There’s a moment as the balloon finally bursts when Armando thinks he’s made it; he’s free. Free to drift forever, free to spin until his tank runs dry, free to chase the moon until solar winds push him in and down to dust.
But no. The balloon bursts and the gently curving arc of the globe wheels sickeningly away and down he goes, down toward clouds and noise, atmosphere and wind. Soon he can’t tell whether he’s falling or not — it’s silent, and there’s no feeling of motion after the first terrible jolt. He lets himself despair for one long, aching moment, arms stretching hopelessly out for the moon, so close now.
Thinking is difficult. The chute presses hard against his back, reminding him of his cowardice, his inability to commit. The moon comes over the horizon as he falls, nearly dark, its face forever turned away. He cracks open along its familiar face, shattered pieces spinning desperately in place, bound together by his love.
The ground unfolds beneath him, wide as his love. He curses its broad familiarity, but already another plan is forming. Time and gravity are against him, but life is motion, as inescapable as the tides.