The most outstanding fact about the universe

Ishita Sharma

I once saw on TV
a scientist
who was speaking generally
about science-y things
and generally speaking
I am not a science person
and while I respect them
I have little interest in science things
or scientists
so I went to switch the channel
and at that exact moment
the presenter sitting across the scientist asked:
in your opinion,
is the most astounding fact that you know?
and this stopped me
because I wanted to hear her answer to this interesting question;
after a pause
she did not look directly at the camera
instead choosing to look at the presenter
did you know
she said
that there are atoms in your body?
the presenter laughed
of course
what else would my body be made up of?
I did not have to look at the TV to know that the scientist was smiling
she said
do you know where they came from?
the presenter remained silent
the most astounding fact that I have ever known is not a fact, essentially
she began
but the story of every atom on the planet
the ones that make up the sand and the sea and the grass
they come from stars.
the presenter leaned forward and so did I
continued the scientist
are mortal
like us,
they die,
and are unstable in their last few years
and a star’s death
is much more dramatic than a human’s
the presenter smiled
is it now?
the scientist nodded, it is
the stars
I am referring to
collapsed and exploded a long time ago
and scattered themselves across the entire universe
and in that moment
I wondered if she was a scientist
or a poet
and then? asked the presenter
the scientist’s lips quirked upwards as she replied
they become part of gas clouds
ones that condense will form
another star
which will lead to formation of another solar system
so, she smiled
where do your atoms come from?
the stars, the presenter replied
yes, the scientist replied
but I’ll tell you something better
the universe is within us,
your atoms
my atoms
and the atoms of everyone watching us
came from stars
you’re connected and relevant without even having to try
you are made up of stardust and essentially, the universe
and that
is the most astounding fact
I can tell you
the presenter smiled and the scientist smiled wider
and later
when I switched the channel
to something less scientific
I wondered if I should feel small,
tiny and insignificant,
and that is how my mother found me
sitting on the sofa
and when she asked me what was wrong
I said, I’m smaller than the stars
my mother is a very literal woman as such
and her natural response was
of course you are
and she left the room and it is years later but
I still think about the scientist and what she said
and I still think that stars are big
but now I think
they are in me
so I am big too.

Ishita Sharma is a seventeen year old high school graduate from India, who plans to pursue psychology in UK. She is a proud Ravenclaw, and has been the editor of her school newspaper for the past two years. When she isn’t writing, Ishita can be found on the basketball court or in the kitchen, whipping up treats for her family.

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