She accosted him as he entered their college dormitory. “Is it my fault? Did I say something?”
He started, shaken from his musings. “Sorry. Don’t follow.”
“I saw you entering the psychobabble office. They badgered me about my relationships with others. Didn’t think I said anything bad about you.”
He hesitated, reliving his confrontation with a counsellor from the Campus Cooperation Council. She demanded productive friendships and enthusiastic collaboration with his fellow students. Here was his chance to address those demands.
“No worry. Just a little pep talk,” he said.
“Come on. In Poli-Sci, they say our country stresses individual initiative, but in times of crisis, we join together to meet the challenge. It’s a bunch of bull. They’re brainwashing us, not meeting an external threat.”
He gazed at the mousy girl he remembered from last term. She was suddenly highly animated and much more appealing.
He pointed at a sofa in the residence’s conversation pit. “The college stresses academic excellence that supports our efforts to achieve our individual goals. But it also accepts the need for everyone to work together to meet the country’s challenges.”
She pushed away and perched at the far end of the sofa. “Fine, we study hard and win Nobel prizes or run high-tech companies or whatever we’re after. The rest is garbage, a perverted picture of belonging, being part of a team. I can’t do it.”
“Why not? We’ll be friends. I can help you with math and biology, and you can help me with English.”
“Pragmatic friendships to follow the rules, not real friendships.”
He smiled, thinking friendships evolve. “And the teamwork requirement. Put more effort into the annoying course projects we must do in teams. They’ll notice.”
“But they’re so unfair. Last term, I worked hardest on each project. Some did almost nothing.”
“It’s how it is. Accept it.”
She glanced at her phone and looked up with a twinkle in her eye. “Cafeteria’s open. Wanna go eat?”
He rose, silently thanking the psychobabble counsellor. This could be the start of something good.