Readers, last blog I wrote about how Holmes and I first met while we were young lads studying at Boscombe University in London. I was, I will admit, anxious that the blog might result in domestic disharmony between dear Holmes and myself. Holmes so doggedly dislikes tales of a personal nature – and all our of adventures at university were almost entirely of that kind – rather than the cases of a strictly factual nature which usually predominate at this blog. I was also afraid, dear readers, that you might find displeasure in this change. Happily, I was wrong on both counts and I was welcomed not only by Holmes’ begrudging blessing (‘Go on mother hen, just tell the damned story and be done with it’) but also a flood of comments pleading me to continue with tales from our old university days.
I am most happy to oblige, though once again I had to secure permission from Holmes to tell the tale. This is, at points, rather – violent – in nature. For some readers this tale could cast some serious doubts as to the nobility of my own character. I assure you that I am not short tempered by nature; usually only when Holmes has bent his not inconsiderable will to vexing me. I do humbly beg forgiveness of my readers if I somehow disappoint you with one of the more tawdry deeds I committed in my youth.
As I mentioned in my last post, at the beginning of our acquaintance, Holmes and I had a strong dislike for one another.
[ Addendum: Watson is really being too gentle. He means to say that we hated each other’s weaselly guts, as the idiom somewhat goes, and wished to piss upon the graves of one another’s most sacred ancestors. I hope that is not too frank an admission as to scandalise any readers unduly. ]
Outside of the constant bickering and sniping in which we participated, Holmes and I barely spoke during the first few weeks of our acquaintance. Upon reflection, it is evident that we have the same issues at stake in our relationship then as we do now: Holmes’ general lack of upkeep, lack of social decorum, severe bouts of misanthropy and constant and ongoing experiments. (‘Oh yes, Watson, put it all on me.’)
In the first week of our being room-mates, he blew a hole in the wall of our room which we first covered up with a Libertines poster and then tried to lie about in a very un-cunning fashion to the university housing staff. The next week Holmes somehow managed to burn off his eyebrows and the front part of his hair so he was half bald. Then Holmes ‘borrowed’ my best shirt for an experiment from which the shirt never recovered. Things went like this for a time until we could not remember what it was like to live without each other. Our mutual animosity became a kind of comfort, which allowed us to nurture a mutual admiration and respect, and then still later, a mutual affection which was agreeable as often as it was disagreeable. I have said to Holmes many times that this is the foundation of a true love: you simply cannot have real regard for someone with whom you cannot argue. Holmes says that’s rather romantic of me and I ought to make it an embroidered throw pillow of it.
It was in this fashion that the events of one Friday early in November were made possible. It was a crisp day, and the sun glowed upon the red and orange leaves in the trees. Rather than taking in the warm sun, Holmes and I were unfortunately indisposed indoors at the university library. I was endeavouring to research for a paper. Holmes was well . . . as far as I could tell, he was flittering about, from aisle to aisle, where he would peer between gaps in books quite intently a few moments, before moving on. A few times he would ‘hmmm’ or ‘haw’ or murmur to himself, as if he were analysing some very peculiar data indeed. His comings and goings were such a distraction to me that I was finally forced to say:
‘Holmes, what the bloody hell are you up to now?’
Holmes was only one aisle over from me and turned his head slowly.
‘What, Watson?’ he whispered.
‘I asked you what the bloody hell you were doing.’
Holmes walked over to the table at which I sat, behind a wall of books. The books parted and there was my manic room-mate’s face: the unmanageable hair, the wild yet keen silver eyes. Even then, I felt that Holmes was rather handsome.
‘I am conducting an informal study, Watson,’ said he, steepling his fingers, eyes focused upon a vague point.
‘What kind of study?’ This came out rather incredulously, as I could not understand what could possibly be studious about scurrying around the university library and peering into the shelves.
Holmes sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair, as if to say: Must I explain absolutely everything?
‘Oh, my dear Watson,’ he said. ‘Haven’t you heard?’
I stared at him.
‘The library is, according to rumors and hearsay which abound amongst university students – ’
‘Hardly factual,’ I said.
‘Yes, but, the hearsay, my dear Watson, is this.’
I leaned forward.
‘If you want to find someone to cop off with on Friday night – the university library – is apparently the ideal place to find that someone.’
