"Mission time" or MET (Mission Elapsed Time). That's what I was calling it; made it less real, more fun, and yet important: on a mission. Like the Apollo space program (which, at the time, I was reading a really long trilogy about). Imagining a "mission control" out there, monitoring our telemetry, reading our updates and log entries, and then offering supportive words (should something go wrong in the dark of deep space) worked very well for me as a mind salve.
Hey Meg (that's me -- talking to myself), reality time: not space... Earth! And nobody's listening, except maybe, Mom -- thanks Mom. Yup, reality bites. To survive, one needs to implement ninja, reality-deflection techniques. A heroic, one-way mission to Mars, or Titan, or even the moon is a lot more fun than the grinding, degrading, endless uncertainty of another day. Don't get me wrong. I haven't always been on a mission to Mars. For the longest time I've thought that my entire life is an anesthesia induced, hyper-real nightmare. Out there, in reality somewhere, I've been in a freak car accident, and my mangled body is being worked over by a team of frantic surgeons. I'll wake up to my real life, surrounded by family and friends. I'll shake off the nightmare -- it'll be a hard recovery, but with time and support, the screams will fade. I'm pretty sure, way, way out there past the anesthetic curtain, I'm a good person; loved, appreciated, needed, and most of all -- safe.
Things got real when I keyed the diesel to life. Then, in the sweet smell of our own exhaust, we untied the mooring lines. Tee-minus: ten, nine, eight... main engine start... launch pad: clear of spectators, well wishers... seven, six... the pad better be clear, anyone near a Saturn V would be incinerated. Three, two... one... zero... we have lift off!
Captain (that's me) to the helm. One foot on the boat's deck, leg muscles heaving my body upward, and I have the most exquisite memory of my weight leaving that floating concrete dock. Amazing, how memory perfectly preserves those last times. The boat (vessel, ship, command module, crew habitat) was adrift. The crew (that's Elena) guided the vessel from its gantry (slip: marina parking spot) with familiar precision. In the last second, she flung herself from the launch umbilical tower and onto the ship -- and never mind the exhaust, but that crew's a sucker for hydrazine.
The water: calm -- not a ripple. The sky: perpetual, California blue. San Diego hummed. The airport roared. Gulls screamed. Freeways rumbled. Lump in my throat kind of hurt. Elena, up front, gazed forward, watching for obstacles. Silently, we picked up speed.
Mission control, we've cleared the tower.