B-Side 03: “Space”

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B-Side 03: As Adam Ainsley waits to meet a blind date on Christmas Eve, an odd conversation with a stranger becomes something else entirely.

Starring Sam Taylor as Doctor Ren Park and Trevor Van Winkle as Adam Ainsley, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written by Trevor Van Winkle and produced by Trevor Van Winkle and Virginia Spotts, and made possible by our supporters at Patreon.com/homesteadcorner and ko-fi.com/homesteadcorner

For more information, additional content, and episode transcript, visit thesheridantapes.com

Script

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Transcript

[Vast, empty sound of space]

[Echoing voices, air conditioning]

[Tapping on metal rail]

Adam Ainsley

[Sighs]

[Pulls out phone and dials]

Anna! Hi, uh, listen — are you sure you told them the right place? I’ve been here for what, like… Twenty minutes? Only twenty minutes? Geez Ainsley. I haven’t seen any sign of him. Is he… No, no, I’m not saying you would, I’m just…

[Signs]

Right, right… Fine. Yeah, yeah. I’ll wait a little longer. Yeah, you too.

[Hangs up]

[Impatient noises]

[Groans]

Where the heck are they? I know this is a blind date, but aren’t I supposed to actually see them at some point? I mean…

[Footsteps]

Oh. Hello.

Ren Park

Hello.

Adam Ainsley

That’s uh… That’s my spot.

Ren Park

Your spot?

Adam Ainsley

I mean — I was waiting for someone there.

Ren Park

Waiting? Seems you’ve found someone, I’d say.

Adam Ainsley

[Chuckles]

Okay, Yoda. But seriously, I’m supposed to meet up with someone here.

Ren Park

Exactly here?

Adam Ainsley

Yeah, yeah, exactly here. See, look…

[Pulls out phone]

“Griffith Observatory, Edge of Space mezzanine, right next to the Observing Telescopes. 6pm sharp.”

Ren Park

Huh. I guess so. Here, you can have your spot back.

Adam Ainsley

Thanks.

[Footsteps]

[Tapping resumes]

[Slight creak as one of the telescopes moves]

Ren Park

So… Who are you waiting for?

Adam Ainsley

Oh, uh… Blind date. A friend of mine set it up.

Ren Park

Seems they’re running late, then.

Adam Ainsley

Well, Anna said they’re usually pretty busy… And that they have a tendency to forget about things.

Ren Park

Really? What else did… Anna? What else did she say about them?

Adam Ainsley

Well… Not much, really. Just enough to get me interested, I’m guessing.

Ren Park

And what’s that?

Adam Ainsley

Well… That they love astrophysics, mostly. And that they’re one of the smartest people she knows, so… Yeah. Figured it was worth a shot.

Ren Park

Is that high praise, do you think? Coming from her, I mean?

Adam Ainsley

Eh… Mostly. I’m not really sure, we don’t really know each other that well. We just reconnected the last time she was in New York.

Ren Park

You’re from back east?

Adam Ainsley

Yeah, Rochester. You?

Ren Park

Florida. Actually grew up pretty close to Cape Canaveral.

Adam Ainsley

No way.

Ren Park

[Chuckles]

Yeah. Spent most of my childhood watching shuttle launches. Sparked a bit of a… A Lifelong obsession, to be honest.

Adam Ainsley

God… Ever get to see one of them up close?

Ren Park

Only after they were retired. Saw Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center a few times before I moved out here. And I stop by to see Endeavour whenever I feel like risking downtown traffic. You?

Adam Ainsley

Enterprise.

Ren Park

Oh, now I’m jealous. Always wanted to see that one.

Adam Ainsley

Well don’t turn green on me. I only got to see it from across the harbor. The Intrepid was closed for renovations when I came to visit.

Ren Park

Still… To boldly go, right?

Adam Ainsley

I guess. To be honest, I always thought it was a bit of a misnomer.

Ren Park

Really?

Adam Ainsley

Well… You think Enterprise, you think long journeys into the far reaches of space, right? You think of…

[Gestures]

That.

Ren Park

A giant photo of the Virgo cluster?

Adam Ainsley 

Possibilities. Billions of stars and trillions of planets, just waiting to be explored. Even if half of them did end up looking like Vasquez Rocks. And the shuttle program never even got out of orbit. Did you know it was supposed to be part of a bigger space program?

Ren Park

I think I’ve heard that.

Adam Ainsley

I mean, we could have had astronauts on Mars by 1983. We could have had nuclear rockets going back and forth from the moon by now, for crying out loud! And what do we have? Billionaires throwing cars into the depths of space? Internet satellites? Come on.

Ren Park

I guess that’s as big as people can dream right now.

Adam Ainsley

Look at where we’re standing! They can clearly dream bigger!

Ren Park

People can dream as big as they like… It’s actually facing that bigness they have trouble with. And you don’t get much bigger than…

(gestures to wall) All of that.

