April 4, 2002 ~ Shooting Stars, Part VI
(read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V first)
I wish I could say that I was strong and full of faith in the months that followed Morgan's visit. But, no, I went through a very dark period.
I was working nearly full time, so there weren't many open hours in which to visit the library and email and chat with Morgan. On top of that, the library had begun enforcing stricter rules about internet usage on the public computers, had made email and chatrooms against the rules, and had also started enforcing one hour time limits, so that patrons could only have a total of one hour of computer time a day. On top of that, there was the fact that the family that I was boarding with established a new household rule that no one could stay on the phone for more than fifteen minutes at a time. The long-distance deal that both Morgan and I were using required long-distance phone conversations to be at least twenty minutes long, or else they would charge a ridiculously large amount of money. So I could no longer afford to call Morgan. And then Morgan started school at Warren Wilson, and, due to a incompatibility problem between the school's network and Morgan's Win95 computer, he had no internet connection, and could only check his email from the lab at odd hours when I couldn't get on to chat (due to the new library regulations and my job).
It felt as if every possibility for what little communication we had was being yanked away from us, one by one. I wrote long snail-mail letters and cursed the five-day lag between the West Coast and the East Coast. I sent him care packages. I sneaked in an email at the library when I could.
On top of all that, though, there were the prejudices.
Perhaps you have not had or do not know anyone who has had a serious online relationship. If that's the case, let me give you an abbreviated relation of how such a relationship is generally viewed by our society. Now, don't get me wrong; there were people who actually took it seriously, took it for what it was, and were happy for me, but it's always the negative ones that stick with you most, who tug on your emotions the most.
Those who didn't take it seriously--friends, family, and strangers alike--could be incredibly cruel. People who, upon finding out that I was in love, asked how we met and, when I told them, burst out laughing in my face. Or the people who tried to sabotage our relationship just because they "didn't think it was right," or were "doing it for your own good," or protecting me from "a man who probably wants to rape you and kill you when you go to live with him." Or just the people who advised me to get over it because "surely it's not that serious anyway. I mean, come on, you met him online for Christ's sake!" Or the man who got very angry, red in the face, insisting that no one online was ever honest, so I was a fool to fall in love with a "fake person."
It was as if I had this amazing jewel in my pocket in which I could see tremendous beauty, that warmed me completely inside, that gave me hope, but, whenever I took it out of my pocket to show someone, it turned into an ugly, grey, cold lump. I suppose it was similar to having an interracial relationship, or a homosexual relationship. There are many, many people out there who think that the beautiful thing that drives and moves you is rubbish, and there is nothing you can do to convince them otherwise.
I would go home at night, walk through the house and down to my basement room, mumbling hello to whomever I passed, close the door to my room, and just start bawling--those types of sobs that shake your whole body and leave you feeling sick and weak an hour later. I would slip out of my shoes and collapse on my bed, sometimes holding his picture, sometimes a gift he had given to me, sometimes a printout of a particularly touching email, sometimes just the warmth of a memory of that week he had visited. And I would cry. Sometimes I would fall asleep like that.
I know, pathetic. But these little scraps were all that I had, and it seemed as if everyone around me were trying their best to tear them into even smaller pieces.
Morgan and I began considering a visit in December, when we would both have Winter Break from College. I began saving every spare cent toward my airline fund. Morgan, too, was saving, scrimping, planning to send what he could to me so that I could afford the tickets. I began to seriously consider transferring to Warren Wilson after a year, before I had even started classes where I was enrolled.
I started school, enrolled in the Honors College at Portland State University, downtown. My classes were huge. The campus was huge. No one knew my name, and no one would have cared to. I was also working nearly full time, on top of the classes and homework. I never did the homework or the reading, though. Instead, I slipped off to one of the University Computer labs and would immerse myself in long emails or the occasional chat with Morgan. When I got my financial aid check, I spent it immediately on a plane ticket to North Carolina for December.
I bluffed my way through everything. Midterms came along. I crammed before my Latin midterm, trying to learn a half a semester's worth of declensions and vocabulary in two hours. I was supposed to have read The Iliad for my Honors Seminar, but I hadn't read a word of it. I BSed my way through the essay exam going only on what little I remembered from the class lectures. My Fiction Writing class, the one class that actually sparked me and garnered my participation, didn't have a midterm.
A week later, my Honors professor handed back our midterms, saying that anyone with an "A" was to stay after class to talk to him. I looked down at my test in utter bafflement. A large red "A" was scrawled across the top. And then, even more of a surprise, out of a class of over seventy students, only ten of us stayed after. Only ten "A"s, and one of them was me. Me, who hadn't even read the book.
He gave us a fine and uplifting speech about how we were the "cream of the cream" at the University, and I had a hard time not laughing out of sheer dumbfoundedness.
But next, he dropped a bombshell that left me reeling.
He offered this handful of students a very rare, very high-prestige prize. A full-ride, four year scholarship, that would pay for tuition, books, room and board--everything. Plus, it wouldn't interfere with the other financial aid and scholarships that we already had. In other words, if I took this offer, I would have my schooling and living expenses paid for, plus and extra 7,500 dollars to spend on whatever I wanted. To a girl who had been poor her entire life, this was an unimaginable fortune.
But there was one catch. He told us that we must sign a contract promising that, if we were given the scholarship, we would stay at PSU for all four years and would graduate through the honors college. And give up Morgan for four more years.
It was an opportunity that no one in their right mind would turn down. All of the other students agreed immediately. "Let me think about it?" I said to the Professor, weakly. He gave me a look that said, "What? I just offered you thousands of dollars and you responded with 'let me think about it'? Are you crazy?" But he told me he could give me a week's time.
I went directly to the computer lab, and, by some miracle, Morgan was online. I reluctantly told him the situation. After a few moments of silence, he said, hesitantly, "You should take it."
continued in Part VII...