When I was eight years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. I saw the stars as stepping-stones in a big, black, tiered pond. Things you could step on one-by-one until you reached a Heaven in the clouds. Even when Heaven was gone, I still believed in the staircase. I'd lie in the grass to the left of the creaky swing set and count the stars on my way to Pluto. When Pluto stopped being a planet, I still went to Space Camp. Begging to know what was coming next. When they told me that the universe boiled down to one big black hole capable of sucking all matter into a permanently destructive vortex, frankly making nothing matter in the end, even if I did find a miraculous way to walk on burning plasmaballs, I cried. My mother came two days early. She just stuck her hands in her baggy pant pockets, shrugged, and told me to pack my backpack to come home.
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