Looking over at Philip, Nina tries to imagine what it is like to be dead. Is it how it was before he was born, before he was alive?

A contradiction. Impossible to imagine his or, for that matter, her own nonexistence.

Yet an astrophysicist—an astrophysicist like Lorna—would know how to exist in abstract spaces, spaces with completely different geometrical properties that extend the methods of vector algebra and calculus and the two-dimensional Euclidean plane to ones with any finite or infinite number of dimensions. Hilbert space, momentum space, reciprocal space, phase space.

Spaces Nina knows nothing about.


There she is!

Nina envisions curly-haired Lorna, with her skinny arms covered with freckles spread out in a perfect T, expertly navigating her way in the blinding space in which Uranus and Neptune orbit around the sun—she who did not know how to drive a car!—wearing the mismatched ballet flats: the one silver, the other black.

She is impervious to the cold—the temperature on Neptune averages minus 218 degrees Centigrade.

She is impervious to the wind—the winds on Neptune blow up to 2,100 kilometers an hour.

Yet Lorna manages to stay serenely aloft and steer her appointed course. And, oh, the blue. Lorna marvels at the color of the two planets. Never in her whole life could she have imagined such vibrant colors! The result, she knows all too well, of the absorption of red light by atmospheric methane in the outermost regions of the planets. At the same time, she cannot help noticing that Neptune’s blue is a brighter, richer blue than the blue of Uranus, which she is tempted to describe as aquamarine. Her mother, she has just enough memory to remember, wore an aquamarine ring and the stone, she claimed, came from a country in South America. Peru. But she must not let herself become distracted by unscientific thoughts. The planet’s aquamarine color could be the result of an as yet unknown atmospheric constituent.

If only she had the time to discover what that constituent might be.

She wishes she could linger here on Uranus; spend a summer day that could last several years or sleep for a night that lasts longer.

The thought of it makes Lorna yawn.

And if only Lorna could describe those blues, or paint them.

Nina blinks, then opens her eyes wide.

Was she dreaming?

She must have fallen asleep.

The image of Lorna in space lingers in her head.

Round and round she will go, always returning to her starting point, since Lorna believes in a finite universe.

Nina is tempted to wave to her.

To say bon voyage.