What do you mean, me? she said.
Telling me this. Did you feel . . . interested?
I thought you might be.
You might say that Ive noticed you, but I accept the situation. Priorities. The imperative of medical school applications carried the unassailable weight of a religious edict.
Very well, she said, as if they had clarified a business arrangement.
The bill came. Fitzgerald tried to pay and Ming protested. He said that she could get the bill next time and she insisted that they should share.
She said, See you in January, and left. He had not even put his coat on, and afterwards she felt badly, decided she should have been calm and walked out into the street with him. Not just should have. She wanted to have done that, to have at least allowed herself to pretend, for the length of a city block, that there was something between them. Except that her cousins and familys friends were numerous on campus, and might notice her and Fitzgerald walking together without any academic justification for each others company. Not that those of her own age would disapprove, and not that they would do anything less themselves. They would be enthusiastic about such gossip, and it was the talk that could be dangerous.
Fitz struggled into his sweater, took it off again, sat for a little while, and then ordered a pint. There came the relief and ease of the first drink. With this sense of mild well-being, and having abstained completely over the exam weeks, and with no more tests to write and Ming having fled, why not have another? So another beer, and with it the open hurt of feeling sorry for himself. This was the part he liked least, when he wanted to cling to something. This feeling was a lingering shadow of what he had felt when his mother went away, and reminded Fitz of how his father had become cold except when morose in drink. This was the worst part of it, both familiar and unhappy. What was new to Fitz was that he felt a pain at not having Ming. The pain of rejection was a significant shade different from the longing of desire, he noted, although drawn from the same palette. This somber phase could generally be gotten through with a few more, and therefore justified the third drink. A washroom break. With the third pint came the brink between anger and the careless release that could sometimes be achieved and was the goal of the drinking. Fitz tried to will himself into this easy release, to tip over the meniscus of anger that grew like water perched higher than the rim of a glass, but it didnt work today. It didnt spill over so that he could relax, and instead he grew angry at his mother for crashing her car, at the doctors for not saving her, at his father for being his father, at himself for drinking, at Ming for being scared. After a fourth pint, the waiter brought him the bill and Fitz paid it with no tip, angry at the waiter for presuming that it was time for the bill. He told himself not to think about Ming because the anger didnt help him deal with the hurt of rejection. He let himself out into the street where it was still snowing, that drifting quiet veil that sometimes persists after a storm.
During the previous month, Ming and Fitzgerald had studied at the same table in the library. For self-identified med school keeners (the label was inherently selfdesignated even for those who publicly denied it), study tables were the monks cells of exam time. Adherents arrived early in the morning and sat silently except for whispered exchanges. There was a desperate devotion to the impending sacrament and judgment of the exam. The faithful departed late at night, and returned upon the librarys opening. At first Ming and Fitzgerald sat at the same table coincidentally, but gradually the third table from the corner window became their table. One day they courteously acknowledged that they were studying for the same examinations, and then later that day murmured about phosphorylation reactions.
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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