Of deadlines and scholarships and pain


  Upset and annoyed.

  Despite having her attention divided by both me and the road, she still had the capacity for irritation. Her typical attitude when we talked about college. Especially money and college.

  We were on the way back from a family birthday celebration. She pulled up to to the next stoplight and paused in the conversation. She told me that she just found out I had missed a deadline for Rutgers New Brunswick. A very important one.

  “That could have been $2,500 to $10,000!” she explained with frustration. “But you missed the deadline.”

  “We missed the deadline,” I corrected her.

  “No. You did, Ryan.”

  I didn’t push the topic any further. It had only taken me until elementary school to realize that trying to best her in our arguments was the quickest way to a victory on her part.

  Rutgers’ deadline for academic scholarships was December 1. It was March.

  When we got home, I went upstairs and closed my door. I started texting my girlfriend, fueled by a combination of my mom’s disappointment and my own self-rage.

  I told her how my mom had placed all of the blame on me, but as I texted her, I calmed down, coming to terms with myself.

  Usually when I get upset with my mom, the anger stays directed towards her. I feel separated from her, examining one another through reinforced windows. The window was one-sided this time, and I saw myself.

  “But after thinking about it further, I guess it was [my fault],” I texted.

  My girlfriend comforted me, and I moved on for the time being.

  The next morning, I started thinking about the college conversation again. I wanted to fact-check her. I didn’t want to let her be right. Not because I had to best her, but because I didn’t want to best myself with another missed deadline.

  I Google-searched the Rutgers Undergrad Scholarship Page, and read it carefully. There I saw the distinctive date, December 1. I felt regret, stupidity, and defeat.

  I read the whole page for confirmation of my worry, and I received my confirmation. Though, what was confirmed was something else entirely.

  My mom had misinterpreted the information completely. What the information meant was that I had to have applied to the school by December 1, which I had. As long as I had taken that step, I would automatically be considered for financial aid. They would inform me sometime soon about how much money I would receive for my academics.

  I was ecstatic, for in these few sentences were several thousand dollars that my family would keep. I texted my mom, delivering the good news.

  The Internet in my Journalism classroom was poor, so I asked my teacher if I could step out of the room. As I walked towards the door, I looked through its small rectangular window. I chose the spot where I would stand to send the text.

  Before I opened the door, my thoughts were clouded by the divide between my mom and me. I thought about the barrier that our lack of communication had created. Our actions, our feelings, all blocked. What a simple conversation, a question, a search could have prevented.

  I looked up from the bottom of the door that had begun to occupy my sight. I studied the spot behind the window where I wanted to be, and realized that I couldn’t get myself to move.