The Considerate Killer(6)

By: Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis

Now he sat as motionless as he could manage in the costume, his arms held away from his body so the sweat stains wouldn’t become too noticeable. The pages of the book he was attempting to read were damp from contact with his hands.

Two hours ago there had been more guys sitting or standing around. Dark pants, white shirts, and glistening foreheads. There had been girls too, of course—most in business suits and skirts, but also a few in expensive-looking jeans, sneakers, shirts and discreet makeup. Not a single one had looked a day over eighteen, and Vincent was willing to bet next semester’s allowance that they were all fresh from high school with top grades, because you needed those to get in, but also with money. Rich kids, most of them, respectable and well-connected, from Manila or the wealthy suburbs. And they had all been called in before him.

The only person left besides himself was a giant of a guy who sat a few empty seats away, reading the Manila Times while he calmly chewed his way through a bag of cashews.

“Would you like one?” he asked when he noticed Vincent’s look.

“No, thanks.” Just the thought of the salty, dried nuts made his throat constrict even further.

The guy just nodded.

“Victor,” he said and stretched out a large hand. He could comfortably reach across the empty seats.

“Vincent,” said Vincent and offered his hand.

Victor’s grip was soft and dry and without any macho attempt to demonstrate his strength. Vincent wondered how his own hand felt—damper than usual, definitely, but could his panic be detected?

Victor did not seem to notice anything. He just offered him another small nod, as if this was merely another item on some inner to-do list: say hello politely—check. Vincent was envious of his apparent serenity.

He wished it was over and done with. He knew that they would ask him about “his motivation for becoming a doctor” and about his “personal character,” as had been somewhat vaguely indicated in the letter from the faculty. What kind of personal characteristics they were hoping to find, he had no idea, even though he had had plenty of time to think about it lying awake the night before.

He had always been told that he was gifted and that he worked hard. He had studied so strenuously for his exams last week that you would have been able to wake him up at any point in the night to make him recite the properties of the elements, explain the Coriolis effect, and demonstrate differential equations. But whatever being of “good moral character” meant, it seemed less tangible, and all he had to go by were Father Abuel’s injunctions to keep sex inside holy wedlock, honor your parents, and so forth.

He was a virgin, which could not be said to be entirely his own doing. Bea was the one who had kept cool for them both on the rare occasions when they had been alone together and had kissed for so long that everything had gone up in flames. He was not sure he could credit those bonus points to his own moral account.

And there were those damnably autonomous nightly erections followed by just as damnable ejaculations, with or without his own active intervention, a sin that according to the church was almost as severe as sex outside of marriage. If purity and fidelity were counted as a subject, he was not at all sure he would pass, and he shrank from confessing such embarassments to Father Abuel. The priest had taken a vow of silence, of course, but it still felt as if the sinful words might somehow leak from the confessional and find their own way to Bea during the Sunday mass in San Marcelino. Also, it was Father Abuel who had written the recommendation that finally had secured the St. Joseph scholarship for Vincent. It did in fact say that Vincent was “of good moral character” and that he pursued “a Christian way of life.” After that, Vincent had stopped going to confession entirely.

As far as honoring your parents went, he was doing better. Quite respectably, in fact. He did what he was told. It wasn’t really that difficult. Any idiot could do homework until ten every evening. It was easy. Or had been in elementary and high school anyway, with his mother providing a newly ironed school uniform, clean T-shirts, and three meals a day.

So he was, when he summed it up, hard-working and quite intelligent and he honored his mother and father, as it was written in the Bible. He could not think of any other positive personal characteristics. There wasn’t really anything to hold on to, he thought, other than the information on his identity card. Vincent Bernardo. Twenty years old, engaged to Bea; son of his parents and big brother to Mimi. Not poor, but far from rich. Whether this was enough to get him accepted into St. Francis College of Medicine, he had no idea.

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