It was supposed to be my greatest moment. The greatest moment in our country’s history.
I was ready. More than ready. I’d done all my training, went through the simulations so many times that I woke in the night to find my hands in the air, performing operations on an imaginary dashboard.
So, I couldn’t believe it when the doctors told me what they’d found on my x-ray. Four days before launch, they told me I couldn’t go. They would send someone else instead.
I watched it all on TV, the moment that should’ve been mine. The preparations, people scurrying around the spacecraft like industrious mice. The interviews: how long it would take to get there, how comfortable it would be, living on the new space station, how the cosmonauts would eat and relieve themselves. The laughing replies, the indulgent words for the children watching at home.
They should’ve been mine.
Something tightened in my chest when they launched into a new chapter of our history. I almost thought that the doctors were right. That it was best not to go.
But my heart said otherwise.
The shivering started when I heard what they found twenty-three days later: three corpses floating in the sea. Blue bloodied faces, the air sucked out of them on the way home. I shivered and shivered and couldn’t stop, not until I went to bed that night and wrapped the duvet around myself.
I couldn’t imagine what they must have looked like, dead. I could only see them as they were, living, breathing, laughing about space toilets.
And it wasn’t what they thought it was after all - the shadow on my lung, the one that kept me on Earth. It was just an allergy. I could’ve gone after all.
I could’ve made history.