Tuesday, 8 March 2016
Chapter six (segment two), 2016, November, Christina
When Ulf drummed up the speed of his feet Christina had to pull his sleeve to physically slow him down.
“Ulf, I didn't just accidentally fall behind them.”
“I know,” he answered, “but I feel well enough to keep up. You don't need to show me this kind of concern.”
Crap, he thinks I'm worried about his health! Truth be told she was, and more than a little, but if he said he was good then she needed to believe him. Besides it wasn't the real reason she held him back.
Waiting for two cars to pass them and the sound of engines to die off a bit she walked with Ulf along a 7-Eleven that could have passed for a Stockholm memory from two years earlier.
“Ulf,” she said when both the sound of engines and lit store-front were behind them. “Are you sure about the science track?”
For once she spoke Japanese with him even though they were alone. Some concepts didn't translate all that well into Swedish, and the Japanese system with a one size fits all freshman high school year didn't exist in Sweden. Hadn't existed when she attended high school the first time, and didn't these days.
He gave her a look of curiosity but responded in Japanese as well. “It's my main background. I'm in IT, so computer science is kind of natural for me.”
“You're about as much in IT as I'm in modelling,” Christina grumbled, but she regretted her words as soon as she had spoken them. Since a few months she was very much into modelling again.
Ulf pulled her closer to him and laughed silently. “Fine, I'm into management and development processes.”
Thank you for forgiving me when I'm an idiot! “Ulf, can you handle it with your grades?”
There were a few moments of silence only broken by the sounds of their feet on the ground and the occasional car of the street.
“You know,” Ulf began, “I think I'll have an easier time with the science track than the liberal arts one. Less dependent on the Japanese language.”
“So you mean your grades aren't that important?”
“They're important and they suck!”
Christina stopped in her tracks at the sudden vehemence in Ulf's voice.
“How come you're so angry about your grades? They're low, but not disastrously so. Look at mine!”
Ulf sighed. “We'll get to those later. I think Noriko will help, and between the three of us we'll have you above the cut-off.”
Dammit Ulf, don't treat me like an idiot! “You didn't answer my question.”
Ulf took a long time to answer, and they got almost a block close to their destination. “I guess,” he said finally, “that I hate being dragged down because of my Japanese.”
“We both are, and yours is a lot better than mine.”
He nodded but still managed to look downcast. “It's just… it's just that I grew used to being among the best when I was a high school student for real.”
“For real. Ha.” And what exactly do you mean by 'the best'?
Ulf looked morose for a moment. “Yes, you're right. Here we're real students as well. Only makes it worse.”
“Among the best you said?” Christina suggested, digging for some more knowledge about his past.
“Yes. Even though I pretty much flunked music and did poorly at sports I still managed five flat with the system back then.”
He looked at her. “You were, what, one year behind me? You must have used the one to five scale.”
“Yes. Changed sometime during the nineties. So, five flat?”
“That's my mean from high school. Made me feel like a king.”
What he had just said finally filtered through Christina's mind. “You graduated high school with five point zero? What?”
“Our sister club is in an elite school, my old school. Think I told you earlier. We were five in our class with perfect grades.”
“Gods!” Christina took two quick steps and stood facing him. “You're not kidding?”
“No, I had it easy. Chalmers was harder. It seemed everyone had grades like mine, and most had worked a lot harder. I never really shone there, but I didn't mind.”
“Of course you went to Chalmers. That's so… Ulf.” She laughed and poked his chest. “So you have a master’s degree?”
“Uhum, science and arts.”
“Eh, that's a strange combination.”
“Sorry, my bad. Science from Chalmers. After the dot com crash I took up English studies at university. Evening courses to fill my time. Got my arts degree from there.”
Me and my big mouth. I should have guessed. “Two, the idiot has two degrees,” Christina said at a lack for a decent retort.
“Don't worry. Took ages to get the last one. I didn't finish until a couple of years ago, so I spent, what, twelve years getting it.” Ulf laughed. “Was just a hobby after all.”
“Yes, sounds like my Ulf. You ran a company and got yourself an extra master’s degree as a hobby. And you kept up that Japanese combat training of yours.”
“Aikido, not combat.”
“Whatever. You've got too much brains for your own good, you know that? Probably why you always think too much.”
If he had that kind of learning capacity he might just make the science track just fine. As for herself Christina held no overblown hopes about her academic ability. She'd claw herself through the Japanese high school system one way or another, and after that she'd be done with her studies. She had a world to conquer.
“Ulf,” she said after the content of their conversation became a future reality. “I guess that means we'll never be in the same class.”
“I guess not,” he said. “Would you prefer for me to go for the liberal arts track instead?”
Christina threw out her hands in horror. “No! Don't build your future on me!”
The look she got in return was filled with equal parts respect and hurt.
Please don't. You can't depend on me. But she would have liked to share more time with him, and she was on the verge of saying something stupid when she saw the entrance to Stockholm Haven café ahead of them.