He leaned further back, tipping his chair, hands clasped over his stomach and words OXFORD on his jumper, looking very smug.
‘That is absolutely ridiculous.’
Holmes looked deflated for a moment.
‘It – it is not – ’ he stammered, letting his chair slam back down onto all four of its legs. ‘I merely wish to ascertain what conditions in the library make it most amenable to university students copping off. This is a very serious inquiry.’
I snorted. ‘Oh yes, I suppose it is. If you’re inexperienced in such matters and want to conclude the issue by the week-end.’
‘Watson, I am serious and I am not, as you suggest, inexperienced. Indulge that keen mind of yours for a second and think. Knowledge of the whys and hows behind this phenomenon could be astronomical in its effect on the human race.’
‘Headline for the Daily Sun: “Old dusty books make people want to shag.” Oh yes, Holmes. I think you are on to something.’
‘Do you mock me sir?’ He leaned forward until I felt his breath on my face.
‘Get out of my face, Holmes.’
‘I am not in your face, dear Watson,’ he moved his face closer until our noses touched. His breath was warm and even vaguely minty and his lower lip protruded into my vision invitingly. I will admit, even if it is shameless and salacious, that I was entertaining certain notions of about that lower lip, even as I bristled at Holmes.
‘For God’s sake, I’m trying to – ’
Then Holmes did the most remarkable and repugnant thing I could then imagine. He let loose a sneeze, blasting greasy and foul phlegm all over my face, not to mention uncounted God knows what viruses and organisms.
Holmes took the liberty of finding the handkerchief in my front jeans pocket and using it finish emptying his nose.
‘My apologies, Watson. I do believe I got quite caught up and . . . well.’ He waved the hankerchief.
‘You. Are. Disgusting.’
‘Oh, come now man, it’s not that bad.’ Holmes reached towards me with the same handkerchief, saying, ‘Come now, we’ll have you cleaned up and right as rain – ’
‘Don’t touch me!’ I slapped his hand and the handkerchief away.
‘Now now.’ He waved the handkerchief in my face.
‘If you do that again I will break your hand, Holmes.’
Holmes seemed to consider this. Then, a slow smirk creeping over his features, he extended his hand and the offending handkerchief once again.
Holmes finds this incident humorous now, though I have to admit I still find it embarrassing that I lost my temper in such a manner. Curiously and maybe even incongruently, I find I regret not being able to punch Holmes in the face before the university security staff appeared. They found us awkwardly perched on the top of a rather long stairwell. Holmes was pinned by myself to the floor in a rather aggressive arm-lock which I had learned in my boyhood but never been forced to use. I was, according to university records which the current registrar staff was so kind as to let me review once again for the sake of accuracy, ‘threatening Holmes with vile and offensive language, something about “smashing his face in and stomping in his hand” ’ and then further ramblings about how he was ‘inhuman’ and I had to ‘live constantly in his mess’. Holmes, according to records, was as wide-eyed with fright as one of those classic damsels in distress, but I assure you, he was in no real danger, in spite of my rage. At most I would’ve roughed him up a little more and he would’ve been no worse for it.
[ Addendum: Let me assure you that Watson did no permanent damage. Until now, when he felt the need to equate myself with a ‘damsel in distress’. Those are his words, not the words as put down by the University staff. I have always admired Watson’s imagination and creativity, but frankly he can be indulgent and skimp on facts in the name of embellishment. ]
The university staff decided that we should be barred from entering the library together and that an incident report would be added to my permanent record for the violence I had visited upon young Holmes. I believe they felt me to be quite psychologically disturbed.
It is, almost needless to say, evident that Holmes never did figure out why the university library was a hotbed for students to find someone to cop off with. I do not think it requires a scientific inquiry to discover some of the causes and reasons behind this, however, given that the relative youth and life inexperience of most university students is inversely proportional to the amount of hormones their young bodies produce.
With that, readers, I shall leave you once again. Holmes is braying about something, which means it’s time that I set reservations for dinner to get him out of the house before he happens upon a new experiment and causes half the neighborhood to implode in some marvellous yet, legally speaking, dreadful manner which would invite inquiry and incarceration by the police.
Until next time, readers, enjoy your evening and I thank you humbly for reading.
Dr. John Watson
Unfortunate Husband, Chronicler and Captive of One Mr. Sherlock Holmes