Ceres (For Jean)

…psst…what’s he up to in there?…things…telescopes…not a clue…who knows…maybe he’s…shhh…pssst…maybe he’s lost it…lonely…grief…and all that…always was an oddball…shhh…not being mean but something was never quite …right…about him…psst…hard for him…lost her…yes but they weren’t even married…shhh…not even together…odd…strange things…what’s going on?…just what is he up to?…shhh…

 

Ceres Log – Stardate 2014.06.21:

And so it begins…

My mission. Purpose. The work that will consume my time, my all, for the foreseeable future. Ceres; my home town. Village. Hamlet. However you wish to describe it. A small oasis of beauty in the eastern reaches of Fife, Scotland. Let’s just call it the place where I live. The place where I have lived throughout my life. From the very first minute to now, sixty nine years later. It’s also the place where Jean lived all her life. My friend Jean. My best friend Jean. And, at times, my ONLY friend, Jean. I say ‘lived’ because, well, sadly Jean passed away recently. 68. No age for a woman with her spirit, her vitality, her personality. But she was afflicted with a disease that just would not sod off. Not for good anyway. It kept returning, again and again. Wave after wave. And no matter how resiliently Jean battled against it, eventually the bastard took her down. Took Jean down. My best friend. Took her away from me.

Friends. That’s what we were. That’s all we ever were. And that was ok. More than ok, in fact. It worked. For both of us. For both of us awkward, slightly anxious, more-than-slightly uncomfortable-in-our-own-skin human beings. There were times when, yes, a kiss seemed not too far away. The unspoken. The elephant in the room. But it never happened. And again, I’ll reiterate, that’s ok. Because I loved Jean. And she loved me. Love can exist without romance. But it can’t exist without friendship, without partnership. And that’s what we were; a partnership. Donald and Jean. Jean and Donald. That’s how everyone referred to us. One with the other. It was never any other way. Throughout school, university, adulthood. We were always there for each other. With each other. Supporting one another though triumphs, through grief, through life. And then she left me. Alone. Lost. Wondering what life could possibly have left to offer a lonely, socially-awkward 69 year old retired astrophysicist without his best friend to turn to for comfort and companionship.

And so this is why I’m here. Now. Why I’m writing this log. Why I’m starting this whole thing. Why I have all this equipment, all these tools, my telescope, laid out before me. I’m doing it for Jean. For her memory. For the memories of all those moments we shared together. The laughs, the tears, the newspapers read in comfortable, warm silence. I will see this through for her. For the love she gave me and I her. You see, Jean always dreamed of leaving Ceres. Temporarily anyway. She dreamed of travelling, far and wide and often. But her anxieties, and then latterly her health, wouldn’t allow it. Whereas I occasionally had to travel abroad for work, she never did. Writing romance novels for a living generally doesn’t demand much foreign travel, unless you desire it for research purposes of course. And Jean didn’t. And so, this is for Jean. My friend Jean. This is to help her fulfil her dreams. This is to allow her to see what she never thought she could see. This is for her. This is all for her.

 

…psst…he’s barely ever out of that house since…well…y’know…since what happened…shhh…he’s grieving…must be devastated…but…shhh…what is he up to?…not a clue…banging…crashing…mechanical whirring…bleeping…all day…all night…psst…he was a astrology physicist…shhh…astronomy…what?…pssst…what?…astronomy you idiot…astrology is horoscopes and that…shhh…never opens the curtains…always working…its almost like Wallace and Gromit…hahaha…what’s a Gromit?…never mind…look…just look……just what is he up to…?!…shhh…

 

Ceres Log – Stardate 2015.09.14:

Ceres is a town in east Fife, yes.

This we know. This I have already stated.

But Ceres is also a dwarf planet, settled in the asteroid belt somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It lies approximately 257 million miles away from Earth. It has a total diameter of roughly 587 miles. A day on Ceres lasts almost nine earth hours, and it takes 4.6 earth years to revolve around the sun. It was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi all the way back in 1801. And then it was discovered by Jean in the early 1990s. Well, like all these numbers and calculations, I say that approximately. And when I say discovered by Jean, I mean she spotted it through my telescope. And we were looking for it. So ‘seen by’ may be more accurate but let’s stick with ‘discovered by’ shall we, it sounds far more scientific and I’m sure Jean would have approved.

This fascinated Jean. She, who had barely ever left this town and who had loved it for its reclusiveness and its quietude, could scarcely believe that her home shared a name with one the solar systems largest objects. A dwarf planet no less. Talk about town twinning. The fact that the dwarf planet Ceres was named after a Roman God and not in fact the town itself mattered little to her. It filled her with a sense of wonder. A sense of insignificance but in a good, grounding kind of way. A whittling down of all problems, tedious or otherwise, into an irrelevance when the vastness of our existence was taken into account. She knew, as we all do of course, that James Wilson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, had come from Ceres, the town, and that had in turn garnered some outsider knowledge of the place, but this…this to her was extraordinary.

