There I was, on a contrasting bright and sunny day, crumbling at the financial aid window. After the student on the other side of the window flipped through the file of checks sitting on her desk, she shook her head no and tried to shrug me off with a "check again on Monday." The sunshine that was lighting up the motes hovering in the nearly empty hall, seemed to darken and all of the air was sucked out of the room. My voice was shaking and getting higher and higher as I explained the situation and pointed at the notice I had from the feds and the bank indicating my loan had been funded and the university had the money. More to the point, the university had been holding the funds for several days now. I could not understand why no one was willing to print a check and give me the money I had signed over my future life to receive. Tears spilled down my face as I attempted deep breaths but only managed short gasping gulps. The student, desperate to get away from me I am sure, stepped away from the window after typing who knows what into the computer.
I didn't know what to do. Had I been dismissed? Was she getting someone with more authority or power? I needed to pull myself together.
Up until this point I had assumed this was the very latest date on which I would receive my student loan money. I had not thought past that day. I had not allowed myself to consider the giant "what if" of the check not being ready. I had been told to come back so many times before that I had absolutely convinced myself this was the end of it. That April 26th was the day when the money would come in and the pressure would be relieved because tuition and rent could be paid and books and possibly a car could be purchased.
The weight of enduring a terrible marriage that felt so cursed combined with the pressure of supporting two people on a very meager income while forcing my way into school collapsed on me as I waited. I could no longer see options other than withdrawing from school and taking another job.
But just as I thought all hope was gone, a small glimmer appeared. The student who had previously been sitting on the other side of the bank-like window had reappeared at the back of the room. And she was talking to someone. Someone who looked like they were not a student and might possibly be in charge of something. The student came back to the window briefly and said she was trying one more thing. I was unsure of what that one thing was.
She then cheerily go up from her stool, walked into the distant portion of the room and stood over a printer that appeared to be slowly printing according to the trail of connected paper that was being lifted up off the shelf beneath it and inching its way into the carriage.
I held my breath in disbelief.
The girl stood over the printer until the cartridge stopped oscillating and advanced the paper. She tore the printed paper at the perforations and walked back to the window as she examined whatever was printed on that sheet of paper. I was much calmer.
She handed me my check and I do not even remember signing anything. I took the freshly printed check and walked away from the window, staring at it in disbelief.