My father laid his hand on my shoulder. I knew I was not to fling it off. So I sat still, slouching, ready to spring aside if he lifted it only slightly. “You must get a first, Suno,” he said through his nose, “must get a first, or else you wont get a job. Must get a job, Suno,” he sighed and wiped his nose and went off, his patent leather pumps squealing like mice. I flung myself back in my chair and howled. Get a first, get a first, get a first — like a railway engine, it went charging over me, grinding me down, and left me dead and mangled on the tracks.
I felt as if we were all dying in the park, that when we entered the examination hall it would be to declared officially dead. That’s what the degree was about. What else was it all about? Why were we creeping around here, hiding from the city, from teachers and parents pretending to study and prepare? Prepare for what? We hadn’t been told. Inter, they said, or B.A. or M.A. These were like official stamps — they would declare us dead. Ready for a dead world. A world in which ghosts went about, squeaking or whining, rattling or rustling. Slowly, slowly we were killing ourselves in order to join them. The ball-point pen in my pocket was the only thing that still lived, that still worked.