Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: DAYDREAM (12/08/16)
- TITLE: In the Picture
By Donna Powers
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
I've gotten quite a few in the last few months. My name must be on a list of high school seniors, and somewhere those college recruiters stamp hundreds of catalogs each day, hoping to attract the best and brightest incoming freshman class for next September.
They could have saved themselves the cost of postage to me.
All the other catalogs have gone straight into the recycling bin. No use even looking; college is about as possible for me as sprouting wings or losing that extra 50 pounds by my birthday.
In other words, it isn't going to happen. I've known that for years. Mom can barely pay the rent and utility bills by working two jobs – and all my part-time job at Waffle World is good for is car insurance, gas and a few pairs of jeans and cheap sneakers every year. When I graduate in June, I'll be working full time slinging waffles and bacon. A full time salary will help Mom quit her second job – like her doctors told her to, six months ago.
So, why did I stop and open that catalog?
I can't really answer that. The title page of the catalog invited me to “Picture Yourself at Grace University!”
And even though I knew better... I did.
Hope is an unfamiliar sensation for me. I can't remember the last time I allowed myself to feel it. But, for some reason, when I picked up that catalog, I did. The cover picture had the usual smiling group of students, but this one featured a person whose face had been cut out. I imagined my own face in that smiling group of students. After furtively checking to be sure Mom was nowhere around, I took one of my yearbook photos from my wallet and fit my face into that opening.
It was as if I'd turned a magic key.
I opened the catalog and imagined myself walking the grassy paths depicted in its pictures. I turned to the course list and looked at the choices. I hadn't allowed myself to even consider a college major, so I savored the choices before me: Liberal Arts, Sciences, Performing Arts, Communications, Bible, Technology... for just a few moments I pretended I might actually be allowed to pick one for myself.
For a moment, I pretended I had a real future: one that didn't have a permanent roadblock at Waffle World.
A few pages in, there was a picture of a classroom. A group of students sat in a circle. Their faces looked as though they were passionate about whatever they were discussing. Just as they had done, in the inside cover, they cut out the shape of one of the faces of that class. Once again, I fit my face into the blank. For just a few moments, I imagined being part of that lively discussion. It was as heady as the smell of air-dried laundry on a spring day.
I turned the pages to the end of the catalog. The last picture was of a group of exultant students: all dressed in gowns, joyously flinging their caps in the air.
Once again, one of the faces had been cut out. Once again, I put my picture behind the hole, and let myself imagine being part of that celebration.
“Picture yourself here...” it said.
And, for a few stolen moments, I had.
Eventually, of course, I looked up at the living room clock and realized it was time to leave for Waffle World. I threw the catalog into the recycling bin, just as I'd known I would.
But, before I did, I tore out the page with the graduation picture. I grabbed a piece of scotch tape and fastened my picture to the back. Holding onto my sliver of hope, I tucked the altered page into my purse. I knew I couldn't send it in, but I wasn't ready to throw that hope away.
Not just yet.
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