Diploma: Do Not Bend

DiplomaI lose diplomas the way other people lose car keys or hairbrushes. Just to be clear we are talking about the physical diploma and not something that would require an educational ethics committee. To date I have owned five diplomas from the University of Pittsburgh. I fear they might think I’m selling them out of the trunk of a Camry in Brno. But at the moment I have bigger worries.

I can’t find my last diploma now.

Diploma #5 is gone.

If you live in the Czech Republic, you have to present your diploma for various reasons throughout an otherwise normal year. More so if you work in the education field. And I suppose the university where I teach feels better if they occasionally prove that I didn’t study at a place called Gary’s Tacos and Degrees.

Fair enough.

But I am often forced to present my diploma when managing tasks which don’t traditionally require a diploma. Can I deposit this money into my account? Of course, we’ll just need your visa, passport, two photos, and a notarized copy of your university diploma. Are these waffles on special? Yes, we’ll just need your visa, passport, two photos, and a notarized copy of your university diploma.

And so, at least twice a year (or whenever I crave waffles) I dig through my closets and cabinets, sweat, and curse profusely. I root through credit card statements, phone bills, checkbooks, cat immunization papers, and hundreds of other papers a teacher accrues. I curse my disorganization. I open the Becherovka. I curse my ability to think I’d remember where I put things. This place. I’ll never forget this place. And with cat ass in my face and temperature and blood pressure rising, my entire life becomes a search for one phrase on a flat box envelope.

Diploma: Do Not Bend

Hours later, as I order another diploma online in a Becherovka haze, I can’t shake the thought that it’s just under this next pile of papers or just behind these books. And after I give up, I promise to the lord of lost things that this one will be put in a spot I’ll never lose it.

Today I am searching for diploma #5 in my parents’ house. My parents’ house is sort of like the Room of Hidden Things in Harry Potter. There is no area in the house that is not covered with things. Stuff. Random things that only inhabit the same space in a dollar store. Books, appliances, bottles, clothing, bags, cosmetics, a miniature billiards set, and socks. So many socks. You never know what treasures may turn up. During my last visit I ended up with a $200 bottle of face cream and a waffle iron.

But when I am searching through my parents’ house it’s almost never to treasure hunt and almost always because I am looking for something specific. Something that is gone. And that is a problem. Because the house eats things; you put something down and turn back to pick it up only to find that it’s gone. Forever. Go buy another.

Our kitchen table is the Bermuda Triangle. I sit at it, knowing there’s no chance and yet I pick up books, magazines, boxes, eye medicine, hair gel, envelopes, and a wrapped Christmas present. The entire time my eyes search for those honeyed words on a flat box envelope – Diploma: Do Not Bend. Or rather – Diploma #5: Do Not Bend.

I open the bourbon. And as I dig through the house with an ever-growing sense of dread and a dangerously skyrocketing blood pressure, I wonder where they go. Where do all the things go? The things we put down. I don’t blame my parents, it’s the house. It teases occasionally, a flat box-envelope, the letter D visible in box print. My pulse quickens, eyes widen. I grab it. Dominoes Pizza Coupons!

I admit defeat.

Bourbon becomes a major part of my afternoon. I sit down to order another diploma online from the University of Pittsburgh. Another flat box envelope. Maybe I’ll get a frequent buyer’s discount. Shit, maybe if I ask the envelope can read:

Diploma #6: Do Not Bend

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