Journals The Tattoo

When the college envelope is thin

A statue of Bishop Thomas Church Brownell, a founder of Trinity College, is a focal point on campus. (Yang Shanghua/YJI)

WATERTOWN, Connecticut, U.S.A. — I wasn’t expecting the letter until Saturday. Since they said on the website that they were sending the letters that Wednesday, I figured it would take a few days to get to my house in Maryland. So when I checked our mailbox that day, I was faintly hopeful but I didn’t expect to find anything. But somehow there it was, hidden between a booklet of coupons, a phone bill, and about a dozen Christmas cards.
I almost missed it, it was so small, but it was hard to overlook the blue “Office Of Undergraduate Admissions” insignia.
God, it was thin.
Everyone always tells you that thick letter vs. thin letter thing isn’t true, but this barely felt like one slip of paper.
I could see my dad sitting outside in the pickup truck through the raindrops on the windowpane.
I knew he was waiting, but I couldn’t bring myself to open it.
Finally, I ripped through the seal and unfolded the paper inside.
“Dear Ms. Walle, we regret to inform you … blah, blah, blah … admissions is very selective, good luck with your education.”
The paper slipped from my fingers and noiselessly fell to the floor. I stood there, silent, suspended in the hallway, then shut the door.
My mind was blank. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t even angry, I just jogged out to the car, dodging puddles and ducking under my raincoat.
My dad looked at me, but I didn’t say anything so he drove on. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.”
I turned away and tried to focus on something, but it was all a blur. Was I crying or was it just the rain?
The car turned out onto Wisconsin Avenue and we sat at a stoplight, a blob of ruby melting into darkening sky. He looked at me.
“Did you just get some news?” I nodded, and as I did, a single tear slipped past the reservoir of my eyelid and streaked down my cheek.
Thousands more followed in its wake and suddenly I was shaking, first trying to stifle my sobs before giving way to open weeping. He rubbed my back and tried to say comforting things, but I made it quite clear that I had no desire to discuss it, so we continued the drive in silence.
Suddenly, my phone rang, blaring into the silence. I glanced at it and saw the name “Amy” bopping across the screen in blue letters. My heart sank; I knew exactly what was coming.
I cleared my throat and flipped open the phone. “Hey!”
“Guess what?”
“I got in! I got in!”
“Yeah, I just got the email! I’m so excited!”
“Oh my god! That’s so awesome, Amy! Did you tell your parents!”
“My mom. She’s so excited. Oh god, this is going to be the best Christmas break! I’m into college! I’m in! I don’t have to fill out any more applications or worry about it, I’m in!”
“I’m so happy for you!” I gritted my teeth.
“I’m sorry, you’re still waiting, I know this isn’t nice of me since you still haven’t found out, but I’m just so excited!”
“No, Amy, it’s fine … it’s great, you should be happy!”
“Okay, well I have to call my dad, but let me know as soon as you hear, ‘k?”
“First thing!”
“’K, love you, bye!”
Before I could respond, she hung up and I flung my cell phone back into my purse and leaned my head against the window.
I could see my dad struggling to say something.
“Did she—”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I snapped, closing my eyes.
How could this be happening? I switched on the radio and tried not to think about it, but my hands curled into fists of fury and I couldn’t open my eyes for fear of losing every drop of water in my body through tear ducts.
So I sat, and I cursed myself for not working harder. I cursed them for rejecting me. I cursed my college counselor for not trying hard enough, and we drove. And we drove some more.
I forgot where we were going, but gradually my hands relaxed, my breathing calmed, and my tears dried, leaving only blotchy skin and puffy eyes to remember them. When I got home that night, I burned the letter, turned on my laptop, and started to fill out applications.

Elizabeth Walle is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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