[Fiction] The pressure of exams and college acceptances, and the decisions that stem from it:
In the first quarter of sophomore year, Cindy got an A-minus in Chemistry, and Paul Takahashi caught up to her. We liked Paul okay, but once he’d won the top spot, we had trouble maintaining our good feelings toward him. By the midway point of second quarter, most of us had added him to our Mono Wish List.
This wasn’t ill will; it was a calculation of survival. Sometimes late at night, writing a paper or studying for an exam, we reflected that if Dmitri Alexandrov should fall ill or slip into a months-long depression, his grades would suffer and we’d move up in the class ranking. We imagined the same thing happening to Cindy and Paul, and to everyone else who was ranked above us. Occasionally, we imagined it happening to our closest friends.