A man and a woman were playing tennis, energetically but not particularly well. From three separate windows above, three men watched. The three men were not acquainted. Apart from being in the same hospital, they had no connection with one another. It was mere coincidence that brought them together in this manner and when they moved away from their windows, as each of them did in the next few minutes, their paths would never cross.
One of them had ceased to pay any real attention to the tennis players and was remembering instead some news he had just received by telephone. Another was thinking of a man to whom he had once made passionate love and whose hair was the same auburn color as the man's on the tennis court.
The third man was thinking of blood, staining clothes and flesh, of the smell of it and the feel of it, warm and wet and growing sticky as it faded from crimson to rust.
Calvin turned from the window to find a nurse standing in the open door. He cringed inwardly, as he always did, at the ghastly pink of her uniform. The outside of the building was pink, too, and even the walls of Calvin's room. He had felt more than once as if he were trapped in an enormous bale of cotton candy.
"Your brother is here," the nurse said.
Calvin smiled and, picking up his suitcase where it sat near the door, he followed her out of the room, along the corridor. He was elated that this moment had finally come, but he was apprehensive as well. A part of him wanted to run, to dash through the lobby and into the freedom that waited beyond the gated doors, but he carefully matched his steps to the nurse's pace--quick little steps. In the years that he had been here, he had learned not to show what he felt. Else, he was sure, he would not now be walking carefully, determinedly, toward that freedom.
"The doctor asked to see you," the nurse said as they approached Doctor Martin's office door. Calvin saw that the door was standing open.
"I thought I was free to go," Calvin said, stopping abruptly. He felt as if he had been tricked into a false sense of release.
"Doctor Martin always says goodbye to his patients and wishes them well," the nurse said in a voice that hinted at disapproval. Calvin ignored that. He was familiar with disapproval.
She left him at the door to the doctor's office. Calvin hesitated a moment before stepping through it, pausing just inside. Doctor Martin did not get up from his desk as Calvin came in, but he looked up at him and smiled, an unctuous smile. Calvin had always disliked his smile. He disliked Doctor Martin altogether, though he had always been careful to keep that feeling disguised.
"Calvin," Doctor Martin said belatedly, as if he'd had to search his memory to recognize him. "So, the day has come at last?"
"Yes," Calvin said, and mentally crossed his fingers. "Yes, I'm leaving, finally."
For a moment Doctor Martin looked displeased and Calvin half expected him to say he had changed his mind about that. What he said instead, though, was, "Of course, we'll miss you. Where will you be going? Has that been decided?"
"Home," Calvin said. "I'm going home. I decided that's where I would go."
Doctor Martin studied him for a long moment. In some ways, Calvin did seem like a stranger to him, despite the fact that they had met daily for almost three years. He was a good-looking young man, in a way--pretty rather than handsome, with those large waif-like eyes, too pale a green as if they had been washed out, but appealing in a boyish way. He was small, too, and slim. The doctor could well imagine that a certain type of man, not necessarily overtly homosexual, either, would find him more than a little attractive.
The doctor knew all too well, however, that the surface timidity and the willowy build concealed an iron hard resolve that had frustrated the doctor's most determined efforts to reach him. Indeed, his only success, if success you could call it, had been to return his patient to a speaking state--he had been all but catatonic when he had first come here, unable to speak except in the occasional monosyllable.
He refused, however, to speak of anything of any significance, regardless of how prodded. His homosexuality, for instance, of which Doctor Martin was convinced, that issue he would not touch upon at all.
"No, I've never done that," he would answer a question, "nor that. No," he said to every inquiry.
"Do you think perhaps you are a latent homosexual?" Doctor Martin had asked finally, despairing of getting any further into the subject.
"I think I am a latent human being," was the reply he got.
And that was typical of his history with this patient. The doctor liked simpler cases, people who were all of a piece. He had never quite known what to put in Calvin's file after he had interviewed him, and even now he had the feeling that there was something more that he should say or do.
Under other circumstances, he might have kept Calvin a bit longer at Villa de Valle, for further treatment. He was all too aware that he had not even scratched the surface of the protective armor that this patient wore so steadfastly.
There was some family disagreement going on now, however, over money, as those family squabbles so often were, and for the last few months, the bill had been paid late, later each time, until he had begun to worry that it might not be paid at all.
Ville de Valle was not a charitable institution, but rather a private hospital for those who could afford to pay and pay dearly. As the hospital's chief administrator, it was a large part of his responsibility to see that those who stayed, paid.
In any event, though he knew that he had done very little for Calvin Sparrow, he was convinced that keeping him here any longer would make no great difference in that regard. He smiled at Calvin again and stamped his case file "Closed," and placed it in the basket for his secretary to file. He did not miss the quick flash of relief that came and went in an instant on Calvin's face--as much emotion as he had ever demonstrated.
"Well, I simply wanted to wish you well and good luck," The doctor said, "and of course, if you ever need to come back..."
"I won't," Calvin said.
They exchanged looks. Doctor Martin nodded and turned his attention to the papers on his desk, dismissing his former patient.
Really, he was glad to be done with him.