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 each other.
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 be avoided.
I wont make the cut-off, said Fitzgerald. He looked up.
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 paper.
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. Found something?
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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