Savior of Humanity
"Well…I’m a little crazy.”
“Aren’t we all?”
Luke stared back into the young man’s handsome face, drawn forward by the man's smile, and then almost—almost—pulled deep inside by the man’s blue eyes and the feeling that sparkled behind them, only to be saved at the last second as he formed a lopsided grin of his own. “Yes, but I’m certifiable,” he answered with a wave of his arm around him, around the activity room of the facility he’d spent the last…however long he’d been there.
The man, barely able to pull his eyes off Luke’s face but saved at the last second by shoving his hands into his pockets to distract himself, looked around the room. Patients stood at easels with strips of paper, painting whatever came to mind as a teacher walked around offering encouragement. They also encouraged each other. The man looked back at Luke and started to speak but was interrupted.
“Noah, isn’t it?” Luke added with a slight questioning look.
The man’s smile grew exponentially. “Yes. You remembered.”
“Noah’s ark,” Luke nodded his head. “I associate new people and things with older stuff up here,” he pointed to his head. “The doctor recommended it, and it seems to work.”
Noah's smile diminished slightly and then formed into a smirk. “So, you associate me with an old, old man with a big boat, long beard, a wife, and grown children?”
Luke laughed aloud and then looked back thoughtfully for a second before answering. “No, I associate you with……saving.....somebody…”
His smirk turned serious as Luke continued…. “I don’t know.” Luke finished with a flourish. “Humanity, I guess.”
“Wow, okay,” Noah smiled softly. “I’ll take that.”
“Yeah, I bet you will,” Luke smiled back. “Well, I guess I better get back to this stupid picture, whatever or whoever it is.” He looked back at his paper, sizing it up.
It was a mish-mash of familiar color and features that dripped out of Luke’s head one by one and he captured to the best of his artistic ability, just as his therapist suggested. Noah looked at it thoughtfully. “It’s beautiful.”
“They tell me I’m getting better at this, but I don’t believe them,” Luke whispered with a laugh as he picked up a brush, dabbed it in dark brown—the color of Noah’s hair—and brushed in waves in the middle of the paper. He turned to Noah, who tore his eyes off the picture to look into Luke’s eyes, and smiled. “So…see you later?”
“Yeah,” Noah said, almost out of breath as he stared back at Luke. He shook his head slightly, swallowed heavily, and added, “Sure.”
“Okay,” Luke grinned. “Until we meet again, fare thee well, oh Noah, savior of humanity,” he mocked with a grand gesture.
Noah grinned softly, took a last long look at Luke as he returned to painting, and turned to walk out of the activity room.
“I want one of those drinks again…what you brought…yesterday?” Luke called after Noah, surprised at his own sudden memory of the day before, the man holding a paper cup that swirled with coffee and a flavor Luke had loved.
Noah stopped in his tracks, his face beaming, and he turned. “A caramel machiatto?”
“Yeah, one of those things,” Luke responded with a smile and then returned to his painting.
“You got it,” Noah grinned.
He walked out of the activity room and down a long hallway to stop at the elevator. Once it came, he got on and pushed a button to go a couple of floors higher. Once there, he got off and walked down another hallway full of facility staff members until he got to Luke’s therapist and went inside. The man motioned to him to wait for a minute while he finished a phone call, so Noah went to a box along the wall, one that contained Luke’s past artwork, and flipped through.
It was like flipping through evolution of...something. The most recently drawn picture had various details the previous one didn’t, and so on, and so on. The images Luke drew were gradually getting better and forming a person….Noah.
“So, how did it go today?” the therapist asked as he hung the phone up.
“Good,” Noah turned and grinned with watery eyes. “Really good. He’s remembering…things…my name…the drink I brought him two weeks ago. It’s working,” he finished as his voice broke, tears threatening to overcome his demeanor.
