Running down a central reservation in last night’s red dress
And I can still smell you on my fingers and taste you on my breath
It’s like living in the middle of the ocean
With no future, no past
I hear his voice calling my name but I don’t turn back.
I sprint in to the main hall past the morning crowds of shoppers on the bottom level. Nineteen stories of balconies full of shops and services rise beyond the scope of my eyes on each side of me.
“Come back Eminya!”
His voice is fading. If I turn around and look at him, I think my heart will explode. The songs I would listen to as a child flood back to me. The voice of Louis Armstrong telling me that skies are blue and trees are green. I have never seen a blue sky before or a forest of green trees. Up on the top-deck viewing platform all you see is endless black with millions of bright dots.
Yet, for a couple of months the words had real meaning for me. The love I felt for Yorzanos was vivid and real. Colours filled my brain and made me forget about the monochrome existence I had grown up with.
I first saw him teaching a yoga class on Deck 25-H. He was lithe and athletic and he was so bewitching it almost tempted me to actually attend the class. Instead, I peered through the glass and watched him contorting his body and I admit that I felt a raw animal passion. I had never been with a man before. On the ship, privacy is at a premium. You live with your family until you are in a position to marry. Until that point, you are celibate, restricted and closed off.
Some people make arrangements with friends to fake-marry each other to gain access to their own place. I had no friends I was that close to, to start pursuing that route. I spent my evenings fantasising about escaping from this ship, simply wishing to be anywhere else in the universe than on this ship relentlessly careering through space. Being back on a deserted Earth was more alluring.
I must have been in a trance at the glass as in what seemed like no time at all, the yoga man was speaking to me:
“Are you joining us tomorrow?” he said and I spluttered and I knew my face was hotting up.
“I think I’m allergic to yoga,” I replied, feeling really massive and stupid. The yoga man laughed and said something that I can’t even remember. His eyes were big, hazel beacons entrancing me. I was utterly powerless to fight his charm.
The yoga man, who it turned out was named Yorzanos, asked me out for a coffee. I was so astounded, I couldn’t speak. I grinned foolishly and we agreed to meet later that day.
I attended my classes in Theology and Geography but I couldn’t concentrate. Hearing about all the old religions and nations of Earth meant nothing to me on that day.
Finally it was time to meet Yorzanos. We spent three hours chatting and laughing. Everything shifted, Yorzanos became my anchor and we spent every day meeting up. After a couple of weeks, I visited his apartment – his fake-wife was out partying in Sector 9 for a few days.
That was where I became a woman, he was wiry yet very strong and he knew exactly how to please me. I was utterly infatuated and so it continued for the last two months. Last night, I had planned to ask Yorzanos if he would like to marry me and I could become his real-wife.
I couldn’t pluck up the courage in the night. I had bought a wonderful crimson dress from one of the boutiques in Sector 1. Yorzanos loved it and he loved me in the way I wanted. We drank and danced and everything was perfect. Until this morning.
“About our future…” I said, unsure of how to broach such a major decision. Yorzanos was playing with my hair, wrapping wisps around his finger and then dropping the hair back on my collarbone, making me tingle each time it landed.
“Stop thinking about the future, my sweet girl. Enjoy the moment,” he replied.
“You are my future and my present, I can’t separate it Yorzanos. Without you, I am nothing,” I said. I had never talked in such an open manner to him but I wanted him to know how important he was to me.
“Eminya, in all honesty, your plans for the future are probably not the same as my plans,”
I wasn’t sure if I had misheard him. I lifted my head up and stared at him.
“I’m twenty-two years old,” Yorzanos said, “You’re seventeen. There are a million people on board this ship plus the other hundred ships in the convoy so I’m not looking to settle down yet.”
“You must be joking?” I shouted, anger and embarrassment coursing through my body.
“Don’t act surprised, you know how these things work,”
Clearly I didn’t understand how these things work. This man had ripped my heart out of its cage.
“I can’t…If you can’t commit to me then we should stop seeing each other,” I said and Yorzanos offered a pathetic shrug.
I have never seen such a dismissive, antagonistic gesture. I screamed a noise of no known language and jumped off the bed and put my shoes on.
Yorzanos seemed to recognise how much he had upset me with his flippancy and tried to grab me and prevent me from leaving his apartment.
“Hey Eminya, don’t go. I’m sorry,” I glanced at him and almost believed him. The realisation dawned on me that this man was not my future and that was when I ran out of his place.
I exited the sector with Yorzanos running after me, which is when I entered the Central Plaza and the crowds of people with him hollering my name in the distance.
I continue running the three kilometres along the plaza and I can no longer hear Yorzanos. I hunch over and there is a pain in my chest – is this my heart breaking?
I raise my eyes and see hundreds of people staring at me. The offspring of people who lived their whole lives on this craft. The offspring who would similarly spend their entire existence travelling on this metal box. It would be their children who hopefully would have the chance of founding the New Earth somewhere in the Trappist system.
The faces betray no emotion, people have learned to hide their feelings. In a closed community, one simple mistake and you are tarnished. Running through the plaza and being chased by my boyfriend, that is my card marked. My Review Card will state this incident and finding a good job following graduation will be almost impossible. I will be classed as impulsive and a potentially deviant member of society.
I press the button to open the door to one of the elevators that will take me to the top of the Plaza Hall. I place my face against the glass as the elevator ascends. The gloomy faces stare back at me. Their disapproval only antagonises me even more.
The elevator arrives at the top so I walk out onto the balcony and the people look like miniatures down below. I stare out of the viewing windows and the eternal darkness outside. Ninety years of speeding through space and we are no more than halfway to our destination. A destination I will not see. I climb over the balcony railing and allow myself to fall.
Heading to the ground, I finally sense an ending to my journey. As I approach the ground the faces of the people remain impassive. The moment before impact I am finally at ease – control of my life is in my hands as I plunge into the dark sacred night.
by Martin O’Brien based on Central Reservation – Beth Orton