From then Jean became almost as fascinated in space, in astrophysics, as I was and am. She would constantly ask me to locate Ceres on my telescope, even accompanying me once to the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh – a trip which took a hell of a lot for Jean – to try to locate the dwarf planet. And that blossomed into a desire to know more, to learn the constellations, to be able to locate them, to understand more about the planets in our solar system, the visible stars located in other galaxies. It even renewed my love in the subject, truth be told. I have always, and will always, love astrophysics, space. That is undeniable. But when you work with the subject every single day, when it consumes your life, you tend to forget the unhinged wonder, naivety even, that greets your initial flirtation with space and all its wonder. She even started watching Star Trek with me. Of all the things. I would often catch Jean staring up at the skies, especially on a cool cloudless autumn or winter night, just staring. Gasping as she took in the starry, wondrous, firmament above us. On more occasions than I can recall she would head out to the back garden to put something in the bin and that would be the last I would hear of her for a good half an hour or so. Frequently I would wander out and catch her gazing towards the stars. Usually shivering away yet caring not. Her dreams of travelling the world had blossomed into a dream – a silly, unrealistic dream she knew of course – of seeing space, of exploring the Ceres 250-odd million miles away from her living room. She felt its grandeur; she felt the enormity of it all. And it comforted her.

And that’s why I’m still toiling away on this. I will finish it. I have to and I will. Despite what the doctor tells me about taking it easy and resting more often. About taking my medication. Time spent on other thing, on anything else, is time lost. Time wasted. I can’t let Jean down. And I won’t let Jean down.

 

…psst…he’s still at it…surely not…as I live and breathe he’s still going…shhh…despite the…shhh!…despite the doctors telling him…despite his…y’know, his…his…shhh…the ambulance was there again last week…determined to get it finished…psst…they say he doesn’t have long…shhh…determined to finish it…what is it?!…psst…a space rocket or something…that’s what a nurse I know said a doctor told a nurse she knows…hahaha…is it?…don’t know…poor old man…isn’t well…mind must have went…shhhh!…it’s a shame…shouldn’t be on his own in the house like that…shhh…

 

Ceres Log – Stardate 2017.08.17:

Not long now.

In every way.

I will finish this. I’m almost finished. I can’t stop now. Not with my health gone. If I don’t finish now then it has all been for nothing. I would be a failure. I would have let Jean down. No. Jean and myself. I would let both of us down. I don’t care how much rest I need. I don’t care how long they say I’ve got left. I will not sleep. I will not eat. Until this is done. Just a couple of things now. Phone keeps ringing. Door keeps knocking. Journalists. Doctors. Neighbours. Nosey, the lot of them. Worried about me. Wanting my story. Wanting anything. Can’t understand why I am doing this. Why I’m refusing help. Well I just need to adjust a few calculations – always calculations, it always was calculations – and I’ll be ready. It will be ready. We’ll all be ready.

There’s a series of very bright white spots on Ceres. You can see that in pictures. Through the telescope. Salty ice it is believed. The brightest cluster sits in Occator, a crater some fifty miles wide. That’s the target. That’s the destination.

That’s the end point.

 

…pssst…they say he only has days left…poor man…very ill for a long time…not right…mentally…shhh…curtains never open…losing her hit him hard…shhh…still…crazy though…I mean…trying to launch something into space…hahaha…shhh!…leave him alone…of course it’s crazy…it’d never work…forget it though…poor guy…not long left now…psst…

 

Ceres Log – Stardate 2017.09.02:

Done.

No turning back now.

We have lift off.

For my friend.

For Jean.

 

…psst…that was where he lived…there?…apparently the crater in his garden is huge…shhh…when did it happen?…a couple of years back…psst…look you can still see some of the trees next to the house…look at them…dead…shhh…still can’t believe it…no-one thought he could do it…no-one?…no-one…but he did…remember seeing it on the news…from Ceres to Ceres…still can’t believe it…shhh…no-one can…even had NASA here…in Ceres…believe that?…what a guy…died the next day…after it landed on Ceres?…no, the day after he launched it…had no idea if it would get there or not…been sick for a long time…shhh…had notes and diaries left lying around…all for his friend…who?…his friend Jean…all just to send her urn…just to spread her ashes…on the surface of Ceres…just crashed it…intentionally crashed the thing into one of the craters…spent his entire life savings…all of it…all for his friend…for Jean…shhh…

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