Apr 03, 2024, 06:24AM

Jules and Ako Watch the Sixers

Jules is finally accepting help. And it's not so bad.

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At 10 on Monday, Ako rang the doorbell. Jules was rummaging through his closet, looking for his Julius Erving Sixers jersey. When he heard the bell, Jules stood and felt his lower back stiffen. Then he went to the door and greeted Ako. She held a pink box with a white string. Ako smiled, walked in, and put her coat on the hook.

Ako had been visiting Jules for one week, arriving every morning at 10 except for Wednesday, when Seamus took Jules to his doctor appointment. On Thursday morning, Jules and Reva got the news about his bloodwork. Reva called Ako. The lab work on Jules’ blood indicated he was low in iron. Ako ordered the iron supplement. He’d also need to change his diet to eat more beans, quinoa, spinach and broccoli. Reva emailed Ruby about the weekly InstaCart order. Ruby was happy to add healthier foods to the list.

In the kitchen, Ako opened the pink box. When the sweet aroma entered his nostrils, he began salivating. “Ooh, what tasty bites have you brought?” asked Jules.

“I chose a bit of everything,” said Ako. “Spinach and feta croissant for you. Raspberry muffin for me. Slice of coffee cake and oatmeal raisin cookie for tomorrow. You must start with the spinach croissant. Doctor’s orders.”

“Sounds fantastic!” replied Jules, pouring a cup of coffee and considering stealing a bite of the coffee cake. “Coffee, tea or water?”

“Any green or black tea, thank you,” said Ako.

“How about Chai tea? A bit of spice with the sweet?” asked Jules, looking in the cabinet.

“Sure,” Ako replied, placing the treats on a plate and then slicing the croissant and muffin. They sat together at the table and munched. Ako ate with her eyes closed and Jules followed suit. Jules rarely bought sweets at the market, although every few months he made a trip to the chocolate shop, where he usually chose the small “sweet and salty” box.

Ako asked Jules about his weekend. He’d gone to the library and the post office on Saturday. Then he’d watched the Sixers, recorded from Friday night. Another loss without Embiid. The season was falling apart. Each loss a reminder of the absence of the MVP big fella. Ako agreed, “With no Embiid that team is no good.” After that, Jules described taking a short afternoon stroll. The days were getting too dark too early, but the early winter weather was still mild compared with all those Philly storms. Ako was impressed how much he recalled, then shook her head at the idea of snow. “I have no desire to experience snow,” Ako said. “Or ice.”

Jules went on to describe the movie he’d seen on Saturday night. “There was a plane crash in the Andes Mountains, near the border of Chile and Uruguay. These Uruguayan rugby players took a trip. It’s based on a true story. The survivors were stuck on a snowy mountain. They ran out of food and some were dying of starvation. They had no choice but to…”

As he explained the scenario to Ako, she cut him off, while biting into her muffin. “No speaking of eating humans until I’m done with my muffin.” Ako said this with a serious expression, shaking her finger as if to ward off the terrible topic, and then giving a short laugh as if to acknowledge the ridiculousness of cannibalism.

Jules chuckled. “Okay, okay,” he said. Jules finished by describing his Sunday: a morning walk on the beach with Seamus followed by an afternoon phone call with Reva.

Jules didn’t talk about the conversation he and Seamus shared about the desperate situation in the film. Jules had asked Seamus, How can you know if you would or wouldn’t eat human flesh if the alternative was death? If you were hungry enough, you would have to consider it. Eventually, they both decided they would eat human flesh only if certain conditions were in place: a) They were very close to death; b) If the dead person died of natural causes and agreed that someone should consume them in order to live; c) Preferably with some sort of curry or sauce to disguise the fact.

Jules thought the film was beautiful. A true testament to how humanity can defy death when they form a collective, rather than exist simply as individuals left to their own devices.

Jules asked Ako about her weekend.

“There were no cannibalism survival films. My older daughter was in a dance recital. It was very beautiful. Here is a picture.” Ako showed Jules her phone. Ako’s daughter was beautiful, a graceful teenager with long braids. Her purple outfit was elegant.

Ako checked Jules’ blood pressure. It was normal. They went over to the couch and Jules queued up the Sixers game from Sunday.

“Are you sure you want to watch this? They’ve been terrible lately. Lost four of five,” he said to Ako. “Let’s try the first half,” Ako agreed, sipping her tea.

Jules turned on the television and started the game, forwarding through the opening pre-game talk. The Sixers were facing the Knicks.

The game started. Ako said, “Maxey must carry them. Poor cursed Embiid is not playing.”

“Yes!” Jules had a hard time watching the team without Embiid. Their candle had been snuffed out.

The Knicks’ Jalen Brunson slithered in and out of traffic. None of the Sixers could keep up with his sudden movements. Lay-ups. Floaters. Drives and kick-outs to open men in the corner. The Knicks were carving the Sixers up.

Late in the first quarter, Tyrese Maxey found his groove, hitting two deep three-pointers, and then faking and taking the ball to the rim for a dunk. Jules shouted, “There you go, Tyrese!”

Ako smiled at Jules’ excitement. “You keep calm, my friend,” she said. Later, Tobias Harris threw another bad pass, and Jules hung his head with despair.

At halftime, the Sixers were trailing the Knicks by eight. Jules leaned back on the couch and began to drift off, his feet propped up on the coffee table.

Ako checked her watch. 11:51. She went into the hallway to use the bathroom before collecting her things. When she came back into the living room, Jules was asleep, his head tilted back on the pillow. His Sixers cap, had fallen off his head, onto the floor.

Ako picked it up and put it on the coffee table. She held Jules hand for a moment and said, “I am heading off now. Take your nap.”

Jules murmured something like an acknowledgment. Ako headed for the door. 


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