No, it’s not that different here. A dirty toilet is still a dirty toilet. The design isn’t the same, of course, because we can’t waste water here, but they still have to be cleaned every day. It all goes out to the surface, did you know that? They showed us the waste treatment plant as part of the orientation. They expose it to vacuum, and that kills all the bugs, and then it gets turned into fertilizer.
The low gravity makes it a bit easier. The cart weighs a lot less, for one thing, and it isn’t anywhere near as hard to do all the stooping and bending that you have to do. But it works against you, too. When you change the sheets, you toss the top sheet over the bed, like so, and see? It can take forever to drift down. But you get used to it. You can get used to anything. That’s the lesson about living here.
I don’t have to clean windows, so that’s a plus. The original design had windows in every room, but they were concerned about pressure leaks and radiation. So they sealed up the rooms and put all the windows in the rooftop lounge. There’s radiation shielding up there; it’s not supposed to be any worse to work in there than it is to be an airline flight attendant, or so they say. All I know is that I don’t have to clean windows or futz around with curtains, so that’s something nice.
And of course there aren’t TV sets in here, so one less thing to dust. You brought your iPad, same as I did, so who needs to watch TV? TVs are big and heavy and expensive to ship up here, despite all the advances in rocket science. That’s why all the furniture in here is aluminum, because that’s something we can mine and manufacture right here. It’s a lot cheaper to do that than it is to bring up wooden furniture from Sweden or wherever. Maybe one day they’ll have trees growing here but I kind of doubt it.
Some people miss the trees. I don’t. I’m allergic to all that stuff. Before I came here I worked at a resort in the Bahamas, which was great, because palm trees don’t give off the same kind of pollen you get back home. And there was water everywhere you looked. I miss water. I mean, I miss having it cheap and available. I would give a lot to be able to go swimming, just for awhile, or even to take a long, hot shower. But all I have to do is wait two more years until I can leave. I can wait that long, I think.
It’s a five-year contract. The way it works, if you get picked, you spend six weeks doing training. How to work the airlocks, what to do if there’s an emergency, that kind of thing. Then they send you up on the rocket, and you stay here for five years. When they send you back home, they have to put you through six months of rehab. But it’s nice. It’s set up like a spa, and you get to eat pretty much whatever you want and get massages and spend your time working out to build up your strength. Once you’re cleared, you can get a transfer anywhere in the company where there’s a job open.
I need to get to the next room. If you want to follow me, you can, but I can’t stay here and talk all day. I have to finish this pod up before lunch, and then get to the next pod before I can get out of here.
They do the contracts for five years because they figured out that’s the most you can stay up here and still be able to function once you get home. If they rotate staff in and out of here any faster than that, they start to lose money. If you fall down and break your leg and they have to send you home, that’s a loss on the books. So they want you to stay for as long as you can because it costs so much to train your replacement and put them on the rocket.
You can make money here, though. Part of that is because there isn’t anything to buy, but the pay is good. I’m going to get out of here not owing any money on my college loans. I was at the University of Memphis, but I didn’t graduate. I was working on my degree in hotel management when my mom got sick. I dropped out, and I was able to support her and my little sister, but not make enough money to pay back the loans.
Once my contract is over, and I get paid, I am not coming back. Nobody wants to stay up here full-time, not even the scientists. Outside of them, we have three industries here; mining, manufacturing, and tourism. You don’t want to work in any of those jobs long-term if you can avoid it.
My friend Neil works here as a bartender. He has an economics degree, and he was telling me that the Moon is a Third World country. Did you know that? We’re like an island in the Caribbean. We import nearly everything and export raw materials, and then use the tourist trade to make the trade balance more even. Neil says there are exploitation colonies and settlement colonies, and this is an exploitation colony because nobody wants to settle here.
The problem with exploitation colonies is that everyone is trying to make money and nobody is trying to build a stable society or develop institutions. We don’t have anything close to an institution. There isn’t a government because nobody wants to stay up here long enough to run it. There aren’t any laws because they can’t pay people enough to come here and enforce them. So gambling is legal here, that, and prostitution.
They didn’t tell you about that? It’s true. Two of my suitemates are prostitutes. They’re nice people; they just got into debt back on Earth and this was the best way they had to get out of it. They work for the mining company. Technically, they’re support staff, but they don’t do anything but go over to the miners’ R&R compound–it’s the next set of pods over from here–and have sex with them three days a week.
The miners have it worse than anyone. They’re all single guys. A lot of them are Chinese who couldn’t get wives back home. They have to be single because they can’t have kids–you have to agree to get a vasectomy in that kind of job because of the radiation and the kind of long-term exposure you get from being on the surface all that time. They have the same five-year contract we have, and you can’t expect them to go without for five years. So they brought up women. Paula and Ashley–those are my suitemates–they make good money from the mining company, but they also freelance over here in the tourist area on their days off. It’s very lucrative, or so they say. I wouldn’t know.
Not that I don’t have sex or anything. I have a boyfriend. His name is Tom. He’s a sous-chef, and he works nights, so I hardly ever get to see him, but when we do get around to it, it’s something. Acrobatic, almost. You can do positions in the low gravity that you’d have to be a gymnast to do back home.
Look. This is my suitemate’s card. If you’re really that hard up, send her a text if you want. I’m not interested, thank you very much.
No, I don’t think you’re weird. I don’t blame you for being curious. It’s a new experience. The whole thing is weird, when you think about it, having sex on the moon. Think about it. Up until ten years ago, when they figured out how to build the advanced rockets, there had been just ten people on the moon, total, and they were dying off. I never thought I would make it to the Moon, and here I am. My sister’s kid thinks I’m some kind of hero, an astronaut or something. And maybe I am. But here I am, on the Moon, and here you are, on the Moon, and all either one of us is thinking about is sex. I think that’s amazing. We haven’t advanced all that much as people, or I don’t think so.
Sure, the sex here is great, but it’s not what you’d call romantic. It’s not a romantic place, the Moon. You’d think it would be, but it isn’t. It was my birthday last month, and Tom took me up to the rooftop lounge for dinner. I borrowed a dress from Paula, and all I could think about the whole time I was wearing it was how many times it had been wadded up on the same floors that I clean every day.
But it was a nice dinner. The whole time, we sat there, staring at the Earth. It’s beautiful. And you get to see it the way the astronauts saw it, the original explorers. We danced for awhile, and then Tom showed me some of the other stars. One of them he said was Jupiter, but I kind of had to take his word for it. He said that was where we’ll be going next, to the moons of Jupiter. I don’t know about that, but if we get there, not too long after, there’ll be somebody like me that has to clean up after them. I don’t know what that says about humanity, but to be honest with you, I think it’s kind of comforting. We need each other, even out here.
Curtis Edmonds is an attorney living in New Jersey and has heard all the jokes. He is a frequent contributor to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and his work has also appeared in The Big Jewel, Yankee Pot Roast, and the Tulane Maritime Law Journal. He recently completed a novel, RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY, and is seeking representation.