A cane, a tremor, a bitter smirk: those had been his constant companions since that bullet bit into his shoulder, shattered bone and ended the first job he’d ever loved; maybe the only one he’d ever love. The thing about Kabul was the extremes. It was hotter, colder, drier, windier.
Returning to London’s damp, dreary days had been akin to being dumped right into the middle of the mundane, mediocre, and maudlin. It had nearly killed him. He’d nearly killed himself. Publicly he blamed the pain. People understood pain, respected it, deferred to it.
“You’ll perk up when the cast is off,” Harry insisted.
“It’s easier once you get back to work,” His friend Bill insisted.
He wouldn’t know. Every time he clicked open his CV, his hand began to tremble.
Surgeon’s hands don’t shake, can’t shake.
Surgeons with shaking hands don’t see the inside of operating theatres. They see psychiatrists. His suggested blogging.
He had been a son, a sibling, a surgeon, and a soldier.
Now he was to be a blogger?
He loathed the idea. He resisted at first. He had nothing to write about. Nothing. That was the title and subject of his very first entry, nothing. He had nothing to say. He’d tried to avoid the thing entirely, but typing “Nothing” was the only thing on his agenda.
The Personal Blog of Dr. John H. Watson? The title was as bland as the entries, as boring as his life, as banal as anything that would ever happen to him outside of Afghanistan. It would be worse when his physical therapy was done and his finances, or lack thereof, would force a move away from London.
The thought of it ached, literally. The more he thought of a simple life at a general surgery in some quiet, quaint, sleepy town in Cornwall, the more pain he felt in his shoulder, his leg, his hand, his heart.
Knowing he had few opportunities left, he broke down and saw his old rugby mates. It wasn’t quite as awkward as he had expected. Still, he waited a few days before committing to drinks with another old friend. He liked the atmosphere of the pub, the laughter, the sometimes rowdy reminiscence. But it always came down to the same awkward moment.
“So, what’s new with you?”
“Nothing, you can read about it on my blog.”
And then a chance encounter with an old schoolmate. He’d tried to hurry along when he recognized the figure moving towards him, calling his name. Damn the leg. Damn Mike. Damn it all. There he was stuck on a park bench doing the catching up thing, yet again.
It had been predictably awkward. The long pause after he mentioned being shot, the lingering look at the cane, the desperate attempts to keep his hand still, unnoticed. He tried keep the conversation short, impersonal. It had gone according to plan. Mike had grown up, got married, got a job, had four kids, gained weight, the usual.
John had been shot in a foreign land and that had been it, the last notable moment.
He’d done nothing but subsist for the past six weeks.
He expected sixty more years of the same.
He’d be leaving London. He had no plans for the future.
He expected Mike’s expression to sour, for his laughter to turn nervous, and for him to quickly, frantically remember someplace else he needed to be.
But no, Mike remembered a colleague who needed a flatmate.
And just like that John was thrust back into a world of extremes. In the next 48 hours he’d meet the most remarkable man he’d ever know, move into a flat he’d seen only once, stand over a freshly murdered body, get kidnapped by a beautiful brunette and a Machiavellian madman. He would run and jump and laugh, he would laugh uproariously.
He would kill a man, watch him bleed to death, and his hand wouldn’t shake a bit.
When he finally stepped into the shower at his new flat, just as the sun was coming up, he let hot tears flow. He cried not for the life that he took, but for the life that could now be taken from him.