling upward this time, and not a harried parent in sight. Only one another, and the endless stretch of space, and their own weightlessness.