Ming called Fitzgerald late that night, hours after she
had rushed away from her half-eaten pad thai. He
woke to the phone ringing, his head pounding with an
early evening hangover.
She said, Youve been honest, so I should be. I am
attracted to you, and now that we both understand
this problem, we shouldnt study together or even see
Does that make it more clear?
Its only that the whole thing will go wrong.
Fitzgerald pointed out the competitively lonely
nature of their faculty, spoke in a seemingly spontaneous
and heartfelt way about the improbability and
importance of human connection, and said, Why dont
we be friends, of an academic nature. It was at this
moment, as he said this in a comforting manner, that
Ming became certain that she was in love with him.
They concluded that since they were adults with common
priorities, and agreed that a relationship was inadvisable,
there was no reason why they couldnt help
each other study. After hanging up, Ming felt pleased
in a longing, distanced way. She could be in love with
Fitz in this protection of an agreement, with an understanding
between them that there would be no
romance, and so, she decided, she would not be hurt.
The graded biochemistry finals were the last set to be
distributed in the second week of January. Fitzgerald
flipped through his paper, adding up the numbers.
Ming opened her locker and thrust her own exam into
the bottom of her knapsack. She was unsure whether to
ask Fitzgerald the sensitive question, the private issue.
Some people made a show of displaying their victories,
or their self-flagellation at a disappointment. Ming felt
that grades were fundamentally secret successes and
defeats. On the other hand, Fitzgerald lingered near
her. No, she wouldnt ask. She was not afraid of him
doing better than her. It was just that he might feel that
she was being nosy in the publicly competitive way that
she hated, or would think that she cared, which should
I wont make the cut-off, said Fitzgerald. He
In the way that a mother asks a child to show her a
boo-boo she said, Show me.
I needed to ace this, he said, handing her the
Ming was embarrassed by his grade, by his lower lip
drawn tight, and by her own result.
The cut-off changes every year, she said. It was
believed that a magic grade point average was required
in order to get an interview. Ming searched for an error
in the addition of marks, hoping to find that ten points
had simply not been added. She could give this to
Fitzgerald like a gift, although this happening would be
like finding a hundred-dollar bill lying in the street.
Among the medical school applicants there were theories
about mcat scores, varying schools of thought
about curricula vitae, and tales circulated about what so
and sos brother and such and suchs sister were asked in
their interviews. Small groups of people who sat shoulder
to shoulder in every lecture shared underground
treasuries of old exams, but denied their existence to
anyone outside their number. It would have been commonly
agreed that Fitzgeralds grade of seventy-eight
was a liability.
How did you do? asked Fitzgerald.
Most people wouldnt be so modest.
I lost two marks, but made them up with the
bonus, she said. She had to tell him. There was an
accepted notion of Ill show you mine if you show me
yours, and she felt good telling him. Whenever Ming
got her marks, the numbers first gave her a sense of
relief, and only once this moment passed did she allow
herself to feel some pleasure. Then came the fear that
if she became pleased and complacent, she might fail
in the future. She reminded herself of the ease with
which perfection could be lost, and was wary of being
satisfied with her grades. Now, it felt good to tell
Fitzgerald that she had received a perfect score. Still
looking at his exam, she said, Get this regraded.
The above excerpt is the complete text of the short story "How To Get Into Medical School, Part 1" , pages 1-30 of Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. Copyright (c) Dr. Vincent Lam, 2007. Reproduced with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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