Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit sentimental, I go and visit either one of the places we used to hang out in together, or I go and sit by his grave for a bit.
There’s something about these places that just make me feel at ease for a little while. I take a book, curl up for a bit, and escape my reality.
The last time I did this, I had a think about some of the more memorable times I had with this lad, and one in particular came to mind: the nicest thing he ever did for me.
Now, when I say he was nice… he was bloody nice. He always put others beside, if not before himself; he was always uber thoughtful; he was just a massive beam of light that made you feel warm and welcomed, no matter where or who you were.
You would think that time and circumstance (like being ill and in the hospital) would have affected this character trait, and in some ways you’d be right. I, however, rarely ever got to see a different side of him other than the one I always knew. If he’d not been confined to a hospital room, I’d have thought there was nothing wrong with him. That light and love and kindness never left his eyes, not even to the very last time I ever saw him.
And while I believed it was my turn to be purely thoughtful and as light as I possibly could be for him, he nevertheless still had some surprises up his sleeve for me. One of them was the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.
I keep repeating that phrase because it’s so poignant in my mind. I look back on my life and although I’ve had a fair amount of wonderful people, no one’s ever thought of me the way he did that night.
I remember going over to the hospital a bit late after school because I (grudgingly) did my extra curriculars after. I had band or dance or something; I can’t quite remember. Anyways, it was pretty late, but I went as I always did, determined to put a smile on his face, and finally have one on mine after the long, arduous day at school (wherein every moment I wondered if he was ok or not).
I remember it being a bit darker than usual in the room around him, but still I was entirely focused on his face… until I noticed it glimmering in the light. I remember turning around and seeing all of the candles around the room (a big no-no at hospitals by the way, so I was hella confused). I just recall smiling boldly and turning around and saying: “what did you do?!”
Matty had this grin he got when he knew he did something good; when he made someone else smile. It was unmistakable to me. He looked at you like there was nowhere else in the world he’d rather be in that moment than with you. He looked at you like the single most important thing ever. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s a smile that I’ve yet to encounter in anyone ever again.
It turns out he sought help from his parents and the nurses to kind of put it all together. What followed was him attempting to get out of bed, and by this point, that wasn’t really such a great idea. He struggled immensely to walk, and I could have only guessed at the amount of pain he was in. Nevertheless, he made his way over to this radio type thing and put a CD in.
It started playing “Sixteen Candles” by the Crests (I think)… an oldie…
…and I just remember him whipping his face around with that fucking awesome grin on it again as he held his hand out to me and started singing “happy birthday, happy birthday, baby…”
I was in absolute shock. For starters, my brain kicked in and I said I wasn’t even 16 yet for another few weeks… and he said ‘pah, what does that matter?’
I obliged, of course. I took his hand, helped to steady him, and we danced slowly around that hospital room.
I remember him closing his eyes and kissing me on the forehead. That was a bit strange to me because it wasn’t really ever something he did. I kind of always pictured us as more like brother and sister than boyfriend and girlfriend. We were kinda sweet on each other, but it was just never spoken about and not really acted on. We were young though.
Anyway, he opened his eyes again and looked at me… and proceeded to tell me that he knew how important having a sweet sixteen was to me, and even more so how much it meant to me to dance to this song and be the little old soul that I was. He said he knew he was right when he’d seen my face as well.
…And then he started to explain to me that he wanted to make sure that I got my party, and that I got my dance… with him.. because who else would I have chosen, after all? He apologized for not being able to do much and I hushed him immediately for even thinking like that.
I found out about a week later, after he died, that he knew he was getting worse and that he knew he probably wouldn’t make it until my birthday. I don’t think he had the heart to tell me at the time… he didn’t want to ruin my experience. He just wanted me to be happy, even if it caused him pain, or was to his detriment.
Every time I hear that song now I can’t help but well up. There are very few things that can do that to me anymore, but that’s one. And how could it not when it’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me?
I never wound up having a sweet sixteen. I got everything I could have asked for that night, and it wouldn’t have been the same without him.