Fine, Mr. Interviewer. Make up something, then. Laughing, Fitzgerald said, Miss Ming, do you really, truly, deeply care about humanity as you claim in your essay?
Doesnt everyone who sits in this stupid chair?
Tell me, Miss Ming, whats the most terrible thing you have done in your life?
She had been thinking of this, of wanting to tell him about that which answered this question. It would be a trial run of telling it to a man she was in love with, as it would seem somehow necessary to tell such a theoretical man. This would be ideal, she had already reasoned, because Fitzgerald resembled a person that she might fall in love with. In this instance, however, their pre-set constraints meant that nothing would be lost by discussing this thing that she carried like a full bowl of water on her headso careful to not spill it and yet every moment wanting to smash it into the ground.
Ming said, Do you really want to know?
I must know, Miss Ming. We only admit the purest of character.
Forget the interview shtick. I want to tell you something. He said, You want to confess that you fantasize about me. They had both come to accept an ongoing flirtation of feigned seriousness. It allowed them to vocalize their desires in a way thatby being absolutely straightforwardthey could treat as a joke. She pulled her legs up to her chest. I want to tell you something true and awful, which I really hate. Will we go on being friends?
He said, Well be the same people.
Except that theres a part of me that you dont see yet thats very dark and you might think Im a bad person.
You mean the fact that youre withholding the truththat youre deeply and soulfully in love with me, as I am with you, said Fitzgerald. Again, this reality was spoken directly to discount itself. This time, she felt, it sounded slightly too honest to function as the usual throwaway, and given what she was about to tell him, she felt angry at Fitzgerald for saying these words which mocked them both. Now scared, she said, Its awful, that our friendship has become important. I wanted to keep everything sterile. I wanted to go to medical school and start fresh.
He retreated, saying, Its best that theres . . . nothing between us, then.
Briefly, she thought of making something up, of confessing to something silly. But Fitzgerald had a good instinct for knowing what wasnt true, of hearing what didnt fit. Besides, maybe she would tell him and he would hate her. It would be tidy and finished. She said, I had this, you know, this relationship.
Sure, said Fitzgerald.
Maybe for you its no big deal, she said. Then, Im being touchy.
Mings chest pounded, and her breath felt as if it was coming through a small straw. She was afraid that her next word would crack, and was angry at herself for being close to crying, for not letting the silly fakeinterview question slide away. She had come to assume Fitzgeralds kindness, but now felt trapped in actually needing to trust it. She said, It was from when I was twelve until not very long ago. With Karl, who taught me to study.
A short silence, which seemed to stretch. A click, then the hollow tone.
The other line had been picked up. She could not seelittle points of light swirled in front of her. The click had occurred only after she had finished speaking, hadnt it? Or had it just clicked off ? Had the other line been open all this time, and had it just clicked off ? Mings stomach was tight. Was her father listening now, or had he listened? Wait . . . the telephone silence had that hollow sound right now. Was she fooling herself what was a sound with no one speaking? Then, as she tried to discern the nature of the silence, as she wished that she could reach across the quiet to take Fitzgeralds hand, Mings father said in Cantonese, Little daughter, you have an important trip tomorrow. Sleep, please.
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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