Learning to Feel

by N.R. Walker


I sat in the car, waiting for the real estate office to open and replayed the conversations I'd had with my family about my coming here.

My parents... well, my parents were both supportive and saddened. They supported my decision to quit the hospital in Boston and take up a doctor's position in a small town three and a half hours away. They knew I wasn't happy...

Which was what saddened them.

I'd never been happy, not really. Something in my life was... missing. I think my mom felt guilty that her son wasn't happy, though it was hardly her fault. I grew up loved and never needed for anything. I'd gone through high-school happy enough, studied hard and was proud to follow in my father's footsteps by being accepted to medical school. I pushed myself to excel, rarely going out and having no social life to speak of. I did excel. I was an excellent doctor. I'd finished my residency two years ago and worked long hours to garner a reputation of my own.

No one thought I got where I was because I was Thomas Tierney's son. I held my own, and they knew it. But still, something was, and had always been... well, missing.

I'd tried dating, for years I'd tried. My brother, Brendan, had tried relentlessly to fix me up, get me laid, or whatever. But I was just not interested. Sure, I found women beautiful enough and could become aroused by them if I needed it bad enough, but it was unfulfilling, lacking...

I remembered my last encounter with Laura... Lauren, whatever her name was, and it made me shudder. Surely that wasn’t a normal response. I just presumed to lead a life that wasn't sexual.

I'd even done some research on it for fuck's sake, some people have low libidos. There were medications or therapies or some shit, but my job kept me busy enough, I just didn’t miss it. I’d never enjoyed sex. It was simply a means of release. I usually fell into bed too tired to care, woke up a few hours later and went back to work.

That was my life.

Except for whatever it was that was missing. It had been eating away at me, this cloud of unhappiness that had settled over me, until it was something I couldn't ignore anymore. I'd tried to reassure my father it wasn't depression, being overworked, or the fact that I didn't sleep much.

"I trust your judgement," he'd said, though I knew he kept a close eye on me.

I loved my job, I had a great family, a fantastic apartment, some close friends. I should have been happy. But I wasn’t. Something was incomplete, and I had no idea what it was. I'd long ago gotten used to the idea of having a sexless life. But I knew I had to do something. I had to do something before I looked back in twenty years, wondering why the fuck I didn't do something sooner.

I just didn't know what that something was.

That was until there was a memo circulated at work for Belfast’s County General Hospital looking for a locum, or permanent, whatever-the-hell doctor they could find. I'd sat in the staff lunch room, wondering what the fuck I was doing with my life, when I spotted the memo on the noticeboard, and I wondered if the change of scenery would do me good. They were desperate, and I needed something different in my life, so I called them.

The job included a house as part of the contract to sweeten the deal, a furnished, two story, older style home with a veranda on a couple of acres out of town. All I had to do was pack my things, and they'd take care of the rest.

I told them I'd take it.

I remembered when I’d told my family I was moving to Belfast, their reactions were the same.


I’d laughed. “Uh, no. Belfast, Maine. It’s a twelve month position.”

So my family had a dinner for me on my last night, a quiet send off. My sister Alana, my brother Brendan, his wife Kat and my parents made for good company, and though they were happy for me, they were sad to see me go.

"It’s only three hours away," I told Alana. "Give me a couple of weeks to get settled in, sort my roster out, then come and stay."

She'd hugged me and whispered, "I hope you find what you're looking for."

My brother joined our hug. "And I hope she’s hot."

My mom had cried when I said goodbye. "We just want you to be happy," she'd said, wiping her tears with a tissue.

Dad had pulled me aside and looked uncharacteristically nervous. "Nathan, you're a good doctor. They’re privileged to have you," he said. "But don’t let being a doctor be the only thing you are. Take happiness wherever you find it, Son. Don’t deny yourself anything."

It was an odd thing for him to say, and how he was nervous and unsure, told me that there was a double meaning to his words. I was about to asked him to just spit it out when Mom hugged me and started crying again.