The astronaut has been home from space for two months. She checks the calendar from time to time, running a finger backward over the days, scrape of slick paper beneath her skin, says to her wife, Can you believe how long it has been?
Her wife says: It’s been no time at all.
In the mornings, the astronaut laces her running shoes while it is still dark, slips the front door quiet shut behind her. She likes when the sky isn’t sun-full yet, purpling with early morning, stars prickling above her head.
Sometimes on the sidewalk, there is a girl walking a yellow, tongue-lolling dog. The astronaut says hello and the girl says hello and the dog looks off into the distance, like there is a lovelier world just down the road.
The astronaut jogs away in the dark, thinks All the worlds are lovely.
Before the astronaut came home, she lived on the shuttle going around and around the Earth. She orbited; she was an ellipse.
She looked out at the moon and thought how it was almost close enough to touch. She looked out at the Earth and thought the same thing.
But you have touched it, said the other astronauts. We all have.
Oh, said the astronaut, but from here, it doesn’t seem like we ever did, put her hand to the window, thought of her wife there on that small and distant world.
The astronaut’s wife is reading up on dwarf hippopotamuses, quotes facts to her wife: They are nocturnal, they are herbivores, they are one-quarter the weight of their hippopotamus cousins.
People like to hear about things like that, she says.
The astronaut nods, unlaces her shoes. The astronaut feels, sometimes, impossibly heavy. The astronaut feels, sometimes, like she will float untethered away.
It changes, she tells her wife, from moment to moment.
Everything changes, the astronaut’s wife says, from moment to moment.
While the astronaut was in space, the astronaut’s wife shaved her head, took photos of herself every day, hair growing bit by bit by bit, texted them to her wife’s drawer-stored phone, Today and today and today, I miss you.
The astronaut scrolls through the photos, says, I love this one, you look like a bald little baby bird.
The astronaut’s wife says: Baby bird?
The astronaut’s wife says: Sometimes my head got cold.
In space, the astronaut stayed in the shuttle, it was so small in the shuttle, everything was so small, curled herself into a ball, uncurled, bumped her hand against the ceiling or the floor. Floating, she looked out at the Earth and the moon and the stars, at the spaces between.
She thought: Everything is so far away.
Outside the shuttle, the other two astronauts were on a spacewalk. They came around to the window where the astronaut was looking out, waved like people underwater, hello, hello, hello. The astronaut waved back, just as languid, mouthed hello, mouthed a smile.
You’re too small, they told her while she watched them suit up.
They said: We’re sorry, but you know you’re too small for either of the space suits.
The astronaut smiled at them. The astronaut has always had a way of smiling at men when she needs to.
Of course, she said. I know that. Of course I am.
At home, the astronaut curls around her wife on the couch, wraps arms and legs around her. Her wife’s hair is nearly grown out, tickles the astronaut’s chin.
You’re so small, says the astronaut. Like a kidney bean.
The astronaut says: How are you so small?
I’m not small, says her wife. It’s that everything else is so large.