Ode to an advanced diploma candidate

It was time: graduation.

The 27 chords strung across my neck were swaying artfully and my smile was as bright as a midday sun. I knew this was the day I had waited for since I was two months old, crying out to my mama, “what’s dat famed paypa on da wall?” This was, finally, my time to shine.

Mr. Litz held out his hand at the other side of the stage, congratulating some poor “standard diploma” kid. Ha! As if that could ever be me!

No, no, no, when I made it across that stage I would not be a disappointment. I would not graduate without that coveted stamp, that glorious mark delicately pressed onto the top of the golden-white paper which read, in wonderful, beautiful cursive:

“Advanced Diploma.”

Oh, how I would celebrate when I received it in my shaking hands! How I would dance upon the glossy linoleum stage of Constitution Hall and cackle at my silly silly classmates who hadn’t forced themselves into three years of foreign language or cried themselves to sleep when they got a B+ in HOA! Today I was Napoleon, and graduation would be my Waterloo!!

(Of course, I wasn’t like those IB diploma students, either. They were just crazy.)

Suddenly, a voice: “Reyna Berry,” the announcer announced.

Holy moly! My eyes started to water. This was it. This was it!

I straightened my shoulders and raised my chin. Step by step, I carried myself towards my goal. The music swelled. The crowd erupted. I spotted a the next diploma—my diploma—being lifted up from the table into the sunlight.

I reached my hand out, felt the edge of the blue cardstock brush my fingertips—
Oh, god.

Slowly, I lifted my face up from the floor. My glasses, squished and bent, fell to the floor. My left toe was stinging.

No—where was the diploma?? I searched frantically, holding the broken frames of my glasses up to my face in order to see. Suddenly I understood how Velma must feel.

And then, there it was: crumpled beneath my chest, the cover folded back onto itself. I gingerly lifted the paper out, still lying on the floor.
“Advanced Diploma,” the sticker read.

Tears spilled from my eyes.

Today was the best day of my life!!