21-year-old David Bowie goes to the movies stoned. Munches on buttered popcorn, candy, cheap hot dogs. On screen, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowie finds himself entranced by the drug trip of a film. The streams of flowing color. Prisms of spinning light. In the aftermath, he reaches for his guitar and writes through post-film fog. The haze of wonder. Am I sitting in a tin can far above the world? “Space Oddity” releases nine days before the moon landing. Becomes the backing track for the British broadcast of the event. Didn’t they realize Bowie’s song doesn’t end well?
Some days, it’s youth group. Today, it’s red velvet seats in a crowded theater. On-screen, a masterful ballet of dialogue. An airborne bone morphing into a spaceship. This is how 13-year-old Tom Hanks escapes the drama of his home life. A revolving door of step parents. He wonders if he could forge a family from the stage. From the screen. From his one and only perfected skill: pretending to be okay. Hanks buys 22 more tickets before the theater replaces the reels with The Odd Couple. Dreams of the day he’ll tell interviewers at the Oscars, 2001: A Space Odyssey is the single motion picture responsible for my life. Dreams the day he’ll make national news for singing the opening theme acapella. His current viewing count is over 200.
When 41-year-old Jim Lovell leaves the movies, he names Apollo 13’s command module Odyssey. The computer, Hal. He’s been to the moon once before, but only in orbit. Next year, he’ll be first to return. Commencing countdown, engines on. Fifth to walk its surface. To collect moon rocks for his son. Check ignition and may God’s love be with you. A routine stir of the oxygen tanks explodes Lovell’s hopes of ever landing on the moon, maybe even Earth. His arrival home is a miracle Hollywood calls a docu-drama.
17-year-old me goes to chemistry class. Finds a substitute fumbling with input settings
on the VCR. That blue screen of death. My classmates pull out other homework. Trigonometry. Grammar worksheets on comma usage. Everyone wants to get ahead, but all I want to know is if Jim Lovell makes it home. If the Bowie song on the trailer is an omen or a spoiler. Major Tom Hanks spinning for eternity across the Milky Way. Andromeda. Along with these Bunsen burners. My lab station. Ceiling tiles. This classroom is an observatory, and for the first time,
I see my name written in the CGI constellations. I’m stepping through the door. See the lead
in my mechanical pencil as rocket fuel. And I’m floating in the most peculiar way.
Anissa Lynne Johnson is a disabled writer and speaker from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in The Daily Drunk, Press Pause, Wig-Wag, and elsewhere. More often than not, Anissa can be found walking in the woods or watching the sort of movies that *sigh* never win awards. Say hello on Twitter @anissaljohnson.