Simon was a sloth. There is no other way to say it. He came back home from work each day and slouched into his leather lounger, with his beer and take-away and watched his favourite sports and news channels for hours on end as he helped his girls with their homework. He was lucky to have a wife who let him be on the sofa and not insist on help with the cooking. He did do the dishes, so that was fair. Laura loved him and he didn’t give her much reason to complain. He was a good man and hadn’t always been like this. But as the years went by, he had gotten so lost in his comfort zone. She edged him on gently to get some physical activity. She even gifted him a gym membership one recent Christmas. He did try, but it didn’t last long. Simon loved his gadgets and his football from where he sat on the couch, so that was how it continued to be. He did join the boys in Cannon Hill Park to play on the rare weekend, but he often said punching in those long hours at work, helping run a home and looking after two bubbly girls was hard enough and was all the physical activity he ever needed. He had nothing to worry. He was young, largely healthy if not very fit, and was only a hundred and ninety-five pounds. Most men of average height weigh that much, he argued. Laura knew this was not the truth. She also knew he had grown complacent about everything in life, not just his health. But this was tough to point out to Simon when he just wasn’t willing to discuss the matter.
And so, life went on until that fatal morning at work. Bob’s wife, Jennie, called in to let them know he wouldn’t be coming in to work. Ever again. He had died the previous evening after suffering a massive heart-attack, while at home. It was sudden, silent and so bad, Bob had not even lasted the journey to the hospital. Simon and he had worked together for several years and were about the same age. As he walked in to work every morning over the next few days, Simon looked over at Bob’s empty desk in disbelief, misery, anger and longing. For Bob to come back and for life at work to go back to normal. A little bonhomie across the cubicles, some jokes shared, discussions at lunch about the game last night, stepping out for a quick coffee in the chill – Simon missed it all. As days passed, the team helped Jennie clear up his desk and pack away the last of his belongings. It all fit into one Carton box – Bob’s 21 years at work all fit into a 12” x 9” x 9”. And who was that lady who helped Jennie with Bob’s things? Someone said she was from the legal department, had he never interacted with her before? She has been working with them for 3 years now! She smiled at Simon as she turned around from the desk and said, “So sorry Simon. I know you will miss Bob.” She knew his name, and he didn’t even know she existed! A couple of weeks later, the desk belonged to someone else. Life at work carried on, like Bob had never existed, except for the occasional mention at work lunches.
As the weeks rolled by, Simon thought of the carton box and Bob at his work cubicle over and over again. He was surprised that he missed Bob much, never had he put them down to being this close. It ate at him very slowly every night as he tried hard to fall asleep. He knew it wasn’t just missing Bob that troubled him and left him grieving. It was the realization that he was another Bob in waiting too. Pleasant and easy, with no real fight in him, should life change and throw him a curve ball. He didn’t want to be Bob, written off so easily when the time came, in one carton box. He couldn’t leave his girls behind like that; His wife – all alone to look after them. They had so many dreams of their future together.
And so, Simon slowly started his transformation. Those 3 hours a week at the gym felt like eternity. He thought his lungs would explode before the heart attack got him. Never had he put in so much effort. He walked down to the train station and back instead of using his car every morning. He ate at the dining table and cut down lounging in front of the T.V. He stopped himself from going for the beer at dinner time every day. He started reading more and making a conscious effort to interact with the rest of the team at work. He surprised Laura by making plans for the weekends – that had always been her job for as long as she could remember, and she hated that Simon never made any effort to plan. His days stretched, and it was amazing how much more he could fit into those twelve hours when he didn’t waste half of them lying around. Play time with the girls was no longer on the couch or in front of the T.V. He played with them in their room, around the house, in the garden. The trampoline was fixed after years, Laura noticed, and she had stopped nagging him about it ages ago. He got back to college as well to get that additional Diploma he had always wanted.
Simon’s energy levels increased, his weight dropped, and he was back on his feet more than ever before. He no longer waited for the first chance to hit the couch. He had always been pleasant but now he laughed more. He laughed louder and harder. This was finally starting to seem like the Simon Laura had fallen in love with and married.
Bob would never come back, Laura knew. But she silently thanked him for giving her Simon back.