They met 45 minutes before the graduation ceremony. Donned in suit and tie, dress and heels. Hair gelled in place, skin glowing, eyes the color of the sun.
She stood in line and waited behind hundreds of her fellow post-grad to be’s. She sipped her tea while she waited and watched guests pass her by as they ambled down the hill towards the auditorium. Only forty five minutes left, she thought.
He was standing in front of her in line. He happened to turn around and when he did, he saw her – he noticed her eyes first, then the plastic cup pressed against her lips. “Is that tea?” he asked. She looked up, said “yep.”
“Smart,” he said. He smiled.
She thought he had a nice smile – nice eyes too. She moved a strand of hair behind her ear.
They talked about graduation first – how long they’d been waiting for this day, how excited, how relieved they were to have gotten through it all. Then they talked about their families, then their goals for the future.
He was thinking about law school, public policy. She wanted to be a writer.
The line started moving and they went forward together. They received name cards from a man in a blue suit at the entrance. They wrote down their names on the cards with careful, deliberate strokes. And then they made their way through the auditorium alongside their peers, eyes gleaming, name cards pressed against their chests.
She sat beside him during the ceremony. He asked her about what super power she would want and she answered, “I would want to control time, because then I could go back.”
They were sitting at the end of the second row from the front. When it was their row’s turn to stand, he turned around to say to her: “Ready?”
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready,” she said.
She walked a step behind him, in line, then onto the stage. She watched him accept his makeshift diploma, shake hands with the commencement speaker, smile for the camera.
And then it was her turn – her turn to hold the paper in her hands, shake hands, grin and wave up at her family in the stands. Her mom’s camera was raised, pointed at her.
He watched her amble down the steps, down the carpeted aisle, and return to her seat beside him.
The remains of a smile still at the edge of her lips, she held the diploma in her lap – she ran her thumb over her name in print.
The chorus of applauses, one after another, echoed through the auditorium.
I’ve made it, they thought. We’ve finally made it.