"Watson, I wish you hadn't dragged me out here."
"Yes, two tickets, please."
"Lord knows I'd rather be napping—I don't ask very much of the world, after all."
"Keep the change, that's all right."
"Are you listening to me, Watson?"
"Yes, I did hear you, but you needed to get out today." I started to put my arm through his, but found he was holding his arm close to his side. "Well, here's your ticket anyway. We have a few minutes to wait, shall we sit down here?"
"Certainly, it looks just as gloomy as any other spot."
We sat and watched the people; I turned my ticket over in my hands, looking away from the station where prices were listed.
"This is fine, we have the compartment to ourselves."
"Yes, because unlike us, most men are at their jobs."
"Don't be so dreary. We have a whole afternoon to do what we like."
"What I'd like is to be in bed."
I nodded, waiting for a moment before speaking. "I know depression makes you tired, Holmes, but if you just fight against it a little, get outside, it may give you more energy and better spirits." I felt an unexpected lurch in my stomach that didn't come from the starting up of the train. It was the sight of the ticket in Holmes's hand...I gave in and counted up the cost of tickets, feeling the first twinge from canceling an appointment today.
The shillings and sovereigns add up; one, two, three polite but honest clients so far had sought another doctor. If you don't keep up with the times no one is going to give you a hand, there's competition enough. I had yet to thoroughly read through the latest journal. I needed a new thermometer. I needed more hours in the day.
I didn't want these thoughts sullying an otherwise peaceful day. Drawing a breath through my nose, I looked out the window and tried to find birds or deer. A faint sweat stubbornly broke out on my palms. You're a horrible doctor. Soon enough you'll have a handful of patients, you've made no name for yourself--why must you be so impulsive? This is the height of absurdity: he lost a case for your sake and you're shirking your duties in exchange. Are we going to ruin each other? And then the most terrible of all thoughts struck me for the first time, and the sweat broke out all over.
I stood and began to pace the length of our car, as the scenery rushed past the windows. I turned and faced Holmes at last.
He looked up at me, tired and vaguely curious.
"Holmes, I admit I've been a fool. You're forty-five, not a child. You possess--you are--one of the great minds of our time. Who am I, to think you need me to take care of you? It isn't as if you started getting depressed once I moved in." I glanced about in agitation. "Tch, it's forever until the next stop. I'm going to walk about the train." I was turning away, but his voice arrested me.
"You're correct in nearly all your points, Watson, but I'm afraid you've not yet mastered the art. One of your conclusions has no grounds whatsoever to back it up, as I think you must admit."
"Holmes, I know you had bouts of depression before I came."
"It's not as simple as that." His words fell on pressed finger-tips.
"In that case," I said slowly, walking back across the humming floor, and sitting down across from, never taking my eyes from his face, "I was wrong on two points, for I shan't be taking a walk round the train after all. Now, explain what you mean. Are you saying I'm the cause of your depressions?"
"No—that's not what exactly what I meant, Watson. I've always been prone to dark moods: there are a few family photographs in my possession and I look quite morose, even for a five-year-old removed from his toys and forced into a starched suit. I don't know, I seemed to be born with special glasses, invisible glasses that made gloomy things show stronger. Others passed by a dead bird or cat with little notice; I would think of mortality and suffering the rest of the day, until I couldn't eat. I never tried to be gloomy. It was simply...a part of me." He paused for a time, resting his chin on his gloved hand.
I looked out the window at the blurring foliage; we would arrive at a stop in roughly ten minutes. I wondered where we were going.
"So, no, you didn't cause any fluctuation in my moods. They were there already. Yet—well, you're not surprised, are you Watson, to know I was a solitary fellow? I had a few childhood friends of course, playing skittles and other games children are fond of. Nothing permanent though, just shallow childhood games. And besides Trevor, you know how it was in college, I told you that before. Mostly kept to myself."
"But…but what does this all…have to do with anything?"
"Yes, to be sure, I must not ramble," Holmes murmured. "Should you choose to collect an anthology of depressing and gloomy poems, Watson, you would perhaps be surprised to find what an assortment of flavors depression comes in, like a distasteful box of allsorts. In fact…you might do a medical monograph. But in a word: when I was younger, I tended more to the distant and intense depressions of isolation. I didn't want anything, I only felt vaguely uncomfortable, like a turtle with a wrong-size shell. But—well, when we decided to lodge…"
He peered out the window on my side. "Shall we get off at the next stop?"
"Well--I—are you hungry?"
"Not much, no."
I looked at my watch as he fidgeted about. "Well all right, we'll get off next stop. We can have a walk, there might be some gardens. Nothing like nature's beauty to soothe the soul. Visual music, you might say?"
"Hm." He pondered. "Yes, I suppose."
I waited eagerly for him to pick up his story, but he said nothing more and by the time we stepped off the train, rain looked to be a strong possibility.
As I had hoped, there was a park nearby and we had a leisurely walk among the flowering trees. By now the sky was growing near slate colour, and the pale blossoms bobbing in the wind and showing so stark against the scudding clouds was a rather fantastic sight. Holmes seemed stimulated by the energy around us, and I was glad to hear him laugh when a gust knocked off his hat and we went sprinting after it.
He looked up at me, after he'd pounced on it; the wind was at his hair and he had bits of grass on his knees, and he was still laughing, a bit of colour come into his pale face. We went everywhere our feet took us that day, and over lunch he promised to show me those family photographs later, and I think by the ride home I had a new pair of glasses, invisible; they showed me that when a creature sheds its shell, to find a better one, it may be frightened at times--as anything would, when it realizes how large a world there is outside his shell.
And yet what a beautiful world.