“I thought it would,” the therapist nodded with a warm grin. “It will just take time. Like I’ve said before, we have to be careful not to bring all his memories back too quickly,” he added seriously. “All the events that led to his…break, if you will—your accident, his guilt, your breakup, Reid, you regaining your sight, then Reid’s sudden death—caused him to revert in his mind back several years before either of you existed in his life. He’s 17 again in his mind, Noah, so we have to proceed carefully,” the therapist patted his arm.
“I understand,” Noah nodded.
“See you tomorrow, then?”
“Yes,” Noah nodded quickly, swallowing. “Of course.”
“Good,” the therapist smiled softly. Noah began to walk out of the man’s office when he spoke again. “He’s lucky to have you, Noah. He’s lucky to have you be so patient with him, and help him, and wait for him.”
Noah turned back, this time unable to contain the tears that dripped from his eyes. “I’d wait forever.”
The therapist nodded back with a smile. "I know you would." Noah grinned back, ducked his head sheepishly and then left the office.
He’d be back again. And again. And again. As long as it took.
Dreaming of Hope
“It’d be a beautiful day, sometime in the spring. Just warm enough to take the chill off. The trees at the farm would be in bloom, along with the flowers she plants every year—Emma—did I mention her?”
She shook her head with a soft smile, her chin resting in her hand propped by an elbow on the café counter.
“She’s his grandmother, probably the sweetest woman I ever met,” he smiled, and a thought occurred to him. “She’d walk me down the aisle,” he shook his head slowly, reaffirming in his mind what suddenly seemed natural. “If she’d do it,” he wondered, with the hint of insecurity that returned now and then.
“I have a feelin’ she’ll do it,” she answered with a smile.
“There wouldn’t be a lot of people there,” he stopped and then chuckled softly. “Though, just his family would be a lot of people, so strike that.”
She grinned back.
“They’d all be sitting in white chairs lined up to face the pond on Emma’s farm. She’d walk me down the aisle, and his mom and dad would walk him down after me. Do you know the song True Colors by Cyndi Lauper?”
She thought for a second, then smiled and answered, “Yeah.”
“That’s a special song for us. Someone would play it on a guitar. No words, just the melody.”
She nodded her head in agreement as the sight and sounds formed in her mind.
“Luke, he’s great with words, so he’d have something really special written. Me, not so much,” he smirked.
“Yes you will,” she corrected him. “It will come from your heart, honey.” She squeezed his arm.
He rolled his eyes before looking at her. “The first time he told me how much I meant to him? I said, ‘same here’. Can you believe that?” he scoffed at himself and shook his head low with regret.
“Go on, tell me more,” she distracted him from thinking more about it.
He smiled again and looked up. “The pastor would say the words, ‘I pronounce you husbands and partners in life, and love, forever. I’d put my arms around him, hold him close and we’d kiss, and I’d never let him go,” he said with a smile, looking past her and far away into a vision of a moment he'd continue to wish for.
She looked into his deep blue eyes full of hope and sighed with content.
“We’d have a big party afterward. Family and friends, music, lots of home-cooked food, dancing—he can dance, I can’t. I like, have two left feet,” he grinned at her with another roll of his eyes.
She giggled sweetly. “Sweetheart, I don’t think he’s gonna care,” she answered.
“Maybe we’d just slow dance, alone but in the middle of everybody, because honestly I don’t think I’d be able to take my eyes off him all night,” he said dreamily. “We’d finally decide to take off and leave in my truck,” he added, and then laughed. “Casey—a friend of ours—would make a mess of it!”
“That’s what friends are for!” she laughed with him.
“And then we’d drive off into the sunset, together. We’d go someplace beautiful and romantic for a few days,” he said with a soft smile, again looking past her into a vision of hope.
“The beach,” she answered in agreement, looking up into her own dream.
“Yeah, maybe,” he added, and then looked her in the eye sadly. “But you know what? It wouldn’t really matter. What matters is we’d be together, you know?” He gave a slight shrug. “No more awkward visits, no more waiting. There’d be nothing between us but love and hope for our future, together. No one between us but the children we raise, together. Nothing we wouldn’t be able to do, or fix, or be, together. No reason we wouldn’t grow old together.”
