I, Kurt Hummel, sit opposite my wife who is quietly doing her cross stitch as we listen to Rachmaninov on the record player – a picture of perfection, the two of us in an idyll village in the suburbs just outside London, middle class and happily married. Or so it would seem.
I look across at my wife Edith and think how easily I could tell her everything, how it might slip out, how I would feel less burdened but I know I cannot. She trusts me completely and even if I were to tell her everything when we were old and grey and our children were fully grown, she would look back and know everything we had lived and experienced together had been a lie. She would be so hurt and I mustn’t forget we’re a happily married couple, this is my home and my children Bobby and Margaret are upstairs in bed. I’m supposed to be a happily married man or so I could pretend until a few weeks ago.
It started on such an ordinary day and at such an ordinary place – the refreshments room at Milford train station of all places. I was reading my book that I had bought that day in London and drinking my cup of tea. The landlady of the café was being spoken to by one of the railway porters and she pretended she wasn’t interested, acted as though he was disturbing her time but there was a flicker in her expression whenever he spoke to her, which gave her away. She would smile slightly whenever he entered the little café and she was quite entertaining to listen to really. A man came in a little later, as I continued to read and I hardly noticed him until he turned round after he had ordered his tea. He was wearing a suit with a waterproof mac over the top and a hat pushed quite low. His hair was well styled, neatly gelled and his face was pleasant as he smiled my way and took his tea to another table. He was clearly attractive but I thought nothing more of him until later when he helped me.
You see I had decided to go out to the platform to await my train but as the express train whizzed through the platform and bringing with it smoke and dust, a piece of grit must have flown into my eye. I stumbled into the café again and asked the landlady for a small cup of water to rinse my eye with. The pleasant looking man with the styled hair came over after a while and explained he was a doctor and asked if he could help. There was a strange spark as he held my chin with one hand and asked me to look down, then up and coming closer to my eye with his handkerchief, he removed the grit and smiled warmly at me, glad he could help.
It was only as I thanked him for his help and smiled in return that I could fully look at that face that I won’t ever be able to forget now. He had the most beguiling eyes I had ever seen on a man – amber, brown and a mixture of greens and as they softened in front of me, I continued to smile. His eyes continued to sparkle as the bell indicated his train was arriving on the platform and explaining that was his train, he left.
I stood on the opposite platform a few moments later, catching sight of him waiting for his train on the other side and I waved in thank you. As I went to bed that night I thought of the mysterious man but didn’t mention it to anyone and life carried on.
I went into Milford the following Thursday, the man in the meantime just a fleeting image across my mind when I was alone or deep in thought. I enjoyed my Thursdays each week, my only day off from work and they have always represented my freedom, where I can see a film, get another book or pick up things my family might need. It was good to have a break from the idyll, if I’m honest.
As I walked to Milford station after such a Thursday I bumped into the mystery man and he smiled warmly at seeing me. He tipped his hat and inquired jokily about my eye, to which I assured him it was fine. I couldn’t help the grin that spread over my face as he smiled and went on his way. There was something about him, the way he moved, his smile that reached his eyes. Although he had barely grazed my thoughts before this second encounter, the following week I started to think about him more often. As I walked up the ramp to my platform, the train he would be getting on was just departing and I wondered if he was on it and whether he could see me.
The following Thursday I was eating lunch in a café in town, it was very full and luckily two people had just left as I entered. Just as I gave my order I saw him come in and I thought he looked a little tired. I could see there was nowhere for him to sit so I smiled at him and said good morning.
“Oh good morning,” he said, smiling in greeting, “Are you all alone?”
“Yes, all alone.”
“Would you mind if I join you?” he asked glancing at the full tables around him, “There doesn’t seem to be anywhere free.”
“No of course not,” I said gesturing to the seat opposite me.
“I’m afraid we haven’t been introduced properly, my name’s Blaine Anderson,” he said, stretching his hand across to mine, which he shook firmly.
“Kurt Hummel. You’re a doctor aren’t you?” I asked conversationally, “I seem to remember you mentioning it in the refreshments room.”
“Yes, not a very interesting one, just an ordinary GP. What do you do?” he asked.
“I’m a bank manager in town,” I grimaced, “Again not very interesting.” He laughed and his face was alight with soft laughter lines. He looked breathtaking.
