personal blog: simon

‘be brave… be brave… be brave…’ persisting in my head.

my text to Jacob at the early hours was despicable. a text I always promised myself not to send; but he answered welcoming to meet… and here I am back downtown, mesmerized by own stupidity.

‘be brave… be brave… be brave…’ like the rhythm of my heart.

the aquarium became one of Jacob’s and my places to escape to when we both resided at the group home, and when Jacob mentioned meeting there, I became keener at the meeting. besides, I am running on empty.

seeing Jacob, always takes my breath momentarily, and he waves to get my attention among the crowd; although, today the aquarium seems fairly vacant. no matter of my mental state, I cannot but smile as I approach him. his ability to change my whole mood simply with his presence, his existence. maybe it’s easier to feel like that with someone I cannot hold and consume because possibilities of perfection still exist. Jacob will always be a distant, impartial participant in my constant pursuit of love and acceptance; although, he has loved and accepted me as a friend.

Jacob’s grin, his common expression, meets my ridiculously and widely exaggerated bright face. the two of us, just like we used to be, in a wheel of silence, pain, and dullness of many days. we explored every nook of weirdness, uniqueness, and beauty in the city, but, the aquarium was our favourite. the tranquility of water, calming, and it didn’t matter that Jacob was privileged and I was trash. we were both young and damaged together.

“I’m Simon,” the extension of my arm met with baffled grimace and a shrug and I couldn’t peel my eyes from Jacob’s mute uneasiness. his hair shaved like a jarhead; his eyes down to the ground unmet; his fingers lifted and flew to his suitcase. “follow me,” I said trembling because there was a new creature undiscovered who will be lodging next to my room and I needed to decode him. that was my mission from then on.

my whole body relaxes as Jacob pulls me for a generous and genuine embrace. not one of those quick buddy hugs, but full arms wrapped around my side to my spine and lengthy. then he leads taking us through the maze of the black rope to get the tickets. Jacob’s hair always had a wave and that became more visible when he grew it out. now it’s that perfect length. long enough to weave your fingers through the strands.

we make our way through the caves to an open space surrounded by pools, colours, and sea life. although, we always had a perfect hideaway. a spot for just the two of use. a spot we would spend hours hypnotized by the creatures swimming around us, sitting in silence or in thoughtful conversations or ridiculous ones.

as the group of five parts, I pick the spot to rest and Jacob descent to the ground following me. we lean against the concrete wall covered in a mirage of sea world and for a moment we sit unspeaking. submerged within a cocoon of pools, as fish swim above and beneath us, Jacob gently rips the M&M bag open and offers the small rainbow drops of chocolate to me. he hasn’t forgotten and I haven’t forgotten. unable to sit in my room, I would appear at Jacob’s door every day before breakfast and after dinner. my jumpy nature escalated when I was near him and my inclination to drift into my thoughts at times became ailing. I was already a troubled teen, I didn’t need Jacob as my distraction, but it made me happier. I finally found a friend I could confide in.

“when was the last time we did this?” captivated by the scenery in front of me and by Jacob’s attendance, I ask a little in mourning.

“’bout seven, eight years ago,” Jacob’s answer a nostalgic recollection and he creases his pout, adding, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you more.”

what nonsense? Jacob’s been there more than he should have, especially that he had to deal with his own unpredictable mental states.

“I didn’t reach out that often,” I admit.

“yeah, you moved on to be Simon two-point-O.”

“indeed,” and we both chuckle at that as I uttered these exact words to Jacob years back. ‘Simon two-point-O.’ how entertaining it sounds now.

then slightly somber, Jacob mutters, “I’ve missed this.”

and I wonder whether Jacob misses us or simply misses being at the aquarium.

then he continues, “when things were possible. when relationships didn’t cloud our minds. when we felt lonely and we had every excuse at our disposal to use to be sad. two souls against the cold, harsh world.” Jacob grin widens as the last sentence is more of a trivial mockery than a serious summation of us. “we would run our thoughts of how our future will be.”

“and then we grew up and realized that it’s all bullshit,” I add with less humour.

“wow. that was dark,” curiously examining, Jacob’s eyes peer from the corner. “you were such a romantic, when did you become angry?”

I haven’t realized that it might be that obvious and I curl in the consumption of my words. I have indeed become a cynic… and I have no answer for Jacob.

“are you okay?” Jacob’s common soft tone. “your mouth rarely shuts… lately you’ve been speaking in two syllable words.”

“I don’t know.” one thing that is actually true. “I saw Bryan.” why would I do that, bring Bryan into the conversation? I must be going mad.

Jacob nods, “he told me.”

I should have known.

“he asked for my permission to see you.”

