“What are your favorite colors?”
I wrote, “My favorite colors are yellow, gold, black, red, nut-brown, and dark red, not necessarily in that order.”
“What season of the year do you like best?”
“What are your favorite foods?”
“Desserts and anything spicy.”
“Do you have a favorite animal?”
“Cats,” I wrote, then crossed it out when I saw the smaller print reading “except for dogs or cats.” I thought for a few seconds more, then wrote, “turtles.”
“What is your favorite time of day?”
The next one, after all the pleasant pop-psych, came as a bit of a shock.
“What would be your reaction if we recommended something for you that you hadn’t previously tried and that sounded a little strange to you?”
“Depends,” I wrote. “I am not a pain addict and I don’t approve of violence.”
As if in answer to my questions, the next page boomed out in large type:
WELCOME TO ETANA. WE, YOUR STAFF, ARE DEDICATED TO MAKING YOUR STAY A MEMORABLE ONE. IF WE CAN ASSIST YOU IN ANY WAY, WE HOPE YOU WILL NOT HESITATE TO INQUIRE AND INFORM US. PLEASE NOTE: YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED OR OBLIGED TO ENTER INTO ANY ACTIVITY, WHETHER OF YOUR OWN CHOOSING OR SUGGESTED. YOU MAY CANCEL ANY OF YOUR REQUESTS AT ANY TIME BEFORE YOU SIGN A PERMISSION SLIP. AFTER YOU HAVE SIGNED, YOU MAY STILL CANCEL, AT THE DISCRETION OF THE DIRECTOR.
In smaller type: Please proceed to the section you have chosen. You may read the rest of the brochure at any time, but we recommend that you do so before you have spoken to the Director. Please remember to take your completed form and the brochure with you if this is your first time at Etana.”
As soon as I saw Bobby behind his newspaper, I said urgently to Leslie, “Let’s go up now. I’m ready.”
“Okay.” She rose, stretched, grunted.
Bobby grunted something like “slippiter” from behind his newspaper.
As we walked down the small bridge I had noticed earlier, the air was so cold and crisp that it could have been made of lonely high flute notes, as it almost seems to be in parts of Peru and Nepal.
There were six connected buildings of about five storeys each, although the windows were not uniform in size and placement. They reminded me sharply of a college quad. Their facades alternated layers of sandstone and dark brick.
Elevators seemed to run down glass panes in at least two buildings, but I could not see through them.
“So,” I said, “this is it. Looks like my old dorm.”
“It is,” Leslie said, “and I think you’ll find that it’s a lot more entertaining than your old dorm.”