- PHYSICS the force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth, or toward any other physical body having mass. For most purposes Newton’s laws of gravity apply, with minor modifications to take the general theory of relativity into account.
- extreme or alarming importance; seriousness.
Earth Gravity reaches, clutches at the hem of space, tugs at the firmament as if it were a tall woman in a skirt, and she wishes the heavens to bend and listen while she whispers, “I wish you would come back to me!”
In six months, she will be returned, fully, to the earth, in forced retirement.
- an intense feeling of deep affection.
- a person or thing that one loves.
The astronaut’s wife, Angie, tells people that Ellen is a love, a darling, even though the astronaut is always off training or traveling to depths of space that no longer seem exciting to hear about. They hardly talk now that the heavens hold no poetry for the missus. “You are more lovely than a star,” Ellen might say now after a bourbon or two, but Angie will grimace and say, “I would hope I’m lovelier than dead gas a million miles away, Ellen. And no, I don’t care how far away it really is.”
- sadness because one has no friends or company.
- (of a place) the quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation.
The astronaut feels like she no longer speaks the native language, like she is traveling without a phrasebook. She did once, in Moscow at the beginning of her career. “Помоги мне?” she asked on a busy street corner until Angie overheard as she exited the café and took pity on her.
“Come this way, please?” She beckoned. Later, Ellen watched while Angie undressed in the hotel doorway.
Now Ellen is standing on an unfamiliar corner, saying, “Help me?” and getting no response from her wife, who walks by over and over again, glancing sidelong. The astronaut now speaks Russian, but her wife no longer bothers and rarely undresses in doorways.
- a continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied.
- the dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move.
Angie has a shed built in the backyard so Ellen can tinker after she retires. “What am I supposed to do out here?” The astronaut asks, bewildered. She does like the small size of the shed itself. It reminds her of the tidy spaces in which she has worked and aged.
“Build a damn spaceship, and fly the hell out of here, if you’re going to be ungrateful,” Angie yells, and swishes away. “I don’t care what you do!”
Later, “It’s so you can have your space, and I can have mine.” The translation is clear: Angie is too busy now that she has retired from teaching Russian Literature to entertain Ellen. Angie needs her space, Ellen has already had hers.
Every week Angie leads a loud group of women in the creation of scented candles, soap, and body wash. She hosts book clubs, organizes events for University of Michigan alumni from her department, and when Ellen asks how long she’s been into that sort of thing, Angie is furious. “What is it you think I’ve been doing all this time without you? Waiting?”
- the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.
- a point of time as measured in hours and minutes past midnight or noon
Time is difficult for the astronaut. Sometimes it skips and jumps. Here, the year her mother found a kitten in the driveway and gave it to Ellen for her birthday. Or here, Angie is young and she still loves hearing about the vastness of space and how her pupils remind Ellen of something infinite. But then here she is old, her bones disagreeing with the rhythm of Earth Gravity, now that they’re dancing so slowly.
“You came back,” she says, and the astronaut just leans in a bit more.
“I didn’t want to,” Ellen sighs, but there’s no real heat in the response.
- the state or quality of being infinite.
Ellen’s death belongs to Angie, who stands over Ellen now, palm pressing into her sternum. “For infinity,” Angie says, or Ellen thinks she does. Who can tell if anything’s being said anymore?
Angie always hit Ellen in the chest when she was frustrated, even on their wedding day, so long ago. “Forever,” Angie said.
“Nothing truly lasts forever,” Ellen answered, “but infinity comes damn close.”
“Forever, Ellen,” Angie snapped, but all Ellen heard was, “I love you,” as they exchanged rings.
“For infinity, then,” Ellen promised.
—Ani King has work forthcoming at Strange Horizons and freeze frame fiction, and she has been published at Rose Red Review, theEEEL, and in Spark: A Creative Anthology. She’s an IT support manager in Lansing, MI and awfully fond of good bourbon. Ani can be found at thebittenlip.com.