Noah stopped as his eyes became glassy, and he turned his head over to the group of six that sat with their therapist. They were out for an afternoon ‘field trip’ and had stopped at the roadside café for lunch.
It had been a difficult day for Luke. Noah could see it in the man’s fidgeting hands, his nervous smile, and the look in his eyes that seemed far away and questioning.
There were still those days, days of nervous confusion that meant he was no one to Luke, another stranger sitting in this café.
But they were fewer, and they were farther between, and that was hope to Noah.
He turned back with his own sad smile at her.
“Let me tell you somethin’,” she sniffed and looked him in the eye. “It’s not ‘would’, it’s ‘will’, you hear me?” she said, swallowing a throat full of emotion. “You will have that weddin’, and that slow dance, and you will drive off into that sunset, together. You will do all those things together, and you will be together, forever,” she said without the slightest hint of doubt. She squeezed his arm with one hand and smiled into his eyes, and he grinned slightly back.
“God, look at me,” she chuckled as she stood up. “I gotta get back to work,” she smiled softly. She ran a hand down her uniform to straighten it and then straightened her nametag that read ‘Cindy’.
“Thank you,” Noah said, returning her heartfelt glance.
She nodded, patted his arm, and sniffed some more and wiped a tear, and she went down the counter to check on another customer.
Noah wiped his own tear and then picked up his coffee and sipped it, the mug shaking slightly with emotion. He chanced a glance back at Luke again, who sat still with his group, not saying much but rather perhaps listening in hopes of, or waiting for, a memory to click and remind him of who he was, and why he was there.
The therapist nodded solemnly toward Noah for a second before returning to the discussion in his group.
Noah nodded and then turned back to face the counter, and he resumed his dream of hope as music played on the jukebox.
Noah sat alone outside the Center on a bench made for two, feet planted infirmly apart with arms resting on his knees. His hands gripped one another to hold his fragile sanity, and his feet swayed with nervousness. His head hung low, his heart lower.
It had rained all day and evening, the kind of steady rain that drizzles one minute and pours the next. The dark--an endless expanse that reached as far as the eye could see--swallowed him and confined him to a small space, a closet in his mind that was full of lost hope, confusion, and fear.
He’d been visiting there for….what felt like forever, and his head was forcing him to make a decision, a decision that seemed only right if he were to make a life for himself. Himself.
Luke wasn’t going to remember. Luke was going to stay in his shell of protection. Luke had been through too much, and perhaps Noah was too painful a memory for him to recall. There had been moments of hope when he remembered small bits, and the next day would be terrible, and Noah knew it as soon as he looked at him. His frown and furrowed eyebrows and his confused stare bore the truth as he looked back into beautiful but strange eyes. Noah had fought, and lost.
So he sat in the rain and in the dark as his heart fought with his mind, and his hands wrung out the misery of a love that was all right but had gone all wrong.
He flinched slightly at the instant recognition of the voice, but he didn’t move.
“Son, are you okay?” Holden said lower, as he and Lily approached from the parking lot, hand in hand, there for their usual visit to see Luke.
The second Noah looked up, Holden knew. The boy—because he’d always be a ‘boy’ (his boy in his mind, in fact)—was conflicted, and it shown all over his face. The boy’s tears mixed with rain that drenched his face, and his eyes showed a sad truth: he was lost, alone, and most of all tired, tired of hoping and praying and waiting for a day he’d begun to think would never happen.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Lily cried as she reached down to squeeze his hands that still clutched each other in desperation. “I’m so sorry,” was all she could manage as her voice broke. She leaned down—in the pouring rain as Holden held the umbrella that no longer covered her—and looked him in the eye. “We love you, Noah,” she added, and cried tears of her own.
