The Big Day
Enthusiastic, thrilled, high as a kite; I can’t decide what better describes how I’m feeling today. I have that anxious, butterflies in your stomach feeling of excitement preparing for what is going to happen today. Levi has been working towards this day for a little over eleven months and I couldn’t be happier for him than I am right now.
Levi has been on the longest rollercoaster ride of his life, which is probably the best way I can describe his journey here. He has been strapped inside the car, guided by the track through steep inclines and descents, carrying him around sharp curves and changes of speed. At times he found himself stuck in a gravitational force, going around a continuous loop until the track finally changed direction and led him onto the next climb. Just as the car reaches the top of the next hill, there is a moment when everything pauses, when everything felt suspended for him and he enjoyed that moment because the anticipation of the drop was too much to bear. The drop represented everything Levi feared and lost, and he was convinced that this feeling of falling was never going to end and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Eventually he realized that the falls were a normal part of the climb and sometimes he felt the thrill. He found that if he kept on the track, the drops wouldn’t feel so bad.
We didn’t know exactly how long it would take for Levi to go from walking with one crutch to walking with no crutches at all, so it was decided that we would stream the big event today. His parents, Mark, Landon, Josh, and Andy will all be in London waiting to watch online. They are all coming to Boston in a few weeks for Levi’s big graduation party anyway, so they will be able to witness all of Levi’s accomplishments then,
There is just one thing that I need to do before Levi’s big moment…come clean with Nate, tell him everything that’s been going on with me and my new inconvenience.
Nate meets me privately in my office. “Hey Charlie, you said you needed to talk to me about something?” Nate’s voice upbeat, I feel bad that my voice will not be as pleasant when he hears what I’m going to confess.
I ask him to sit down for this and naturally it makes him a little nervous. “Is everything alright?”, he shyly asks me.
“No everything is not alright, but I hope it will be”, I say, and I see that I am starting to frighten him.
I can’t beat around the bush, so I just blurt it out. I tell him about my headaches, the dizziness and blurry vision episodes. I tell him about my eye exam and how it brought me to the neurologist, and I am on my fifth week of radiation treatment now.
After I finish spilling all my secrets, I turn my head to face him. He is completely stunned silent, his eyes wide as he stares at me.
“Nate! Are you okay?”, I ask him, trying to break him from his frozen state.
“You have been going through all of that, and you are asking me if I am okay?”, he says in disbelief.
“That is why you were sick for a few weeks?”, he confirms to himself more than asks.
I nod my head up and down.
“Does Levi know?”, he questions, his voice beyond concerned at this point.
I move closer to Nate and look straight into his eyes so that maybe he understands the reason why.
“No, Levi doesn’t know, and I am not going to tell him”.
I can sense Nate’s frustration with me now as his voice gets louder. “Charlie, you need to tell him, this is not something you can keep from him, he loves you and you love him. Can you at least tell me why?”
“I have two good reasons and hopefully Levi will understand these reasons when he does find out. The first reason is that if he were to know or if he found out when I did, he would have stopped focusing on his own progress to turn his focus on me, and there is no way I would let that happen. Second reason is that he came here to us knowing that we would give him the best chance of returning to his normal life, as normal as it can be, the life he had before his accident. He needs to go back to his home and his work and figure out for himself if that is what makes him happy. I can’t take that chance away from him.”
Nate stays quiet for a few minutes before responding. “I won’t say anything, you have my word. I only hope that he forgives you for not telling him. You two need each other. You may both be from different places, but your hearts are both the same”, he softly tells me. Nate then offers his help to me and reminds me to ask when I need it.
“Okay, enough of this gloomy aura, let’s get everything set up for Levi”, I bark.
I head to the gym where Levi is waiting for me, sitting in a chair on one end of the room. He looks so happy and the way he is fidgeting with his ankle brace tells me he is nervous as well. I walk up to him and run my fingers through his dark hair so that he looks up at me.
“Hey”, I say and then plant a soft kiss onto his lips.
“Are you ready for this?” I ask him while cupping his face with my hand and brushing my thumb across his cheek.
“With you by my side, I am always ready”, he breathes while kissing me again. I press my lips harder onto his, trying to suppress the guilty feeling creeping its way into my soul.
Nate has the live streaming all set up and ready to go. We wait until Levi’s parents and friends are on the big screen watching.
“Can everyone hear and see alright?”, Nate asks everyone back in London.
Levi’s parents both greet all of us while Levi’s friends shout wisecracks through the mic. “We are ready! Show us what you’ve got Levi”, Landon boasts with excitement.
I turn to Levi and give him my most encouraging smile, “Have I told you how proud I am of you today?” I say softly into his ear.
“Not yet”, he gives me a smirk.
Levi reaches his hand out for me to hold while he stands himself up from his chair. We stand hand in hand, perfectly still for a moment. I can feel him tense up a bit, so I give his hand a squeeze before letting it go and whisper to him, “Just breathe Levi, you’ve got this”.
Levi’s pace is slow and steady as he takes his first step, then his second on his own, without any crutches, without anyone holding on to him. Levi’s mom is screeching and crying at the same time and his friends are rallying him with each step he takes. Levi is grinning ear to ear with every cheer. He almost makes it across the room when he pauses to adjust his gait. His ankle brace causes him to walk with a slight limp, but he has learned how to convert his weight to his right when he lifts his left leg. He quickly regains his composure and carries on, until he reaches the other side of the room.
His mom is hysterically crying happy tears and his friends are yelling and giving each other high fives. I can’t seem to move from my current spot, tears are streaming down my face, I am in awe of him and I’m stationed in this spot, my mind trying to wrap around what he just showed us. I can’t explain it, the way I feel from watching him walk again on his own, is as euphoric as when I fell in love with him.
He turns around and notices me crying. “Why are you crying?”, he holds both his arms out towards me.
“Don’t make me walk all the way back over there”, he teases me.
I practically jog into his arms and embrace him.
“I love you”, he says and kisses my head while I cry into his chest.
“I love you Levi, I am so happy for you”, I sniff.
The tears are uncontrollable now, I can only anticipate what is to come next.
Levi lifts my face and wipes my watery eyes, then turns to the screen and thanks his parents and his friends for watching. They all congratulate him and promise to come visit in a few weeks.
“This was perfect! Thank you!”, Levi says to Nate and me.
“You were perfect”, I say in return, hugging him again. I don’t know how I can ever let go.