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Part one

The summer that Mars stood close to the Earth,

I went down to the sea each evening. It was

shockingly visible and looked like a storybook

version of itself – a red swirl, volatile and ancient.

Night after night I lay on the sand like a true

believer waiting for something to happen and,

while nothing changed or moved, the scale of

things was different. Space opened up. I felt small

and was glad to.

I’d been on the island for several weeks before my

husband was able to visit. I relished the quiet and

the simplicity as well as the good fortune of being

under clear skies at such a time. I thought I hadn’t

missed him. The night he arrived, I led him to the

beach and hurried ahead calling ‘Look! Look!

There it is!’ I realised then that I’d missed him

greatly.

He took my arm as we skittered down the dunes

and allowed me to feel as if I’d arranged the whole

thing – the warm night, the soft sea, the red

planet. We lay on the sand as couples do who’ve

spent hundreds of nights together – close but

unentwined. I made myself say nothing about

what we were looking at. I let him decide.

‘It looks beautiful,’ he said, ‘and it looks like a

warning.’

We’d been married for two years. The

acceleration towards a life together and the settling

down were over. What next? We went home and

a month later I started my new job at the museum.

It bothered him that my days were not easy to

explain. In the evenings he always had something

to say about the closing of loopholes, the tracking

of payments, the new ways drug money was being

moved around. His work was of such immediate

and obvious importance compared to mine. Even

so, I had thought that he was proud of me.

‘I deal with this world,’ he liked to tell people,

‘and my wife deals with the others.’

Then one day he said this instead: ‘She could be

out there discovering new stars and mapping the

universe but she spends her time in a basement

with a cupboardful of rocks. I just don’t get it, do

you?’

When he asked me what I did all day that made

me so silent when I came home, this is what I told

him. The boxes that come to me contain parts of

other worlds. I hold a meteorite in my hands and

have the same feeling I had lying on the beach and

measuring everything I felt against the distance

between two planets. It makes me think about

what really matters.

‘What do you mean, what really matters?’

‘What matters is what lies beyond us.’ I knew

how hollow it sounded and chose not to

understand the way he smiled.

I had to go to France to collect some samples from

a recently discovered crater in the Egyptian desert.

It had been spotted by someone scanning satellite

images for evidence of ancient settlements. What

he found was a 5,000-year-old crater that was

completely undisturbed. Because of the dry desert

air, it was pristine. You could trace the direction

from which the meteorite fell in the fanning of the

sand.

The scientists got there first. They wrote their

names on a piece of paper, put it in a bottle and

left. When they came back the bottle was gone.

‘So?’ my husband said. ‘They left their names. It

doesn’t mean they own what’s there.’

The acquisition of meteorite samples is not

straightforward. As soon as the scene of an impact

has been located, the debris is being collected. The

locals arrive first, then the dealers and the

scientists, all as businesslike and intent as those

who work their way through a battlefield taking

boots and wedding rings. Most of the rocks

disappear into private collections.

3 de Julio de 2015 a las 02:55 0 Reporte Insertar 0
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