tagNon-EroticOnly The Lonely

Only The Lonely


The bell went - Nick Hill rose drowsily and immediately threw off the covers. Both legs were there, but a toe on the left foot was not. Cursing, he hobbled to the bathroom and cleaned the blood away. He looked pale and unsure as he ate his breakfast quickly.

He locked his house and started walking towards the bus stop. Many people bumped into him on the way, but they continued walking without offering any apologies. Perhaps they were preoccupied in worlds of their own or maybe it was his attitude that made them ignore him. He called curses after them, asking them if they thought he was invisible. They did not answer.

The bus arrived and after some jostling he got on. As he sat down on the last seat, he noticed that a lesion was forming on his left thumb. He bought his ticket and was settling down when a group of youngsters entered the bus and laughing, came towards him. There were a few places empty next to him for he always sat in the corner. They all sat down and one almost pushed him off his seat, but he did nothing and just adjusted himself. The boy was somewhat different from the rest - he almost reminded Nick of himself at that age. The others were more boisterous, jostling and nudging each other.

Seeing their youthfulness, he tried to remember his childhood. He had been a rather sickly boy - one of seven children of a miller. He was not the eldest or the youngest, but as usual, somewhere in the middle. The Hills were not well-off and so every benefit was a veritable blessing. When he went to school it was never he who put his hand up to answer questions or help the teachers and they reciprocated by ignoring him and never lavishing even a scolding on him.

He had very few friends and those that he did were much like him - the silent and morose types. So they got along - not well or badly but just along. He never thought these things odd or unfair because this was the only life he knew and so he lived it. He had always been neglected and ignored. Nothing much affected him, until this strange malady had begun to eat away at him a while back.

It had begun when he lost the one friend he had had all his life. She was his neighbor and they had grown up together. He did not know it, but she had hung around with him more because she had few friends of her own, and found him unobtrusive. They did not talk much, just spent time together reading. When they graduated from school, he had gone on to college and got a job as a clerk in the Department of Roads. She had moved away when she got married, then returned home when the marriage did not work out. He had not remarked much either time, just smiled passionlessly and carried on.

Strangely enough, she had begun to find something interesting in him. She started paying attention to his words and ways. He did not change the way he behaved towards her, even when she confessed that she was falling in love with him one summer evening. She found that comforting, after the heat and love and hate that had marked her previous relationships. His lovemaking was like the rest of him – it began with a few kisses, some holding close of the other person, and then a number of thrusts. There was little talking, even after.

They moved in together, and lived an uneventful life. He didn’t bring up marriage, and she wasn’t sure she wanted it, after her last one ending almost before it began. Kids were not talked about. Her life became a stream of monotonous days that flowed into nights indistinguishable from one another. She worked at the public library, her minor income supplanting his just barely. They did not go out much – she knew by now that his aversion to human interaction was increased by the enthusiasm of faux-friendly department store employees or food service professionals.

About five years passed this way before she realized that her life was going nowhere fast, and her partner would be perfectly content to lead his own the same until dusty death claimed him, or her – she felt it would not matter either way to him. This was a chilling realization, one worsened by the knowledge that it had always been this way. Her own personality was not so averse to the occasional compliment or light flirtation.

One such flirtation turned serious at the library where she worked when a co-worker asked her if she’d visited the Wisconsin Dells. Before she knew it, she was leaving for a weekend assignation. Then, in a matter of weeks, she was packing her bags once again, this time for good.

He did not find it strange. He did not think much - he had no fantasies or ambitions and even if you had shown him his facelessness and virtual non-existence he would have just nodded and gone on not-living. He was doomed from the start and it was just a matter of time.

About a month after she left him, Nick was diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, better known by its common name of leprosy. The first lesions were small and easily concealed. Soon, the tissues began to break down, causing the occasional ugly incident at a public place. He did not react when it happened. The leprosy made others uncomfortable, but it was, in effect, something he had lived with for a long time. He knew that he would have to go into isolation soon. The doctor he visited weekly was already warning that he would be forced to isolate Nick if he went out of the house again without a face mask at the very least.

The bus stopped and the children got out. The jacket and pants of the boy sitting next to Nick was blood-stained but he did notice. The others did not pay any attention to him as usual and ran on ahead. The boy was used to this indifference. He did not feel a lesion form on his skin as he walked away.

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