Jackie Sizemore Aim High In the stall of a shared bathroom, I balanced one foot on my tennis shoe while hopping into my gym shorts. I wished I hadn’t slept at my friend’s dorm, especially when I had something to go to that morning. At least, that’s how I’d put it to the friends I’d made in my first week of living in Pittsburgh during Carnegie Mellon University’s Orientation week. I wondered why anyone like me would be walking to an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Welcome on her first Saturday of college. A few months earlier, my parents were denied a Parent Plus loan, revealing a truth I’d long suspected about their finances. Between the fourcar garage Buffalo, New York McMansion and rotating credit, my mom panicked over college costs while I wondered if my parents would divorce. She decided I should join the ROTC, even though I’d have to wait a semester to be “official” and get the scholarship. She listed my options like a grocery list. “Army, Navy, or Airforce?” My logic at seventeen went like this: I didn’t like ships, and Army commercials were too Starship Troopers. I picked Airforce and hoped I could use my hair to hide my ear piercings like I had for JV volleyball. By 6:30 am the Pittsburgh heat seeped into my new Air Force hat. We practiced saluting our training officer, Cadet Second Lieutenant Chen, in the courtyard of the Cathedral of Learning, a towering Hogwarts-like building that serves as the beacon of the University of Pittsburgh. With ring finger against eyebrow, I imagined my hand as the wing of a plane, tilting for the correct angle. I tried to salute while snapping my heels together over the cobblestones and addressing imaginary officers. “Good morning, Ma’am! Good morning, Sir!” I stumbled with the snap and laughed. Chen asked me if I thought this was funny. I didn’t reply because I knew it was. After salute practice, we left the noise of Forbes Avenue traffic and went inside. On some high up floor, in a room scattered with cardboard boxes, someone in a uniform told me to try on a dark blue skirt, a starchy blouse, and the ugliest high heel shoes I’d ever seen. I looked around the room at the other girls in my company, hoping they looked terrible too. One girl with short blonde hair tucked behind her ears beamed into her mirror. She gave herself a perfectly angled salute. Back in my mirror, I looked like a fraud in my costume. I closed my eyes and tried to picture receiving my first salute as an officer but instead
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