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Ignore the Apple Juice
The alarm clock on Simon’s rickety nightstand shrieked its 7:45AM cry and he slithered out of bed. His splintered floorboards protested under his weight, but today his apartment was still standing which was good enough for Simon.
Dozens of unopened apple juice jugs infested Simon's fridge. The little Martinelli's jugs resisted every morning, and so every morning Simon would amble down the corner store that stood thirty feet from where his apartment sat and quarter of a mile from where his grandfather breathed shallow, pained breaths, where he would purchase another jug.
It was getting ridiculous. They were impossible to open. So they neatly lined the shelves of his fridge while Simon refused to acknowledge them.
He pulled on his puffy winter coat and threw on a pair of grubby jeans. Simon trudged through soggy pizza boxes and piles of unwashed clothes on his daily quest to collect the morning paper. He shuffled over to his front door, threw it open and braced himself for the wall of icy air that assaulted him.
‘Morning, groaned Simon.
Good morning, murmured the cool air.
It is such a lovely day.
You know it isn't.
Simon’s naked toes twitched on the bristly doormat. In a hasty attempt to jam his feet into the Birkenstocks he left on his front porch every night, Simon met miserably with failure. His toes made merciless contact with a solid wall of something other than Birkenstock. He balked and observed his freshly throbbing toes. He looked around to see what he had kicked.
A cardboard box playfully launched itself off his doorstep and into the street.
That probably isn’t the best place for a package.
Simon flew barefoot after the box as he tried to reach it before it bid a passing car good morning underneath hot rubber tires.
He needed that package. He hadn't ordered anything recently and Simon didn't really have friends per se. What could it possibly be?
He caught the package just as an SUV swerved out of the way to avoid splattering Simon and his box. With heavy hands Simon carried it to his front steps. It was much lighter than he expected. The cold stone steps permeated his worn jeans but he did not mind. He was already going to be late for support group. That is, if he decided to even show up at all.
It was a fine Saturday morning and Simon had missed so many meetings recently that skipping just one more hardly seemed criminal.
The package sat on his lap. He attacked it with his nails and the cold Boston morning. His heart pounded.
He found himself staring at a leather-bound diary. It looked like the one he saw on grandfather’s bedside table. He checked the address. Yep. It was his grandfather’s…
His grandfather was alive and well.
How long had it been since Simon last visited?
Four. Christ…how could he have neglected to visit for four months? What had been so unfathomably important that he could not check up on a poor, dying old man who did nothing but disturb his grandson at ungodly hours of the night by spitting words of nonsense into the telephone.
Simon began to feel the kind of sick that only people buckling under the weight of a guilty conscience could experience. Shaking fingers grasped at the bound book and began turning frail, yellow pages that seemed to contradict each other.
No. Wait. Sorry?
I’m here I’m gone.
Simon carefully put the book down. Still deep in contemplation and sporting a furrowed brow, the ringing of the only telephone in his house cut through Simon’s thoughts. He hated that infernal contraption. It was ----. It selectively allowed and ignored calls, sometimes inserting the dial tone into the conversation while Simon was still speaking.
In his kitchen, Simon yanked the receiver off the hook and slid a disinterested “what” into the mouthpiece.
“Have all your limbs, do you?” inquired a man under the influence of a thick Irish accent. It was Jim. In fact, it was only ever Jim. Simon was almost certain that Jim was the exclusive carrier of his phone number. Aside from Simon’s grandfather that is…or was…Simon tried not to think about that.
“Everything seems to be here.”
“You aren’t ill are you?”
“Not more so than usual.”
“Then drag your lousy sack of flesh down to St. Andrew’s.”
“That sounds like a real drag.”
“Aye, you know what your problem is? With each passing second you spend rotting in that bloody apartment of yours you lose years of your life. You are rubbish, you know that?”
“Thank you. It is not your manners, but your sunny attitude that motivates me to go to group every Saturday.”
“That’s another 2 years gone, Simon.”
“You’ve just lost another one.”
“You know, you really brighten up my day, Jim.”
“And there goes another.”
“As soon as I wake up every morning I’m always like, ‘golly gee I hope Jim calls me today. I can’t wait to see him at group. ’”
“All you have ever been is a pain in my a--- and that is all you will ever be.”
