There is a layer of the atmosphere floating above the earth known as the thermosphere. During daylight hours it heats up to about 2000 degrees Celsius. The thermosphere is cold enough that flesh would freeze almost instantly, if it were not for the immense vacuum present.

Everyday I go to the community pool. It helps me control my primitive aggression; so I don't act on it. It used to be that I measured distance in yards and laps. I didn't think that a person, a girl could change the way I perceive distance. She couldn't. All the same, I now measure distance in miles.

The thermosphere begins at 80 kilometers above the surface of the earth. That is 49.7 miles. The thermosphere is the largest layer of the atmosphere, and it is here where the phenomenon known as ionization occurs.

It is quiet in the apartment. A ceiling fan crackles like an old skipping record. It is cold, cause I like the cold. You don't like it, but you deal. Besides, that is what blankets are for, and it makes you get closer.

Touch.

The sun, in the shape of a 6 pane window, tracks from the floor to the ceiling.

Another evening.

The clouds come.

Well spent.

The ionosphere is located in the thermosphere. It occurs because of the vast influx of solar radiation bombarding what little atmospheric matter is available, ionizing it, making it sympathetic to the radio signals blasted in all directions from the surface of the earth.

It got to the point where I had a hard time keeping track of how many laps I had done, how far I was swimming. 64 laps is a mile. It is hard to keep numbers like that in your head when you keep getting drawn to less concrete thoughts.

Like how everything seems perfect.

'Amazing.'

She laughs, her eyes half closed.

It hasn't been easy to get this far... and every time I stop to think about it I'm not sure if it is worth getting started again. So far, but so much farther left to go.

You have these doubts, and I am not willing to leave here thinking that I manipulated you into doing something you didn't want to do. I can't. But I want to.

A voice crackles over an antiquated television set in the basement. There is a problem somewhere in the wiring, now it picks up radio signals from god knows where. I believe in God now.

And I'm not sure if that is your fault. Or if I'm glad.

Sometimes the voices are truckers, spilling their testosterone through the sky, into each other's cabs. The first time I heard it, I was scared shitless. I grabbed a knife, and tip-toed down into the dark abyss. My heart thundered. I could hear the voices cackling from a corner... I turned off the T.V. and the voices stopped. I bet crazy people wish it were that easy.

If extraterrestrials came to earth, and they intercepted the glimmering radiation that we pump through our atmosphere, they would know exactly how we wished we felt. I've been in the situations that I see and I read about. But I never feel like I do when I'm not involved; when it is fake.

'Why, what is wrong?'

'Nothing is wrong, it seems too right, that is what's wrong...'

'I don't understand...'

You hug me.

I die a little.

'I wish I could feel what you are feeling, 'cause this seems right to me.'

'I should go.'

Damn.

I bring pennies to the gym now. I bring them, one at a time, from one side of the pool to the other. 32 pennies is a mile. A mile is 32 pennies, 64 laps. It is so much easier to count in miles than in laps. Now I can think about you when I swim, and not lose track. I would anyway, but I swim faster like this. Thanks. I bring them across, and back. It never stops, but it gets less potent, until I towel off, still sweating.

You like Frank Sinatra. His voice is being bounced off the ionosphere as we speak. I bet it is lonely up there. Come back down Frankie. My old broken T.V. is on.

I could be like Frank Sinatra, swimming through the heavens before I am reflected back to earth. I don't know if Frank Sinatra went to heaven, but I don't think I will.

49 point 7 miles. 3181 laps. 1591 pennies. I could swim through the sky like the drama we wish we had. The feelings that we wish we had. The ones we pump into the sky as a testament to what we are too overcome with during the moment to appreciate. For fifteen dollars and ninety-one cents, that could be all me. Until I get reflected back to earth.

'I just wanted to start out by saying, this is so not me. I've never gone to bat like this for anyone. Every time that I've been in this situation I've just let them walk. I've never tried to stop them from walking out. I guess it is because I've never felt as though I was losing something that I could never get back... and, well, that is how I feel...'

'I'm glad you talked to me about this... this is like a second opportunity for me to re-evaluate this whole thing...'

The T.V. chatters downstairs. No truckers this time... sounds like Spanish. You put on my sweater and pull a blanket on top of you from the couch.

'Okay.'

'I'll get back to you by Thursday.'

'You don't have to make homework out of this...'

'I do.'

Damn.

4 days. 16 miles. Five dollars and twelve cents. Funny how almost drowning yourself can make you feel so good.

When you came over to talk about it, it wasn't the first thing out of your mouth. I had my answer before you finished your first sentence. Half an hour later, you would confirm what I already knew.

I never knew something could be so hot and so cold at the same time.

2000 degrees. And it's freezing up here.

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