The year was 1726. I was twenty-four, and newly dubbed a professor at Manchester Medical School.
As has not changed, I spent most hours outside of my work exploring the captivating depths of nonfictional legends and scholarly volumes. My very essence seemed to thrive on the pages upon pages of irrefutable evidence that each leaf provided. Facts, documented data that eradicated meretricious myth and foolish fiction. I've always been a believer in facts, in sciences, for the very reason that they are made to be impossible to doubt. Or, at the very least, you'd have to have half a brain to doubt them when tangible evidence is provided.
It is not possible to survive with half a brain.
You see, that is fact.
The doctor, my mentor, my saving grace, my bosom friend, and the kindly owner of the private, cozy home library in which I was always welcome, felt that my attachment to the books was a distraction from something sadder. A distraction from something repressed.
Admittedly, he was right. I desired something so unreachable that I strived to avoid the very thought of it. I desired, and, to this day, desire, one thing that I cannot believe in. It isn't fact, but it isn't fiction. It can be both true and false. It is volatile, unpredictable, and far from the undisputed wall of truth that I shelter behind. I study diseases, for heaven's sake!
The very idea of romance... it made me ill. I'd had it once, as a boy, but it had been taken from me. He had been taken from me. He had been taken from the pains of our world, while I had been left—bereft— behind. His punishment for our forbidden fondness was inhumane and cruel, but mine was worse. I had to live with it all, for the Lord above had cursed me not only with sinful desires—a disease of its own— but with cowardice enough that I could not take my own life.
I escaped the panging of my hungry heart by satiating my mind, and I had done so since the doctor had taken me in on the day I, and I alone, buried my adolescent romantic. He had accepted me. He supported me. He never once told me that there was something wrong with me, or that I repulsed him, or that I was ill in the mind. And in all the study that I have done myself, I cannot find a single proof that what I have is a disease, which is what they say. A disease would suggest that I am impaired. I am not.
"Simon, we are going out."
That was how the doctor began our tumultuously tumbling evening. He entered the library with two glasses—one of wine, one brandy—and strolled to my favorite velvet armchair by the empty hearth to peer over me. Sweet-smelling smoke spiralled from his cherrywood pipe. The glass of wine was lowered into my sight, where it distorted the words that I cared far more for.
"I don't drink, Doctor."
"Close the book and take the drink. The carriage is waiting."
Forced to look up, disoriented by renounced efforts to read through the wine glass, my disinterest was transparent. My frown—ever-present, I'm told, with company— deepened as I launched brash argument with my companion. Of course, I argued. Had I won, the great disaster would not have occured, and I would not be out of a job today, four years post. He meant well, but it has never been my destiny to be any sort of social acolyte.
It took him all of ten minutes to usher me into his cozy carriage, despite my protests. I had one sleeve of my tweed jacket on, while the other dangled behind me improperly, and my vaguely coherent thoughts were red with sour defeat, but tinged pink with the effect of the wine. I've never been able to cope with liquor.
I hugged A Collection of Viral Illnesses; 1690-1710 to my chest, for I refused to leave without it. During the long, bumpy, noisy journey, I read a single page. The doctor indulged me in reluctant conversation for hours, though he was consistently vague as to our destination.
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The Disorderly HeartShort Story
In 1726, Mother Clap's Coffeehouse, a notorious disorderly house, was raided by police and permanently shut down. A young and conservative professor discovers himself amongst the company of fellow disorderly hearts. *A disorderly house was a build...