Sport 9: Spring 1992
Arriving in a van minutes earlier, Bede had felt he was about to swing down from a helicopter into this muddy notion of a place. A scale of sorts had asserted itself dimly through the rain. The building he and his driver sought had extended a discernible congruence of path and lawn toward them through a mist. Its entrance was formal enough; Bede had otherwise felt he was entering a laboratory. In aluminium letters of boxy prominence, QUEST CLINIC had announced itself.
Now, through a window, Bede could see on a bank nearby, at shoulder-height, a cow, disconsolate and halt. The sky beyond was its own grim landscape, a terrain inverted.
'It pays, you know, to have a shower,' said the man beside Bede.
Bede turned to face him. The man wore an expression suggesting he was inclined, for the present, in the present instance, to suspend the exercise of a nugatory authority. Disarmingly, behind his spectacles he had eyes which seemed not to need glasses. They were healthy enough and direct and might, indeed, have done much in other circumstances to oppress. To taunt them Bede said, 'Tonight, if there's time.'
'Oh? I thought perhaps that after the journey, the ride, the van and so on, and there's plenty of hot.'
Adjacent to the dormitory was a games room with darts, pool and a table-tennis table. Across the hall again were the showers, toilets and basins. Their whiteness was achingly cold, the purity of the place and its accoutrements doubled, it seemed, by powerful fluorescent tubes. The windows in here were of a misted, meshy kind. But cowless. And the difficulty in communal living was always to find somewhere to masturbate.
Bede's suitcase (and his low, narrow and dim new bed) were behind them somewhere now. They were passing down a watery glass corridor or passage for which Bede felt a liking. Its slope hinted at levels, at complexity. To page 42 Bede's left, dismal in the rain's wet and ragged discontinuity, walls of red brick-veneer enclosed a cute little lawn and garden. Some sort of short, monolithic statue or sculpted form peeped out through fronds with a dark, coy magic.
In the institution's lounge there emerged, at last, an architectural theme Bede thought he might live with. Here the ceiling leapt upward, a complicated arrangement of rafters and beams, of polished native timbers. There was a huge, stacked fireplace of slate, a stone, in any case, in the crystalline texture of which the spectrum seems trapped.
'Have a fire most evenings, weather like this,' said Bede's guide. 'In here you've got your kitchen. Joe does this out, keeps it tidy. Here's your tea, your coffee, all your bits and pieces. We try and keep it nice. Like a bar, really, eh?'
Bede walked the length of the room to where sliding glass doors gave a view of the valley below. There was much in this vista to interest him; Bede would save it.
It was all, today, much like a vast, indefinite tunnel with walls of a uniform puce, ruptured bluely here and there, or whitely, in which a silver opacity rolled like smoke away, away.
'Here's Greg,' said the man, and was replaced in Bede's awareness by this new one, who had at least a name, and was closer to Bede in age, though younger, with a quick, firm grip.
'Greg,' said Greg, with a squeeze, 'ward host. What do you like least about the place so far?'