John Lysaght is a poet and writer of fiction who began honing his craft while a student at the University of Scranton, graduating in 1968 with a B.A. in English and Classics. Here, his work first appeared in Esprit, the school`s literary journal. John went on to receive a Masters in Social Work from Adelphi University. He has enjoyed a rich work history as a teacher, social worker and therapist. John seeks to invite the reader to participate in the experience of the word in real time.
The Loneliness of Simeon Jones
A slender, slouching as if burdened silhouette of an unimpressive and somewhat balding youth (a most charitable observation; hairline actually retreating rather than receding)), stood beneath, and slightly left of a blinking light at a far end of the Woodside Avenue railroad platform. The metronomic flashes, as if conducted by baton, gave him a kind of mystical quality—an image not clear enough to be fact. He appeared much as an abstract painting wanting to be communicative and appreciated.
The expectations of time and space seemed unimportant, non-existent. I thought as I watched him standing there that his features had been purposely omitted, or at least misplaced. Perhaps these particulars had always been overemphasized. He could be anyone, someone to somebody. Maybe this was why I had never felt this way before. I understood more of him than anyone I had ever met or loved. I understood him because I have felt what he has endured, have been what he has become. It was like seeing my own reflection. For the moment, I wondered why all men we not capable of such power—such insight. I had forgotten that I did not have this ability when I was alive.
Simeon Harrison Jones was shy and self-conscious, not knowing how to occupy his empty hands, or where to position his feet when stationary. If possible, he would like to see himself at all times from every angle. He was twenty-three, and had been his grandfather`s namesake for just as long. An heir apparent, he was supposed to be the pride of 318 65th Place. Although Simeon was contemplative and bright well beyond his years, he was susceptible to melancholy. Stuck in malaise, snagged on ambivalence, sinking deeper and deeper into emotional quicksand, he felt unmasked with hollowness engulfing— so much so that, when he spoke, he thought he heard his voice echo. Wriggling in undecidedness, he seemed unable to free himself. The partitions of the fleeing trains seemed like prison bars flickering by. Feeling entombed, trapped in a self-imposed prison, his hope of reprieve was fading away. There could be no doubt that such a likeness as he had lived before, and that such a one as he would continue to live after others had realized his death. He needed to hold on, to fight on.
While he pretended to read a day old copy of The New York Times, (being sure to fold it in one of the four accepted styles), he questioned how you could appreciate being named after someone you never really knew, someone who never tried to get to know you.
Of course, such a thought was pure blasphemy— respect your elders, be seen and not heard— and an assortment of other family maxims. How often had he politely listened to his rotund ( being polite) Aunt Mildred (a kind of globe with curls), the one who had a bottomless craving for large black pitted olives (Simeon had never known her to refuse the green ones with the pimentos though), say, waving an overweight digit in his face, “Now Simeon, your grandfather wouldn`t approve of such naughty behavior, and neither do I. She would reach for another frightened olive before digesting the last one, and continue, “You`ve been taught the difference between right and wrong. You must remember who you are, who you represent. You should be ashamed of yourself!” This was the standard refrain regardless of what the supposed “infraction” du jour was. Simeon recalled looking at her as she struggled to relieve herself from the far too small (for her) dining room captain`s chair she had occupied which seemed to want to follow her. It was because of her that he detested olives; it was because of her that he felt nothing for fat people. Why didn`t she realize the harmfulness inflicted by the pounding of constant comparisons being superimposed on him?, he thought to himself. Simeon managed to chuckle inside. He was remembering how he and his cousin, Arthur, used to make fun of their “two aunts in one!” How they decided, after a long and “serious” discussion in their very own tree house, that Aunt `Dred should be made to give double gifts on Christmas and birthdays. This they felt was a reasonable and fair request considering her commanding girth. Then, there was Uncle Mike, Simeon`s father`s brother, who was no bargain either. He was domineering, loud and coarse, and he only made appearances at funerals or “family extravaganzas.” Uncle Mike had a reputation for traveling miles for a freebie. His standard comment upon seeing his favorite nephew again was, “I can`t get over it. He looks more like his grandfather every time I see him.” Things went downhill from there after he had a couple of snorts of whiskey. Then came the predictable, one of his “heroic” war stories (which became amplified with each next telling) that all present could repeat by heart(except for the new embellishments). His audience was unimportant, a mere prop. He was good for at least two monologues a visit. Simeon`s cheeks dropped; his face saddened. It angered him that such people as these were free to affect others— no, rather to infect them with such imprint.
As always, the expected, one of those special nights that each year provides, circled boldly on a kitchen calendar, again, had arrived on schedule– an occasion for friendship, for un- selfish giving, for community; a time for love. But, what of those who were unable to prepare—refused to prepare—or those who prepared too much for too long inviting disappointment. This night had come, even if they weren`t ready. Like an empty vessel which has failed to fulfill its purpose, he was unable to prepare. Perhaps, the mistake was making one day more special at the expense of another. Today, was Simeon`s birthday, the same day he quit graduate school because he was emotionally lost. He wished he could remove the calendar, hoping others would let him forget.
Why had I only blame for others; why had I projected such anger; was self-loathing permanent;
was there redemption for me?, he thought to himself. Simeon, lapsing into numbness, moved robotically nearer to the edge of the platform. His train had come and gone numerous times without him. He no longer heard the screech and rumble of the trains nor felt their vibrations. There was no longer any need.
A grayish figure approaches him, “Young man, excuse me, young man? Tugging at his sleeve, “I say young man, can you hear me? ” An inspired touch penetrates his trance, his pall. An un- accustomed relevance begins to fill and define him, “ Yes— ah— yes ma`am?” She, again,” Can you please help me up the stairs. My package seems to get heavier with each time I meet a new young man such as yourself—oh, thank you so much.”
Simeon did not make the same mistake I did.