Personal recollection of a life about to be transformed, from one day to the next:

In the porch light the trees shiver, the squirrels turn over in their sleep. The Milky Way is a long smear on the sky, like something erased on a blackboard. Over the neighbor’s house, Mars flashes white, then red, then white again. Jupiter is hidden among the anonymous blinks and glitterings. It has a moon with sulfur-spewing volcanoes and a beautiful name: Io. I learned it at work, from the group of men who surround me there. Space physicists, guys who spend days on end with their heads poked through the fabric of the sky, listening to the sounds of the universe. Guys whose own lives are ticking like alarm clocks getting ready to go off, although none of us are aware of it yet.

“The Fourth State of Matter.” — Jo Ann Beard, The New Yorker, June 24, 1996

See also: “Chicago Christmas, 1984.” — George Saunders, The New Yorker, Dec. 22, 2003