She knew this day would happen eventually. He couldn’t hang on forever. He was young and needed to follow his dreams and make something of his life. He could not wait on Luke for the rest of his life. But he’d always be her son no matter what.
She put her arms around his back as he laid his tired head on her shoulder. She rubbed his back like any mother would. Noah had never known a mother, but if Lily Snyder wasn’t the perfect one to wish for, he didn’t know who would be.
He finally sat back and self-consciously rubbed his eyes, and Lily stood up, knelt to kiss his forehead, and then looked at Holden. He handed her the umbrella while they nodded knowingly each other, and she left the two in the rain as she walked inside to see Luke. Holden sighed heavily and sat down on the bench.
“I’m-, I’m sorry. I can’t do it anymore,” Noah said with a shaky voice, head down and hands wringing nervously. He knew Holden would understand, yet he couldn’t look at Luke’s father and tell him he’d given up, given up on their love.
“Noah, you have nothing to be sorry for,” Holden reaffirmed as he stared out in front of them. Rain beaded down and streamed down to the flooded storm drain, pooling there with nowhere else to go. He turned and faced Noah. “We know you love Luke. But you deserve a life, Noah. I know that he would want you to be happy. He would want you to pursue your dreams.”
“He is my dream,” Noah choked out without thought.
“I know that,” Holden responded quietly as his hand rested on the boy’s back. “And maybe one day that dream will come true. But right now, he would want you to live and enjoy life.”
Noah turned and looked back for the first time. “Do you know all that he did for me? I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him. And I can’t even wait for him to…” his voice drifted off as he looked down in shame.
“I think he knows deep down how much you mean to each other. And one day he’s going to remember. But until then, he’d want you to be happy.”
Noah shook his head to himself at his confusion and stuck the heel of his hand to his eyes as his head throbbed. It was all almost too painful to bare.
And Holden’s arm went around his shoulders and squeezed, and Noah leaned into the pull of the man’s security and warmth and comfort, and he sobbed as his head rested on his shoulder.
Minutes—maybe hours—went by as the two sat quietly on the bench made for two in the rain and in the dark, together.
“Holden! Noah…Noah!” The cry came as Lily rushed outside. They both looked up, and her face appeared out of the dark. Her tears, too, mixed with rain, only her face lit up with relief and joy.
“You look so handsome!” Emma leaned over and whispered with a smile. Her eyes twinkled knowing her grandson was about to marry the man of his dreams.
“Thanks,” Noah grinned. He didn’t think his smile would ever diminish that day. Indeed, it might not ever disappear in his lifetime. He squeezed her hand and she squeezed back, and then she did her duty. She proudly led him down the aisle, hand in hand, to a melody of True Colors just as he once had imagined. The smiles of their family and friends filled the faces that all looked back at him, some with tears in their eyes, and all with the amazement of what it means when true love is found, experienced, fought for, and cherished.
Noah found his spot at the end of the aisle in front of the preacher, and he leaned down to envelop Emma in a hug. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“Welcome. Welcome to our family, Noah,” she responded with a teary smile. She then went and sat down on the first row next to Lucinda.
Noah turned his attention to the end of the aisle again as Lily and Holden took their positions, and Luke stepped from behind to stand in the middle and loop both his arms through his parents’. Their procession began, and more smiles and tears formed on both sides of the aisle.
But Luke and Noah fell out of this world and into their own. Their eyes never left each other as Luke moved closer. Wedding guests faded into the background as their eyes held each other with knowing gazes of all they’d had, all they’d been through, and all the happiness that lay before them. Holden and Lily gave each one a hug, and the two men finally turned to face other and clasp hands, still smiling into each other’s eyes as their souls joined. They each took a deep breath—seemingly already one person with one thought and one desire and one longing: each other—and chuckled lightly at the seriousness of it all before the service began. Family and friends laughed lightly with them.
No more hoping, no more waiting, no more wishing. They would never be apart again, and the joy of knowing it filled their hearts beyond measure.