“Oh stop it Jim, I’m blushing.”
Jim was not in the mood for idle chatter. This was to be expected from the Irishman who spent 65% of his conscious existence stumbling throughout the streets of Boston in drunken bewilderment. Simon decided that after he stopped for juice he would head to support group for Jim’s benefit, but only to ensure that Jim’s liver hadn’t failed.
In the bodega by his apartment, Simon seethed at the orderly rows of Martinelli’s behind the crusty refrigerator doors.
You are the bane of my existence.
I’ve tried and yet still you elude me.
You will never amount to anything.
Nobody asked you.
Simon slammed the refrigerator door and made his way to the counter, but not before moving each bottle of the Martinelli’s to different shelves where they sat separately, wedged between different brands of pineapple and watermelon juices.
I hope you choke.
The unshaven man standing behind it coughed loudly in Simon’s direction and drummed his fat, sticky fingers on the counter. Juice bottle in hand, Simon slapped down an assortment of change before heading outside.
Once out of the Martinelli’s assault range, Simon made his way to the bus stop and boarded the number 10 bus to St. Andrews.
The toe of his Birkenstock was barely in the door of St. Andrew’s before Simon was bombarded by the overwhelming stench of Jim almost dripping of alcohol.
“You’re late,” barked Jim.
Jim materialized out of thin air almost directly on top of Simon. Jim stood so close that Simon smelled the aroma of alcohol immediately.
“Jim it’s eight o’clock.”
“Not for you it isn’t sunshine. For you it’s 8:05. For you it will always be 8:05, you selfish little b-----.”
“Jim, you smell divine this morning.”
Simon remembered the juice in his hand and attempted to open it. It did not budge.
Jim threw Simon one of his patented I will skin you alive and then wear your flesh suit to a birthday party and dance around for a few hours look and thrust a flimsy paper cup of scalding, bitter black coffee into Simon’s free hand where it slopped over the rim, onto Simon.
“You are so thoughtful. I don’t know what I would do without my monthly second degree burns.”
“Here to help,” growled Jim as he hobbled off to find a chair.
Simon took a seat across from Jim as their support group leader, Derek, spoke up.
“Simon! So glad you had the time to join us today!”
“Oh well, I know how you all get when I deprive you of my unparalleled intellect and sunny personality for too long.”
Derek twitched an eyelid. Simon immediately found something of great interest on the ceiling. Derek flatly continued, “Why don’t you start us off for today, Simon?”
“I have an awful lot on my mind, Derek.”
“Then by all means continue.”
To be perfectly honest, the only thing on Simon’s mind was the diary. And then recognition hit him. He knew where exactly he recognized the diary.
“My name is Simon and I suffer from schizoaffective disorder. At least that’s what my most recent doctor told me. The voices in my head seem to believe otherwise.”
A disinterested, “Hello Simon,” echoed around the chapel—as did a “ya lousy maggot” laced with a familiar Irish accent.
“I received a package today,” Simon placed his coffee from the fiery pits of ---- at his feet and began again. “When I was a boy, I lived with my grandfather.’”
Simon glanced around the circle of chairs at ever to make sure he had their full attention.
“He was a writer at heart despite never finding much success. His greatest work began at age 18. He meticulously documented every day of his life—his feelings, thoughts, ideas. When I lived with him, he would recite his day’s events to me in a single line. His tale spanned a lifetime, something I have not made use of. I am certain he sent me his diary to show me all I had been missing—what I need to do.”
The room was still. Even Jim was silent.
“I think it is time I made a life of my own. Or at least write about one I’d like to live. It is time for me to let go of what is out of my control and take charge of what is, namely, me.”
Simon picked up his coffee and tossed it into the plastic bin by the door. His feet took him to the Boston pavement on which he stood silent for a few moments as he tried to determine what one ought to do with a dead man’s words.
Fine day, is it not?
I’ll ensure the rest of them will be.
Hands shoved deep into coat pockets, Simon trotted off to take the number 10 bus to a wheezing old man’s house just a quarter of a mile from his own where afterwards he would purchase a much needed bottle opener.