Describe a significant experience you have had, and its meaning to you.

Ah, college admissions essays. How can you express everything about a "significant experience" in less than 500 words- much less every particle of your being? Nevertheless I concocted the following with sweat and tears; then pared it down mournfully to a word count of 497. As Stephen King said: "Kill your darlings."

Any creative input would be greatly appreciated, I would be eternally grateful to be /msged with comments or criticisms (but none too harsh, I'm a tortured soul.)

College Admissions Essay: 10/13/02

My mother's lover was handsome: electric blue eyes, ridiculously white teeth, a disarming grin reminiscent of Michael Douglas. He was interesting: a world-renowned mechanical engineer, he had traveled to faraway lands that in my mind gleamed a fairy tale compared to my rural Texas upbringing. Most importantly, he was charming: cultured as an aristocrat, he spoke with a certain joie de vivre unparalleled by any of other suitor. But things aren't always what they seem.

I stopped that man from killing my mother.

In his whirlwind courtship of kisses and compliments, neither of us noticed the telltale signs of a disturbed mind. A libation here, a dirty word there- it was all explained away as "a lovers' spat", never "domestic abuse." Extravagant gourmet meals and red, red long-stemmed roses masked the hot tears that streamed down my mother's face; a bruise on my leg was attributed to my own klutziness, not his rash temper. Any errs pointed out by me in an uncommonly clear mood would be promptly dismissed- "You don't know what love really is."

One evening after a particularly violent fight, he took me for a drive in the country road. He usually drove like Satan's chauffeur, but that night he was placid, eyes fixed on the horizon as if looking for life's meaning. I punctuated the silence:

"What's wrong?"

"I'm going to kill her. I am GOING to KILL her." He enunciated each word slowly, as if speaking to a five year old.

I usually paid him no attention. If I had not seen the gun on the dashboard, if I had not noticed it was loaded, perhaps I would now be ping-ponged amongst foster parents instead of remaining in my loving home. I knew, immediately, what I had to do:

"Can you take me to Sofia's?" My best friend from childhood.

" Why the hell not."

The moment I got there I ran into the house and called the police. The next day my mother would tell me that I had cried uncontrollably when she found me later, although I have no recollection of that evening. Neither of us saw him again.

Society's idea of maternity is laughably inept- haus frau or M.D., mother is always right. Yet the lines often blur. Mothers can and do falter, children sometimes are called to shoulder the familial burden. It usually happens over the years, but for some of us it happens in a split second: a decision made on the unsteady precipice between life and death, a lifetime changed in the balance.

I could have held an eternal grudge against my mother, scribbling tidings of my hatred in a sad little black notebook. I could have become a perfect daughter, studying furiously while cleaning house. But I am neither. I can only be me, a person with faults and talents, myriad dreams and plaguing insecurities.

This I have learned during the sojourn of my life: Love unconditionally, but only if the love is truly returned.