If Their Love Were The Biosphere
She opened her eyes in the middle of their inadequate passion and said, “Is our relationship like the Biosphere?”
“Uh,” he said. “Which biosphere?”
He was only too able to pick up the thread of her thoughts. To forget what her hands were doing, and the rest. It said a lot. If their love were the Biosphere she wondered if the moment had come when the grass in the miniature savannah was wilting.
“What do you mean which?” she said.
“The real biosphere — like the whole world — or the fake one?”
“Biosphere II. The experiment in the desert. It isn’t fake.” Not yet, she told herself. Though I was thinking of making it fake. Or other possibilities. She tried to muffle the heresy within herself and couldn’t; even the word possibilities was splendidly dangerous and ignoble.
“I don’t know,” he said, blinking. “That’s sad, I think. Didn’t the plants keep dying?”
“They –” she almost said cheated “– added stuff. Nutrients. The plants are okay. It just changed the experiment.”
“Changed it how?”
She was surprised how relevant it seemed, and how game he was to discuss it. Perhaps it wouldn’t be cheating, exactly. It would be something mutual. “You know, opened it up to the outside.”
“Wasn’t that a long time ago?” he said, regretfully now, as though by mentioning the Biosphere at all she’d reinjured some old romantic wound of his.
“Everyone just stopped paying attention,” she said. “There’s still people in there, not just plants. They’re doing fine.” She heard her voice rise. She felt as though she were reassuring him suddenly, though what reassurance he would take from the health of the Biosphere’s inhabitants she couldn’t fathom.
“I read about it today.”
“Do they know?” he said, suddenly urgent. Not urgent in the way she’d been wishing — that fine urgency was remoter than ever. They disentangled their legs.
“Inside, do they know that the stuff, the nutrients, were introduced?” He turned away. His eyes flickered as he considered the problem, the to him now wholly real and urgent problem. “Are they being fooled? What do they think is happening? Do they know that nobody’s paying attention anymore?”
She pictured them, unbearably poignant through his eyes: as though the Biosphere people really were on Mars, or in a generational spaceship like the ones on Battlestar Galactica, a fragile self-sustaining environment in utter, constant peril. As though a rupture in the glass enclosure over their little world would leave those brave voyagers starved and gasping.
The image of the Biosphere had shifted again; it was a little out of her control.
In fact, she thought, the inhabitants’ only danger was absurd: in staying too long in the poisoned enclosure. If they were freed it would be to rejoin the healthy, vital people everywhere walking the Earth. The free people of Earth.
“They aren’t children,” she said, a little meanly. Her finger traced the checkered pattern of their flannel sheets. “Nobody’s fooling them. They’re inside the Biosphere voluntarily.”
“Then who’s fooling who?” His eyes flickered to hers, and this time it was she who turned away.
She was a little tired of it all now, and wished she could withdraw her facile comparison. He’d warped it. She wasn’t the least interested in the people inside and their feelings, only the sphere itself. If that. But she couldn’t explain, and only said: “What do you mean?”
“I mean for whose benefit?” His voice called to her from an oddly distant place now. “If they’re not fooling the people inside, and outside nobody’s paying any attention, what’s it for? What’s the point?”
Fair enough, she thought. Let the Biosphere die.
In fact, she realized now she wanted to crawl off through the tall grass and urinate on the roots of some delicate, essential plants, alfalfa or bok choi.
Let it die screaming.
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