I was wearing the fancy dress and the leather boots with the top folded over. The dangling earrings, a single bracelet. Mascara was layered a couple of times over my eyelashes, creating a somewhat fancy effect. Looking around, I didn't feel over or under dressed. Other girls were wearing five-inch heels and dresses that almost hit them in appropriate places on their legs, but that was pretty much the only difference.
The line of people wasn't moving anywhere, and I didn't know anyone. I mean, of course I recognized people. I'd taken classes with them for the past three years. They'd been in and out of my life on Tuesdays and Thursdays as long as I had been around. So I sort of knew who they were. They're all the same, anyway. "What're you doing after?" "Getting drunk, hells yeah."
No one has any original responses. Even my "I'm baking Christmas cookies with one of my friends" was met with a few raised eyebrows and one "I'll bet you could totally down a couple shots in between batches." After that was a "Ooh, yeah, I guess you couldn't put vodka in cookies."
I smirked a little and shook my head, and chose to look at my phone. I was talking to a couple of my friends, none of whom were at the ceremony, but I didn't mind that at all. When I finished a reply, the line suddenly started moving. My black gown billowed in the breeze that followed immediately afterwards, and I lifted up a hand to steady my cap. The tassels were pulling it forward and their fringe was whipping itself into my eyes. We were all taking tiny, tiny steps up to the doors to go inside, and when I glanced back at the rest of the line I had to laugh: every other girl behind me was also delicately gripping the four-cornered horror on her head with wide eyes.
Once inside, we entered the auditorium to the sound of clapping and catcalls and probably some recorded music that we couldn't really hear. The walk down to our rows of seats was slightly dangerous -- the incline of the floor tilted so much that they almost could have used stairs. I held my head up and grinned at my family as I walked past. We plopped down into our chairs and pretended to listen to the Dean and to the speaker, a supposed hot-shot advertiser who spent more time reading his notes than speaking. I felt almost ridiculous for texting during my own graduation ceremony, but really, once I heard "You can't be afraid to fail", I felt I had learned enough for the day.
They hooded the masters students before the undergrads, which makes complete sense. As the four of them came up individually and were given their honors and applause, I couldn't help but wonder what kind of person would actually want to acquire a master's degree in journalism. I still don't have an answer. A very curious person or a person who really loves people?
With the master's degrees out of the way, they had the rest of us stand up and line up against the wall as they read our names off of the index cards we handed them. I had slipped my phone into my boot, and with every step I took it fell a little further into the boot, rubbing against the thin cloth and making a slightly strange vibration on top of my foot. When it was my turn I handed over the index card and lifted my head so my jawline was level with the floor, and when my name was called I concentrated on making a beeline for Dean Voakes, who was smiling at me emptily -- he had no idea who I was. Later my family told me that I walked across the stage like a snobby ballerina. Graceful and proud. I was only walking.
The chocolate cake they had at the reception upstairs was utterly boring and fifteen minutes after walking across the stage, we were returning to the cars and driving back home. I ran my fingertips over the glossy black diploma cover and closed my eyes. It was a pretty nice feeling.