“why would you do that?” I shriek puzzled.

“because last time I threatened him if he broke your heart,” Jacob states a little embarrassed, a little proud as if protecting his little brother.

I smile at the thought of Jacob being tough. he’s the gentlest person I know and I conclude about Bryan, “he was nice.”

“he’s a nice guy. you might have injured him a little by vanishing, like an apparition. he only asked once about you… if you were okay… years later. I guess, you’ve crossed his mind.” Jacob stops abruptly. “I don’t want to pry. you don’t have to tell me a thing, but, if you two want to be together, you have my blessing.”

so simple to pass me off? I’m slightly hurt. “I wasn’t asking for permission,” but, I decide to tease Jacob.

“sure,” Jacob rolls his eyes sarcastically and then a glimpse of a smirk.

“you never came for a visit,” I whine.

“you asked me not to come.”

and Jacob listened and obeyed. fucking obidience.

“you said you preferred coming to the city for the nightlife.”

“I lied,” my weak admission.

“no shit,” now a tease from Jacob.

“we had fun, though, didn’t we? the time we disappeared during summer break and then we had to listen to your mom’s lecture about honesty and safety.” a shadow of fond memories. a three-week cross-country train trip from Kingston, across the prairies, tot he beautiful Victoria.

“well, I was seventeen and you were sixteen. so her concern was sound… at least for that one time.”

no matter how little Jacob’s mom flooded him with affection, she made up with lucrative cash gifts, the money that paid for many of Jacob’s and my antics. at times, it wasn’t even for birthdays or holidays; she simply gave him a monthly allowance. an allowance Jacob didn’t know what to do with and he didn’t much care for it. an allowance that was delivered by Jacob’s stepdad who would come with Jacob’s half-sister because Jacob’s mom never made an appearance at the house, as if the whole arrangement disgusted her. but, she spoiled him and Jacob definitely spoiled me.

I grab the last of the M&Ms, gulp them in one breath, lift Jacob’s fingers, and net them with mine. it’s ridiculous how such minute gestures can bring me joy: to touch Jacob, to hold his hand; and today, so effortlessly accomplished. it feels a little strange.

“and then you left.” my morose conclusion.

“we all have to grow up.”

“but, we never escape our past,” I sigh disheartening.

“we can only be brave if we face it.”

and like a trigger, obedience and bravery. why did Jacob have to say it? an unworthy sentiment and I despise it.

‘brave… brave… brave…’ like the tapeworm that eats at your gut.

and even with all that talk during group sessions, those who have left the house overdosed within months, others gave up and ended hospitalized or in jail, some attempted to end their lives, very few thrived, and the rest tried at making their best. I wanted to escape, to rebrand myself, to be someone other, pretend to be someone else and where did that get me, spinning in my head and catching my breath. but, Jacob always knows and squeezes my hand. I welcome his touch.

“did you find your way?” my intonation slightly wavering, falling under Jacob’s usual spell.

“I found my purpose… with lots of therapy,” Jacob adds with amusement. his lips part to a chuckle.

Kyle, our therapist at the house, suggested a counselor for me to see, but I didn’t go. I never felt that it did me any good. I went to two sessions after I left the house and abandoned the cause. if anything, it made me withdraw from people more. reliving the past, reliving my childhood, reliving my father… I’m not brave enough… and I meet Jacob’s chuckle with a grunt, “and your hallucinations?”

“better with medication.”

“you still okay with me doing this?” I tug at our webbed fingers.


“therapy helped?”


“maybe it’ll do me some good,” I conclude.

and Jacob smooshes my face playfully, knowing when I’m being a pestering jester. “don’t lie. it doesn’t suit you.”

I snicker.

“you seem like you need comforting,” Jacob adds.

with that, I rest my head on Jacob’s shoulder, like I used to do. I was the only one that Jacob allowed to touch him, especially comforting me. it seemed to appease him or at least it seemed something he tolerated. I constructed the world I desired, constructed Jacob as I desired. our fingers entwined, crossed, like matches struck to a flame; but the reality is cruel. Jacob would speak in code about his assault. difficult to recount. like a jigsaw puzzle. but, I was up for the task because my vocation was to decipher as I understood the encryption. I understood Jacob’s prevailing and encompassing nightmares. it might have taken Jacob months to open but when he did, it poured, like gushing blood, spilling, swarming into a pool. emptied, drained, and then replenished. but, he always spoke in code.

the carvings on Jacob’s wrists, up his arms, and tiny scars on Jacob’s fingers. I could never have had the strength and bravery to go through with such an act. to cut myself in order to gain some sensation, to un-numb me.

