A large, official-looking envelope sat on the counter. It had my name on it. When I was younger, this sight would have inspired me to jump and squirm in restless anticipation, but as a high school senior all I allowed myself was a discreet fist pump.
The stakes – admission to a college – were even higher than baseball cards or magazines. However, this letter had something else in common with the packages I received as a kid.
“You don’t get to open it until Dad comes home,” my mother instructed, even as she watched my eyes widen to a point where they threatened to take over the rest of my face.
I was not stressed out from the college process as many of my classmates were, but instead rather excited. Almost 13 years of school had prepared me for this moment, and if I had to wait a few more hours for my dad to get home, well, I could handle it.
I perched next to the counter like a lion, waiting for the precise moment to pounce on my defenseless prey. I tried to judge by the weight and thickness of the envelope whether it was an acceptance or rejection letter. I felt at least one sheet of paper, plus a pamphlet or brochure of some kind.
That had to be a good thing, right? I asked. They wouldn’t reject a kid and then say, “Well, anyway, here’s a brochure of all the cool things we have that you won’t get to do next year,” right?
The envelope did not answer. It sat there on the counter – inviting, tempting, daring – as though it were Schrdinger’s chocolate bar: irresistibly appetizing while at the same time full of dream-killing poison.
At long last the front door opened and in walked my father. Greetings were forcibly casual, but the elephant in the room could not be ignored for long, especially when my dad picked it up, shoved it in my face, and said, “Open it.”
Official-looking or not, from then on the envelope was unwrapped as delicately as a 5-year-old’s Christmas present. Out fell the expected piece of paper and brochure, but a quick hand snatched it all up, as though the letter might suddenly change from a “yea” to a “nay” upon touching the ground. My family waiting in anxious silence, I began to read.
Huh. All the first line said was, “Thank you for applying, we have received all your materials.”
Maybe they’re just toying with me, I thought. Good one, college. But the next line didn’t say much more. It just encouraged me to come visit and take the tour, then described all the programs I would be eligible for if I were a student.
But am I student? I asked the letter. Again it had no answer. That is, until I read the third line: “You will be notified of our decision by ...”
Wait a minute. This wasn’t a rejection or acceptance, this was just another piece of propaganda! I told my parents this, and they started laughing. I had been hoodwinked, bamboozled. But also, inwardly, there was a sigh of relief.
Senior year is full of moments like this. For those of us going off to college, there is the realization that in a few short months we may live in another town, if not another state, and most of us have no idea where that may be. The sheer magnitude of this change is overwhelming; and this is why we get excited when that official-looking envelope with our name on it arrives in the mail.
We all want to know what’s inside, what’s in store for us. However, the deceptive letter made me realize that I could handle a little more waiting. After all, it’ll just make my secret fist pump that much sweeter.Aidan O’Neill is a Gig Harbor student planning on studying Clowning and Interpretive Dance next year at the most expensive college he can get into. He is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. You can reach him at aidanomatic127@ gmail.com.