The spaceman sitting on my dashboard is disappointed by the places I go. He says, you always talked about going places. I say, I have to go to work. When I leave work, it is dark outside, and there is a layer of ice coating my windshield. The spaceman is still sitting on the dashboard. Do you know why space boots don’t have shoelaces? No, I don’t, I say. I am hoping it is a joke. It has been a long day. Me neither, the spaceman says.
It’s okay not to go places. I tell myself that while I go places, but I know, and the spaceman tells me that these are the wrong places. These places are grocery stores. These places are the DMV. These places are the old video rental store on Wasson, except it’s not a video rental store anymore. It is an escape room. Maybe, I think, it was always an escape room. No one ever wanted to stay, and eventually no one came back. That is the ultimate escape. The spaceman tells me this is stupid. He tells me people want to go to the escape room. The escape room, he says, is a destination. I ask if his space suit is itchy.
The lady who lives in apartment four died, and I know it because I saw her. I saw her because they carried her out through the hallway, and the hallway is too small for a stretcher, so they bumped my door. I thought it was a visitor, so I hurriedly fixed my hair in the mirror and threw on a cardigan over my shirt. When I opened the door, it was a visitor, but a dead old lady is not the kind of visitor you put a cardigan on for, and I felt foolish. The spaceman saw her too, but not until she was outside. He watched as they loaded her into an ambulance and drove away. When I went to pick up my takeout from the Thai restaurant later that night, I drove in silence, and for once, the spaceman was silent too. I was thinking about the apartment full of the woman’s things and wondering what would happen to them. Whose job is it to empty the refrigerators of the dead? The spaceman probably was not thinking about this. The spaceman was probably thinking about the presence of water on Mars. He was always thinking about things like that.
Alex Evans is a writer and teacher living and working in the American Midwest. His small stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Milk Candy Review, X-R-A-Y, Soft Cartel, and more.