The waitress arrived with my drink and asked for his order and upon finding out I had ordered the soup and sole, he ordered the same.
All of a sudden the small orchestra in the corner started and it was a funny collection of women. A younger woman was playing the violin standing up near the front but the older woman sitting with her cello caught our eye and Blaine started to laugh.
“Oh look at the woman at the cello, how funny,” he said still laughing and I looked to find her peering over little glasses at her music, looking so austere and serious I couldn’t help but laugh too. I felt light and carefree in his presence.
“Do you like music?” he asked.
“Yes, I play the piano and sing, I’m actually a countertenor,” I smiled, a blush creeping along my cheeks.
“Really?” he said, looking amazed, “How fantastic! I sing and play the piano too but only when I can get the chance. I’m glad both of us can appreciate real music,” he said indicating the tiny orchestra. “I would love to hear you sing sometime,” he said, his voice lower in volume and his eyes looked so intensely at me, I fought the urge to blink in case I missed something.
“Do you come here every Thursday?” I asked, swallowing.
“Yes, to visit the hospital,” he said, settling back slightly in the chair, “The chief physician there graduated with me and he likes to spend the day as a GP at my practice while I spend the day in his hospital. Do you?”
“Do I?” I asked.
“Come here every Thursday?” he asked and I blushed again in embarrassment that I had been obtuse.
“Yes, I work in town but I always have Thursday off as I take the bank books home and someone manages the bank for me. I change my reading book, have lunch and go to the pictures. Not very exciting but it’s a change of routine and I find I like the break. I must sound very dull.”
“You could never be dull,” he said sincerely and smiled. I looked at him carefully for a fleeting moment, unsure whether he meant anything more with his comment, but then the moment passed.
“Are you going to the pictures this afternoon?” he asked.
“How extraordinary, so am I,” he smiled mischievously.
“I thought you had to spend all day at the hospital?”
“Well between you and me, I killed two patients this morning and I don’t think the nurse is very happy with me.” He winked and I felt my chest swoop. He looked so young and carefree, I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Seriously I did get through most of my work this morning, would you mind awfully if I played truant with you this afternoon?”
“No it would make a nice change to sit with someone.”
We paid for our lunch soon after and split the bill meticulously. We chose to go to the Palladium for the film and it turned out the woman playing on the piano in the orchestra for the film was the same lady who played the cello at our café and we fell about laughing when we realised. I had never felt more alive than I did that afternoon. We joked and laughed, spoke of our families and our professions but really Blaine came alive when he spoke about music and how it affected him. Soon the film started and we sat watching it, our arms grazing as they rested on the armrest between us.
As we came out of the cinema, I asked pleasantly if Blaine was married.
“Yes my wife’s name is Madeline.”
“What’s she like?”
“Small, dark and rather delicate. Are you married?”
“Yes, my wife is called Edith and she’s slim with fair hair and blue eyes. I think you’d probably describe her as delicate too.” Blaine looked carefully at me, his expression unreadable and I said nothing.
We walked to the refreshments café in the station to order teas before our trains arrived. Blaine’s train always arrived a few minutes before mine and we settled quickly with our buns that the landlady had assured us were fresh, baked that day.
“Is tea bad for you?” I asked as we sipped our drinks, “Worse than coffee I mean?”
“If this is a professional appointment, I may have to charge,” Blaine said, smiling.
“Why did you become a doctor?” I asked.
“Oh that’s quite a deep question. I think because I’m a bit of an idealist.”
“I think all doctors should have ideals. Otherwise their work would be unbearable.”
“I’m sure it would be dull to talk of,” he said, brushing invisible crumbs off his arm.
“Why shouldn’t you talk about it? It’s what interests you most isn’t it?” I said kindly.
“Yes it is,” he said, leaning forward in his seat and resting his arms on the table in front of us. “I’m terribly ambitious you see, not for myself, rather for my passion.”
“What is your passion?” I asked.
“Preventative medicine. You see most young doctors have private dreams, but sometimes they get over professionalised and strangulated in official documents and the daily grind of the job. Am I boring you?” He asked suddenly.
“No,” I assured him, looking carefully at his face.
“What I mean is this – all good doctors must primarily be enthusiasts. Just like writers and painters and musicians they must have a sense of vocation, a deep rooted, unsentimental desire to do good.”
