See You in the Cosmos
See You in the Cosmos is a 2017 epistolary young adult novel by author Jack Cheng. Written like an audio transcript, it tells the story of a pre-teen who aspires to recreate the Voyager Golden Record, whilst on the verge of discovering the secreted life of his father, who died when he was three. As he does, he is also revealed the dark truth of his family's early years.
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- Who are you? What do you look like? Do you have one head or two? More? Do you have light brown skin like I do or smooth gray skin like a dolphin or spiky green skin like a cactus? Do you live in a house? I live in a house. My name is Alex Petroski and my house is in Rockview, Colorado, United States of America, planet Earth. I am eleven years and eight months old and the United States is two hundred forty-two years old and Earth is 4.5 billion years old. I’m not sure how old my house is.
- What do you guys do when you can’t fall asleep? Are you sleeping right now? I guess not, because how would you be listening to this if you were sleeping? I guess that means we’re both awake...
- Ronnie used to tell me to man up whenever he saw me cry. He’d tell me to stop crying, nobody likes a crybaby, and I try but I can’t help it sometimes. Sometimes the clouds inside my head get big and gray and swirly and then I hurricane through my eyes. Except I don’t literally hurricane through my eyes—I don’t actually have a weather system in my head.
- [To the ticket inspector at the Amtrak station] I told him I'm more responsible than a lot of thirteen-year-olds I know. I said I’m more responsible than even a lot of fourteen-year-olds. But he said it doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is your real age, and I said that’s really stupid because kids are different. They should give everyone a test to see how responsible they are and then give them a responsibility age. I know I’d be at least thirteen then because I can already cook and take care of a dog.
- But my hero also said that knowledge is better than ignorance, and it’s better to find out and embrace the truth even if that truth might not feel good. I wanted to put my best foot forward just like my hero, but I believe in the truth too, so that’s why I’m telling you guys what happened . . . why I’m telling you my rocket crashed.
- You can’t steal the stars, because even the closest ones are trillions of miles away and nobody owns them.
- What’s a social worker, is it someone whose job it is to go on Twitter?
- What the heck is a dad anyway? I mean, if you’re talking about a biological dad I had one, but what about a non-biological dad? If it’s someone to protect you from bad stuff that happens and someone you can help mow the lawn and clean the house, then I have Ronnie and Terra, and if it’s someone you can look up to and follow in their footsteps, then I have my hero Dr. Sagan, and if it’s someone who you can laugh and drive places with, then the guys did that too, so what’s the difference? And why is it that the more I think about that word—dad—the less I know what it means? It’s the same with words like love and truth and bravery too, the more I think about them and say them over, the less sense they make. Love. Truth. Bravery. Bravery. Truth. Love. It’s like, I know those things are out there, I know they exist, but the more I think about them the more it feels like they’re all talking about a lot of different things put together, or they’re talking about the same thing, but... what?
- The rocket was lit up on the screen and standing straight and tall by itself, and I thought about how one day there’s going to be another big rocket, one that I made with help from a lot of my friends, and this Golden iPod is going to be on it.
- And it’s going to launch into the sky and leave our stratosphere and go past our moon and Mars and the asteroid belt and outer planets and Pluto and into deep space, and maybe you’re going to find it.
- And I wonder what’ll happen when you DO find it. I wonder what you’re going to think when you listen to these recordings, when you hear the sounds of a boy from planet Earth trying to be brave and a boy trying to find the truth, and a boy who loves his family and friends and his dog that he named after his hero.
- Because I realized what Zed meant when he said, You already have it. And I agree.
- Um... hello, being from... outer space? I don't know what to say.
- [Ranting about her mother] Sometimes parents don’t want to accept that their kids are growing up. They think if we grow up, then we stop being their kids or something. But that’s their whole job! It’s to raise us to be independent! They just have such a hard time facing it, you know? Facing the truth.
- There's a part of it (love) that's, like, letting go. Like a sacrifice but in a good way. You trade a part of yourself for something that's even bigger than you, and it feels good but weird at the same time. It's totally worth it, though.
