"You shouldn't be in Francesca's room," Frank the Nurse observed with a discreet inattention to detail. I sheepishly got myself upright, dressed and out, my dignity detumescing.
Word was out by Meditation at 10pm. Eyebrows grappled for space on the ceiling as Francesca and I were ogled in silent interrogation. Prayer- like things were said as usual. Then, as usual, patients talked about their day. Robert the Property Developer gave us an update on his marriage breakdown and a broken contract for an office block in Swindon. Fiona the Battered Wife waffled a bit about how wonderful it was in here, and so on. When Francesca and I alone were left to speak, there was silence. It took Mark the Style Guru to break it.
Mark the Style Guru is a wideboy who is about as smooth as it gets. With his Comme des Garcons clothes and his vast experience of rehab, he cuts a physically and psychologically ostentatious figure. To his credit, he does have a good insight into other people. But that only makes it worse.
"It's like having an elephant in the room and nobody saying anything," Mark began. When there was no response, he continued. "Everyone knows you and Francesca have been having it away in her room. Apart from destroying your own recovery, it's damaging to other patients who do want to get well." (This is a typically squirmy statement to induce guilt. The fact is, however, it's useful to have a bad example around to strengthen your own resolve.) "You'll get kicked out and you're going to die out there," Mark went on. "We don't want you to die out there," he added fatally, then finished with a neat coup de grace through his own heart. "We all love you both."
I was too livid at his preposterousness to speak, so it took Francesca the Lawyer to pull out the sword on which he'd fallen and lick it clean.
"You're one to talk, you bloody hypocrite," she said. "You tried to stick your tongue down my throat last night. You've told me endlessly you want to fuck my brains out. I'd just like to say that even if you were the last man on Earth, forget it."
Blink and you'd have missed it, but before Mark smoothed on with an atrocious denial, we all detected the infinitesimal pause and the reddening of cheeks. I try to worry for his recovery.
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