After studying each piece of paper, I folded them back into the envelope and went to bed. I slept with the whole packet under my pillow. I wanted to keep it close — the glossy brochure with pictures of the legendary Midway and the gigantic library, as well as all the forms I had to return by June 1.
Every time I woke up, I re-read the letter.
I read the letter 40 times that night.
Each time, I rubbed my finger over my favorite three words: Dear, Christie, and Congratulations. I have always loved them best when they appear consecutively.
My throat ached from screaming at the sight of the envelope in my mailbox. I was home on my 60-minute lunch break from managing the Gap at the Post Oak Mall. It wasn’t really enough time to go all the way home, but every day that spring I did it anyway. I had to check the mail, because that’s where my horizon was.
When I first saw the bulky envelope, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Maybe it was the graduation packet from school or some newspaper clippings of obituaries from my dad. But that envelope did have some heft, so maybe . . .
Maybe it was one of my “safety” schools writing with good news. I willed myself to be stoic, especially since most of my safety schools had already sent anemic envelopes, bearing only two of my favorite words: Dear and Christie.
As each skinny envelope arrived, I had lost more hope about leaving Texas for graduate school. In my darkest panic, I begged myself to fall in love with the retail life that the Gap Inc. could offer me.
You could become a manager and then move to Houston where the flagship store is.
You could hone your sales skills and then start selling bigger ticket items, like computers or cocaine.
There are Gaps all over the world! You could go to Singapore.
You can always read great literature even if you are an hourly stiff at the Gap.
But with that envelope, the future saw fit to pluck me out of Texas and summon me out of the mall. There was a school waiting for me in a state I had never stepped foot in, in a city that was famous for a climate I suspected might kill me.
The morning after the envelope came, I crackled with adrenaline as I wondered where I could buy a coat warm enough or which books I should read over the summer. I borrowed my boyfriend’s copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, because I wanted the words of a masterpiece to keep me company as I counted back change or folded hooded sweatshirts at work.
Almost late for my shift, I shoved my keys and the book into my purse, along with the lunch I prepared since I no longer needed to come home to check the mail.
My neighbor Chad, an affable fraternity guy enjoying his seventh year of collegiate studies, called to me as I walked to my car.
“Hey, Christie! I heard you screaming yesterday. What was that all about? Did you get engaged?” I squinted up at him and saw him lounging on his balcony in his signature baseball hat (always worn backwards), while thumping his can of Copenhagen dip.
“Nope. I’m moving to Chicago.”
* * *
[This post is for the lovely writers/bloggers at Yeah Write. Here’s me to Yeah Write: “I just can’t quit you.” Here’s you: “Hey, I should check it out and post over there too.” Here’s me: “Yes, you should. Come join the fun.” Here’s Yeah Write to both of us: “Sure, come post. But don’t blog about your family, because it was a long, family-filled summer and we need a break. Write about Charlie Sheen. Unless he’s your uncle. Then don’t.”]