“Yes I see that,” I whispered, mesmerised by the change in colour of his eyes and the way his face had lit up as he spoke.
“Well obviously one way of preventing disease is worth fifty ways of curing it, that’s where my ideal comes in. Preventive medicine isn’t really about medicine at all really, it’s about conditions. Living conditions and hygiene and common sense.” He started to talk about his speciality, a condition which was a sort of fibrosis of the lung caused by inhalation of dust and smoke particles. He explained it was particular to areas of London and he told me the different types of disease and its causes. I couldn’t help but stare at him open mouthed as he explained. He looked so beautiful there opposite me in his enthusiasm, I was mesmerised by him. I think he took it as confusion but he carried on regardless. I don’t know how it happened really, but I realised I had never had such an amazing afternoon. I had chatted, laughed merrily and really been understood, taken out of myself and I felt silly to be thinking about a stranger this way but there was something more.
“You suddenly look much younger,” I whispered in between us, “Almost like a little boy.”
“Do I?” he said, stopping his conversation and looking at me carefully. “What makes you say that?”
“I don’t know,” I said, still under his spell, “Yes I do.”
“Tell me,” he continued to whisper as he got closer, his eyes never leaving mine.
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly,” I said, shaking my head and feeling foolish, “Carry on.”
He continued to speak, and I asked polite questions about the different kinds of dust and how he hoped to prevent these diseases but we continued to stare, our eyes never leaving each other’s. We spoke softer and I could really notice his beauty as he sat there, his eyes aglow with enthusiasm and his lips perfectly pink and he licked them unconsciously as my gaze travelled lower. I still can’t describe what went on between us, but we knew, both of us knew and we never wanted to leave.
But suddenly the bell for his train tinkled in the shop and we became aware that it was his train and he had to leave.
“That’s your train, you mustn’t miss it,” I said.
“No, I mustn’t,” he said, looking down at his clasped hands, looking forlorn and lost.
“Nothing,” he said, looking up, shaking himself almost and smiling slightly, “Nothing at all.”
“It’s been so very nice. I’ve enjoyed my afternoon enormously,” I said, smiling.
“I’m so glad, so have I. I’m sorry for boring you with long medical words.” He laughed and he seemed to snap out of his reverie of earlier, more like his carefree self again.
“Oh you didn’t really,” I said smiling warmly. He looked suddenly worried and leant closer.
“Shall I see you again?” he asked. I didn’t know how to react, said something silly about his need to rush for his train and that mine wasn’t for a few minutes.
“Shall I see you again?” he said pressing forward, still insistent.
“Of course, maybe you can come one Sunday to my house for dinner. It’s a bit far but Edith would be delighted.”
“Please, please,” he begged, “Next Thursday, same time, same place.”
I knew what he was saying, knew why he implored me and I started to shake my head as he pleaded again. As he stood to get his train, panic flooded through me and as he let my hand go in farewell, I agreed, said I would meet him at the same time and he was off.
I sat for a few moments then went to my own platform just as his train was leading out of the platform. He saw me and opened the window and waved as he departed, his face lit up in an impossibly wide grin. I grinned in return and suddenly thought about his wife. The wife he would be returning to – Madeline – small, dark and rather delicate. I wondered whether he would tell her about today and how he had escaped work for the afternoon and watched a film with a nice man he had met in town a few weeks before. I wondered if he would plan to invite us over – my wife and I – for dinner one Sunday, whether we would become regular dinner guests. But I knew. I knew he wouldn’t say anything.
I couldn’t explain it. There was no harm in mentioning that you had made a new male friend, I could easily explain it to my wife but I knew I wouldn’t. I didn’t want to ruin the moment we had shared, I knew there was something more and I couldn’t explain it.
I had been vaguely aware that I found men attractive before, but Edith had come along, I was expected to marry and once my career was settled at the bank, children were obviously next. I followed the crowd but here was Blaine, in the same position and I knew. I knew we had both settled but here was a chance for more. Blaine already made me feel alive and his beauty – his eyes, those lips – I hoped he felt the same and I felt ridiculously foolish for letting myself fall so easily and for a man.
I sat on my train, falling asleep and hoping and praying that Blaine felt even just a small amount of the overwhelming desire to meet again that I felt.