I draw along Jacob’s marks and stop at the one in the middle of his palm. he shoved me out the door and screamed before he plunged the knife through his hand. now a stain remains there. but that’s not the only engravings Jacob holds, the self-inflicted ones.

“what’s this one?” I asked pointing to his shoulder.

the brutality of his assault. “the first strike,” Jacob’s words falling in his code, “and I left my body.”

there are plenty of scars protruding and there were times Jacob permitted me to see them all; the unavoidable to hide and the hidden ones. but, each and one of them told a story like reading braille under my fingers.

“do you still wake from nightmares… scream?” my monotonous and frozen dispatched recollection. I used to listen to him scream in my room at the house concaving, forcing my breath, triggered. the mutual torment, distinctive yet equal, carried in the prevalent whispers of the night… and then Jacob would sit mutely during the group therapy, unspeaking about his attack, about the cause of his screaming, his nightmares.

“not as much,” Jacob answers. his fingers travelling to his hand, massaging the scar near my fingers.

the day he hurt himself, I stood on the other side of the door paralyzed and betrayed. he could have talked to me. I was his friend but he yelled and pushed me, and I couldn’t forgive myself for not holding onto him tighter. the day Jacob punctured his palm, chaos followed. Jacob’s mind was inconsolable and punctuated that he later admitted that he didn’t even feel the pain but we all felt the heaviness of Jacob’s act because it meant that we had lost.

I wrap my body around Jacob’s whole arm, swallowing it where once sutures stitched Jacob’s wounds. my face buried into Jacob’s shoulder. I lift my eyes to examine Jacob’s scar on his neck, gently brushing it, and Jacob doesn’t fight it. his fingers trailing to my cheek. to feel safe and accepted. a need to be rescued… to be one and the same. injured, damaged, and misunderstood. a secret shared. a secret so damaging and unfathomable. something no one else could ever understand, that pain, that hollowness, the void, the anger, the shame, the guilt, the blunted emotions. something no one else could ever be… us.

the obstruction of metal pressing against my cheek, the obstruction that brings me back to reality and my fingers wrap around Jacob’s wedding band and it infuriates me. “you’ve changed,” I whisper with sorrow. “you’re better and I’m stuck.”

my guff makes Jacob grunt again and he sandwiches my hand. the thought of being better, an amusing misconception, something to snicker over, and Jacob spouts a correction, “you think my nightmares miraculously vanished,” spinning his fingers, “my past void? no. I’m more capable to deal with it better. the madness always exists.” like a preoccupation with a prop, to avoid eye contact, Jacob plays with my fingers, crossing and uncrossing them, as he adds, “Alice makes it easier, but she cannot erase my thoughts, my memories. she cannot sort my hallucinations out. no one can.”

he says her name with such pride. ‘Alice. Alice.’ rings in my head and I throw Jacob’s arm from mine but he catches my fingers.

“Simon.” his dim inflection combined with guilt.

if only Jacob would reciprocate the extent of my admiration.

“I’m sorry,” and he meets my eyes equally kind. for a moment the mutual understanding of our roles conveyed and I retreat.

it’s not the first time Jacob has apologized for not returning what I desired. it’s not the first time I attempted to convince myself. “do you hate it?”


“me draping over your arm?”


“me?” that is a spiteful spit.

“no,” and after a pause, “if you’re worried that we’re not the same because of this ring… things don’t uncomplicate that easily.”

our pain indeed was what bonded us and as much as I was incapable to feel, to attach feelings to my exes because mostly the relationships were mere physical, Jacob, however, makes me drown in feelings. so easy to talk to him, to be around him, even if we did nothing but simply existed, and mostly we existed at the group home. it wasn’t awkward. nothing had to be done or said. there was no goal. there was no objective. I didn’t think or analyzed what he thought. I didn’t care as long as he was mine.

“you asked me not to see you because it hurt too much. I honored it. it doesn’t mean I didn’t hurt either… you were my best friend.”

I needed to get over him and over the years it became easier if we remained distant, rather than fantasizing of what might have been. but, who am I kidding? I’m not over Jacob. never was, like I’m not over my past, like I’m not over Bryan and Kevin. lugging the carnage with me.

“you said, it wouldn’t be fair,” I add the wounded words.

“I was a mess, Simon. you didn’t deserve a mess.”

“and now I’m a mess.” I conclude.

images of Jacob and our random and rare texts have kept me going, but the distance couldn’t make me love him less.

a rush of visitors barricades us. some take a quick glimpse, noting our existence, and I release Jacob’s grasp, get to my feet and step away from our spot. Jacob idles seated and burdened.

‘two wrongs do not make a right.’ another of Jacob’s wisdom echoes in my head and I hated when he expelled it.

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© simon whittle — second act