One day, long, long ago in high school, my bully sailed up to me and said (I don't remember how this started, by the way), "I know why Hopkins went to Baltimore for college- it was to get as far away from you as possible!"
I had my back to her, which gave me a second to collect myself so that she couldn't see the homicidal rage in my expression before I turned to face her.
"Had that been the case, he would have gone to Stanford," I deadpanned, silently appending the requisite 'you bitch' in my mind.
She stared blankly for a second, so I added, "It's in California. Johns Hopkins is in Maryland. I take it that geography is not your best subject." I executed a neat marching band pivot and stalked off down the hall.
Of course, she'd just said what everybody (including me, to my eternal anguish) thought, anyway. I shouldn't have responded, but slicing her clean through was as good as it was going to get.
It's not that I have ever faulted his decision, or his ambition; I've always faulted myself for not having better prepared for the obvious. As he said the other night, "Something in-state was not going to happen." No, it wasn't, thank you, Hopkins, but you could have attended a second-tier elite somewhere closer- and if you were going to hurl me on the pyre that was your ego, why the hell couldn't it have been M.I.T.? He's never grasped what it took for me to stand there, smiling, and tell him how fantastic and wonderful it was that he had been accepted to Johns Hopkins while the bile rose and my chest tightened.
The irony that we're both still here is not lost on me. That I still want him to live up to his potential, and the Devil take Baltimore, isn't, either. I just can't risk telling him the truth, and this war between logic and emotion is stressful as well as unpleasant.
Maybe it was Baltimore, but by God, it wasn't Stanford. It was not Stanford.