Old trooper, I see your child’s red crayon pass,
bleeding deletions on the galleys you hold
under your throbbing magnifying glass,
that worn arena, where the whirling sand
and broken-hearted lions lick your hand
refined by bile as yellow as a lump of gold.
-Robert Lowell, from “For George Santayana”
At the suggestion of a local farmer, and after some deliberation, we took a back road and then no road at all, climbing over a cratered field of scrub into RAiR’s backyard. One of the residents came out fuming. “Turn around! Turn around!” He gestured toward a driveway that had been all but invisible beforehand. Rattled, Joe and I swung back—inched back, I should say—to the proper entrance. “A grand first impression,” Joe sighed.
We met Ryder Richards in front of his apartment and studio, a dun-colored affair with a slant silver roof that glared. All the other apartments looked much the same, excepting the compound’s meetinghouse whose single spire, in small silver letters, declared RAiR’s motto: The Gift of Time. Ryder showed us into the guest apartment where we would be staying. “There are towels in the bathroom,” he said. “You guys freshen up, then come over to my place for a drink.”
Joe showered first. We had been shed-camping in Madrid the past three days and were sooty for all the fires we had huddled over; too, the coal that blotched the surrounding hills—which we one day hiked—and hung in the air as dust, residual from the town’s old mines. Everything in Madrid seemed dirty, black. At RAiR it was the opposite: the walls were starkly white, the furniture austere. Even the sky was spotless.