Big Bang

fiction by jeff goldthorpe

Can I have everyone's attention please? We're in the planetarium today to get acquainted with the autumn constellations.

What did he say? Acquainted with what? Is my light-headedness from swivel chair dizziness or synthetic twilight's creep? Leaning back in chair, my body feels wired, tight but floating. Heart pounds ready to stop any moment, breath glimmers. A twinkling ache in tender swollen throat. Couldn't be. Throat culture taken for strep. Couldn't ask if it's. Couldn't be.

And if there are any questions about Friday's lecture on the Big Bang and Steady State theories, feel free to raise them as well.

The lithe dancer I spent the night with reappears through swarms of students every week, Walkman tape player earphones glued on. Looks more pale and gaunt than usual. But can't talk to him, haven't talked in years, swimming by alone in the current.

You will need to remember a number of these constellations for your next quiz. For starters, let's take a look at Cygnus the Swan, over here.

I'm healthy, don't want to be branded. If I ask, the nurse's brisk routine would stumble into stutter into "One moment, please," reappearing a few minutes later with address of special testing clinic. She will hand it over to me at maximum distance, like the fencers touch their swords at start of match. What if someone saw me go to testing clinic? Don't want to know.

Professor Rennick, is it true that every galaxy is flying away from every other galaxy at an ever greater velocity?

The first scare was in 1983: Tom. Brief affair had been in 1981. By 1983 we were both in steady relationships. He with a man, I with a woman. Tom spoke of the scare he and his lover had had: They'd both been tired, their lymph node glands had been swollen. A flash passed between Tom's eyes and mine. "But it was nothing," he said. We've crossed paths less and less since then.

Professor Rennick: Maybe it just appears from our position in the Milky Way that all the other galaxies are receding from each other. What if they are actually only moving away from us?

I worked as a dishwasher at a restaurant on Castro Street in 1984. When a customer came in who was obviously a victim of the disease, the waitress recommended I put his dishes in a separate dishpan, instead of the sink, "just in case. " I'd heard there was only a minor possibility you could get it from saliva, but there had been some exceptional cases which raised questions. The man ate an enormous amount. So by the time I lugged this dishpan full of dishes, hot water and clorox into the alley way, I almost sprained my back. We talked about it a lot at the restaurant. Should we volunteer at Project Shanti? Should the baths be shut down? I began to see leaflets for benefits for the victims. One showed a picture of a healthy, sexy, vibrant young man, stripped to the waist, wearing feathers in his hair, glitter on his face, paint on his chest. After getting fired, I was happy to leave the neighborhood.

The apparent shift of the galaxies away from our own is not the only evidence we have of the Big Bang; there is also evidence of background radiation still in motion, coming evenly in all directions, a sort of distant echo from the Big Bang.

Getting fired was: talking to my friend on the phone (who had helped me get the job originally, when he quit), who told me that the restaurant owner said my co-workers were talking about problems they had working with me. Owner had to fire me after the Christmas rush. After hearing that, I quit a few days before Christmas. So it was good to leave the neighborhood. I was escaping from it. I did not consider myself as part of the high-risk group. I was comforted by the blank unknown faces of a new neighborhood. Silent closed faces on the bus, crawling through traffic jams to school.

But the real question about the Big Bang is: will it continue to expand forever or will it collapse into itself?

I have two friends on opposite sides of the country with friends who are dying. Now I hear people saying that the incubation period could be 10 or 15 years. Not only will the upward curve of victims continue. but more people will be giving birth to children with the disease, and more will simply be afraid to reproduce. I cannot tell my new friends either. I know they will try to sympathize. But they will visit me in my new apartment less often. It's easier to call by phone. Phone voices will be muted, then recede into static. They will flinch when I hug them. How can I object? Just think of my friend Larry, who disappeared for years in the corridors of mental hospitals and welfare hotels, reappearing ragged, and I kissed him on the cheek and not on the lips as I used to, because of flash fear: UNCLEAN.

It depends on the amount of matter in the universe. If there is less than critical mass it will be insufficient to stop the expansion.

Can't talk about it with the woman I live with.

The stars cool and die, matter itself decays and the universe becomes a thin cold haze of elementary particles.

by Jeff Goldthorpe