Adam Ainsley

I guess not. Still — I wish I could have seen that future.

Ren Park

Hey, you still might.

Adam Ainsley

You’re right — Maybe I could tow some rich guy’s roadster into space for him someday.

Ren Park

No, I mean… Things change. People change. They just need to see what’s possible. That’s why I love this place so much.

Adam Ainsley

Huh. Fair enough. I just like it cause all my favorite movies were filmed here.

Ren Park

[Chuckles]

No, that’s good. We love what we love for our own reasons. Or no reason at all. It’s all the same. I mean, in the grandest scheme, none of it really matters anyway.

Adam Ainsley

Doesn’t it?

Ren Park

Nothing we can directly affect. I mean — here, try this telescope.

[Footsteps]

[Telescope squeaks]

Adam Ainsley

Okay… What am I looking at here?

Ren Park

Space.

Adam Ainsley

Oh, very funny.

Ren Park

No, really. That’s what it looks like from earth — a blank, empty section of space between the Virgo and Leo constellations, so small you can cover it up with one fingertip.

Adam Ainsley

[Scoffs]

It sure as hell doesn’t look empty to me.

Ren Park

Exactly. You’re seeing a massive, blown up image of the Virgo Cluster, the center of which is nearly 54 million light years from earth. There are at least 13 hundred galaxies scattered throughout it, so bright that the intergalactic medium between them glows with diffused starlight. Each of those galaxies is home to at least hundreds of millions of stars, billions of planets, and potentially thousands of worlds able to support life.

Adam Ainsley

Okay… Space is very very big and very very empty. You know, I did actually take Astronomy 101 when I was in college.

Ren Park

No. That’s just the thing. It’s not empty. It just seems that way because we can’t see — or affect it — at the proper scale. It’s packed to the gills. It’s bursting with matter and energy, and probably full of life forms whose very existence would be horrifyingly incomprehensible to us. But for all that… We haven’t found a single piece of evidence for extraterrestrial life anywhere. Which, to me, says that even with a 360 degree view of the universe out to the cosmological horizon, we’ve yet to find a civilization capable of changing even a tiny piece of their galaxy enough for us to notice. So ultimately…

Adam Ainsley

Nothing we do matters. The universe doesn’t care.

Ren Park

Why should it? It didn’t ask for us to be here. And there are a near infinite number of cosmic phenomena out there that could destroy the Earth too quickly for us to realize, and, as far as we know, no one out there would even notice our absence if they did.

[Silence]

[Footsteps]

Adam Ainsley

I bet you’re really fun at parties, aren’t you.

Ren Park

Actually, I am. Sorry, it’s just… Big picture stuff has a tendency to make me a little existential.

Adam Ainsley

So what’s the point then?

Ren Park

What do you mean?

Adam Ainsley

Well, if nothing we do matters — if it’s all going to end in tragedy no matter what — then why should I bother? Why am I waiting here to meet someone? Why was I actually hoping I might have a chance with this person? Nobody’s going to remember it happened, much less care. So what’s the point?

[Silence]

Ren Park

Look around. What do you see?

Adam Ainsley

Huh? Uh, well…

[Sound of the crowd grows louder]

The lower floor of Griffith Observatory? The meteorite exhibit, and the scale model of the solar system? A bunch of kids and tourists running around poking at things they probably shouldn’t… And someone taking a selfie with the Einstein statue. That’s original.

Ren Park

A moment. You’re seeing a moment… One that happens and vanishes as quickly as it’s observed. And another, and another, and another, each passing so quickly that you don’t even notice it happening. Time, marching endlessly from future to past with us stuck in the middle. Yet every moment of it was real… and in some ways, still is. Space is so huge and distant that we can’t even hope to touch our nearest stars… But time? Being in this moment, here and now? That’s even more of a miraculous feat. We’re here. We were here. We’ll forever be here. And as far as we know, no one will ever be able to touch this moment again. It belongs to you and I alone. And that has to count for something.

[Silence]

Adam Ainsley

I… Sorry, but… Are you Ren?

Ren Park

Guilty as charged. Adam?

Adam Ainsley

Oh, buzz off… Why didn’t you just say that to start with?

Ren Park

I don’t get out of the office much. I’ve got to make my own fun when I do. Sorry for the, uh… Slight existential dread there.

Adam Ainsley

No, it’s… It’s fine. That was actually — it was really kind of beautiful. In a weird sort of way.

Ren Park

[Chuckles]

You know, I think that’s the nicest compliment I’ve ever received.

[Extends his hand]

Pleasure to meet you, Adam Ainsley.

Adam Ainsley

Charmed, I’m sure.

[Shakes Ren’s hand]

You want to get out of here? The crushing weight of eternity is getting to be… A bit much for me.

Ren Park

Lead the way.

[Footsteps]

[Salut d’Amour (Edward Elgar) begins to play]

[Vast, empty sound of space]


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