- [Alex is hospitalized] God I hate hospitals. I’m not allowed to see him yet. The nurse said they’re not sure how long he’ll be in Recovery before they can move him. And it wasn’t doing me any good just waiting there, I was totally useless.
- Sometimes when we really love someone we have to leave them, because it’s better for them than if we stayed. (Ronnie)
- [At a Las Vegas casino, Alex is searching for Steve for Carl Sagan, whilst Steve is angry towards Zed]
- Alex: Hey Steve? Um... Steve?
- Steve: Not now, Alex. [Continues ranting]
- Alex: Steve. Where's Carl Sagan? But Steve—
- Steve: I said not now. [Continues ranting]
- Alex: STEVE.
- Steve: What is it!
- Alex: WHERES CARL SAGAN?
- Steve: Where's Carl Sagan...
- Alex: THAT'S WHAT I SAID.
- Steve: You don't have him?
- Alex: Of course I don’t have him! YOU had him at the restaurant bar and I didn’t see you until now so how could I have him!
- Steve: But I tied the dog to the No Parking sign over... I thought...
- Alex: What... There's nothing... He's not there... Where is he?
- Steve: Umm...
- Alex: WHERE. IS. HE. WHERE IS—
- Terra: [Feeling painful, then whispers to Alex] I'm having my period.
- Alex: Do you mean like at the end of a sentence?
- Terra: It was a sentence all right, but a different kind of sentence, one that makes her bloated and ugly and want to crawl into bed.
- Alex: You’re still beautiful to me. Is having a period like having a pop quiz? Cause I know some kids at school who hate pop quizzes and they start to feel sick and ask to go to the bathroom whenever we have them.
- [Terra stiffens and runs to the bathroom. Waitress Clara later approaches]
- Alex: Do you know what’s a period? Is it like a pop quiz, because my Terra is having her period.
- Clara: [Spills water, shocked] I'm sorry. I'll be back with some paper towels.
- Alex: [To iPod] Why won’t anyone tell me what a period is! I’m going to look it up when we get back to the guys’s apartment. I’ll explain it to you when I find out.
- [After discovering what a period is]
- Alex: I found out what a period is. It’s... um... not like a pop quiz.
- [Steve wants to confess his feelings to Terra, but sees her chatting with Nathan, fueling envy and wrath]
- Terra: I will take you home, Alex. Let's go.
- Steve: That’s right, take him home. Take him home to his deadbeat mom. That should’ve happened DAYS AGO. He shouldn’t even BE HERE.
- Terra: Can't you see you’re making him— Alex, don't listen to him.
- Steve: No, listen to ME, Alex, because none of them are going to tell you the truth. You’re never going to make a rocket that goes into space. It’s impossible! You’re a kid. A kid is never going to make a rocket that goes into—
- Terra: That’s ENOUGH. Stop talking to him like—
- Steve: Like what? Like an adult? You want to lie to him and tell him everything’s going to be OK, that he’s going to do by himself what took thousands of people billions of dollars to do? And what do you think it’ll solve Alex, HUH? You think it’ll somehow bring your dad back or make your brother not want to—
- Terra: ENOUGH.
- Steve: —I have news for you, kid. You’re going to wake up twenty years from now and your life is going to be a piece of shit, and the people who pretend to be your friends are going to stab you in the back—
- Terra: I wasn’t— Nathan didn’t—
- Steve: That’s right, keep denying it. You think I’m an idiot, don’t you? Well maybe I AM. Maybe it takes an IDIOT like me to tell Alex here how things work in the real world. An IDIOT who’s not just going to feed him a bunch of false hopes! I’ll tell you what, Alex, this IDIOT is going to do you a huge favor. He’s going to throw your iPod out the—
- [After visiting their schizophrenic mother at the psychiatric ward, Ronnie reveals the dark past of the Petroskis to Alex. Alex is in disbelief]
- Alex: But . . . they met at Mom’s bank and he asked her out to dinner! They went on top of Mount Sam and had their first kiss and looked at the stars and fell in lov—
- Steve: They met in a bar.