I met Rob in Maui where we would spend the nights in conversation beneath a frangipani tree, the night air sticky from the nearby ocean. We were both staying at a resort on the northwest side of the island where you couldn’t avoid golf courses, and where Falkland pines were the transplanted windbreaks necessary to hem in the drives from visiting tourists. The pines were foreign to the lower, more outspread plumerias; the shorn grass even moreso.
Rob may have been a golfer; I didn’t ask. He was an insurance adjustor, or at least some other bland-faced profession of small report. Rob, however, was also a meteorite hunter and this piqued my interest.
“What was your favorite rock hunt?”
This was the Chelyabinsk Meteor that was broadcast on social media five years ago, when windows exploded their sills and hundreds of people got injured from shattered earth and shattered glass. Rob was quick to take a leave of absence from his job and make a plane to the Ural Region of Siberia. The meteor had broken up in the atmosphere, meaning chunks of space rock had fallen into ‘dark flight’ after first lighting up the sky. There was a flash greater than sun, than a burst wave that pounded the ground. The meteorites fell strangely unignited into the snowfields, thousands of rocks making holes in the ice drifts.
“I holed up in a hotel, hired a bunch of locals. Took out a five-figure loan from the bank. Trick was: the local scavengers searched the divots in the snow. The holes were either made by foxes, or by meteorites. I had a line of a hundred people bringing me rocks within a day.”
We talked about this while the ocean breeze rolled in, plumeria-perfumed. It seemed almost inappropriate, to talk about harvesting the cold distillations of space while shirt collars were open and the beach nearby. I thought of all the villagers trudging through the snow in felt Valenki boots, hauling stone for Rob from Arizona. But Rob was excited about his geological wherewithal: chondrites and regmaglypts, which he explained in detail. The things you can be passionate about, but also commodify. Like, you can own space that greets the earth with aplomb, and capitalize on wayward rock. It was very confusing to enjoy his company, but I nevertheless did.
I don’t know what this post means, save for my constant ambivalence when it comes to meeting people. Everyone has a story, a zeal, which guides them, sometimes lands them some modicum of success. When not talking about space debris, Rob informed of his son who had been diagnosed depressive, had feelings of suicidal ideation, who himself was a wayward rock. We’ve all got some story: Rob was going to guide his son through the Road of Hana on the last day I spoke to him, an attempt to salve his son’s open wounds. I hope it was a good earth-bound trip.
Love each other, and find stories in one another.