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Zawadi’s leg jiggled like it had been replaced with a jackhammer. Occasionally, it would brush up against my own, causing the very same anxiety that had been plaguing her to transfer over to me and leave me breathless in the same manner. I had a half a mind to strangle her. Stress was not what we needed. We needed to be calm, focused and relaxed. We needed to know that whatever happened at 5 p.m. PDT that we would still be okay. Because today was the day. And I’d hate to have a heart attack over a college decision.
“Stop that,” I chided, touching her leg. With barely any pressure, I managed to get her to stop but only because I had made her self-aware.
Zawadi looked around, “Why do we have to be at some wack-ass library to do this? My house has a faster internet connection and ice cream to drown in once we get rejected.” She frowned at the outdated, government funded computer screen that stared back at her with its Internet Explorer browser.
“We’re not going to get rejected.” I gritted my teeth at her negativity and shoved down some of my own. I peered at my own computer screen and the email that was brought up, pondering the words "Stanford’s regular admissions decisions will be released at 5 p.m. PDT. Check the portal below for your decision" like I didn’t know what it all meant.
“And I don’t know,” I continued, “this is where I sent off my application. It feels right.” My house didn’t have any Wi-Fi so every day after school for months I had holed up in the library, working furiously over college applications. Luckily, half way through the application season I had been able to save up money enough to buy my own computer behind my parents back. It still didn’t solve my house’s internet problem but it did allow me to have a work schedule that didn’t coincide with library hours. Not having Internet had never bothered me until senior year when I’d probably sacrifice a kidney for Wi-Fi.
Zawadi had wanted us to check our decisions together at her house like we had for the rest of the colleges we had applied to. But for me, Stanford was different. Not only it was the dream, it was the first application I had sent using the library provided computers, so it had made sense to come back to those same computers. Zawadi had protested, of course, but checking our decisions together meant more to her than whatever pity ice cream she had waiting for her back at home. Stanford hadn't just become my dream or even Zawadi's dream. No, it was our dream. And we would never share the burden of its realization alone.
To Zawadi Stanford meant getting to study computer science at one of the best universities in the world and the approval of her immigrant parents (not that they weren’t proud of her anyway). It meant having the freedom that came from being away from home but the comfort of still being in Northern California, with her family only a drive away. And it meant possibly spending four more years, drowning in academia with her best friend. It meant all that to me, too. Stanford had a multitude of excellent reasons on paper. But beyond that, the school had struck a chord within me that was much more visceral, a need that was set in my blood, found in my gut and smoothed into my bones.
To me Stanford meant validation. It meant that all of my hard work had been worth it. It meant that my academic excellence had meant something to someone. And even if that someone wasn’t my parents I would still take it. It also meant that against all odds, I had gotten into the most selective college in the nation. And if that wasn’t surefire ego boost, then I don’t know what was.
And I guess I was setting myself up for disappointment by thinking this way. It wasn’t like I was arrogant, far from it. I just tended not to focus on the negativity. I had been terrible at preparing myself for the blow, should it come, and yeah I was scared as hell for the consequences of my failure. What would it mean if Stanford said no? What would happen for me then? Logically, I knew that I’d be fine, I had tons of other great college options on the table but mentally…emotionally… I wasn’t ready.
“It’s 4:59. Oh my god in a minute we’ll find out if we’re destined to be sworn enemies,” Zawadi grabbed my hand and squeezed it in that terrifying way of hers, where I can practically hear the bones in my fingers screaming in pain. Sometimes I’m convinced that she has more strength in that hand alone than I have in my entire body.
I carefully extracted my hand, and smoothed my thumb over her palm instead. “If one of us gets rejected and decides to go to Cal, that doesn’t mean that we’ll be enemies.” We had both gotten accepted to Berkeley earlier this week and it was both our second choice. I had nothing against Cal but Zawadi hated the idea of going to a massive state school after living in a small town her whole life.
“No, we’ll just be academic rivals, which is worse.” Zawadi tried the death grip thing on my hand again but I managed to avoid it. Honestly, I didn’t even think she was aware of it at that point. “Oh my god. It’s five. Oh my god. Oh my god. This is it.”
Yeah. I glanced at the computer’s clock, verifying her words. It was five and it was time. I logged into my portal, half hoping it would crash just so that I could delay the inevitable. So that I could delay the disappointment. However, it didn’t crash. Next to me, Zawadi had done the same and now both of us had our computer mice hovering over the View Update hyperlink.
Zawadi grabbed my hand, no death grip this time, instead her touch held something gentler, greater. Reassurance.
“Promise not to trash talk Cal while you’re at Stanford for me?” Zawadi asked, sweetly. Her confidence in me eliminated my nerves.
“What are you talking about? I would never talk bad about my alma mater,” I replied, semi-seriously.
Zawadi nudged me with her shoulder, “Shut up. Anyway, see you on the other side.” she said before we both clicked open the update and saw what awaited us.