Matt- Here to Make a Difference

April 9, 2010
He had given her the flower on their first date. If you would consider Junior Prom a date. It now lay on her bedside table, where it hadn’t budged for nearly two entire years. Cathleen couldn’t bring herself to move it, ever since the day of the accident. She remembered it as clearly as though it were yesterday.

Matt and Cathleen’s relationship had always been an eyebrow-raiser to their friends at John. F. Kennedy High School. Who would expect graceful and talented violinist Cathleen to be with quirky and adventurous Matt. But, ever since they had spent the night dancing and talking about anything and everything, at Prom, they had been inseparable.

“You seriously ate three large pizzas, in a row, for a cat?” Cathleen had exclaimed as she and Matt sat at the busy lunch table during school, soon after they’d met.

“Yup” Matt said proudly. “It was totally worth it. I may have been a little sick afterwards,” he said offhandedly, “but Hairball is the best cat a guy could ask for.”
It was the first of what would be many stories of Matt’s that made Cathleen care for him even more.

She envied the way he didn’t care what others thought of him, and how he constantly lived his life with excitement and adventure. She watched in awe daily as Matt moved through school, backpack slunk on his shoulder, humming a song by his favorite rock band, not a worry in the world.

During the year that Cathleen spent with Matt, she became so familiar with his face that she could have picked it up from a mile away. Matt’s dark brown eyes, his shaggy blonde hair that looked as if it had never been brushed after getting up in the morning, and his prominent ears sticking out awkwardly underneath his hair. Matt also had the most beautiful smile Cathleen could ever recollect, and she found herself wishing to see it every minute of the day. She seemed pulled to Matt when they were together, whether through a sweet kiss, or simply holding hands as they walked home from school. His touch was warm, like a ray of sunshine, and constantly brightened up Cathleen’s rainy days.

Cathleen would never forget the day of her Chemistry Mid-term exam during junior year, but not because of the aching feeling she had the night before as she studied the various chemical terms that made absolutely no sense to her. She simply remembered the blissful feeling she had after opening her locker when she came to school, finding three exquisitely beautiful paintings of her and Matt, leaning neatly against each other, and a small note that said “good luck today!- M” in front of them. The paintings showed the two of them laughing on the park bench, walking hand in hand by the old creek in their small neighborhood, and beaming at each other, and were done in long brush strokes using lush vibrant colors. Cathleen was stunned, and tears welled slightly in the corner of her eyes. Moreover, when Cathleen confronted Matt that morning, trying to somehow muster how thankful she was, he simply smiled and said, “You will be great today.”

Matt and Cathleen soon spent most of their afternoons together, regardless of the amount of homework they had received. After practicing violin, Cathleen would usually come to Matt’s bedroom, a bright room filled with various posters of bands, paintings done my Matt himself, and paintings by artists whom he admired. His favorite painting of a small boy on a bright red tricycle, hung right over his bed, caught Cathleen’s eye every time she walked into Matt’s eccentric room.

“Who made that painting?” asked Cathleen the first time she had come into Matt’s room for their afternoon study sessions, gazing at it with admiration.

“That,” said Matt wisely, “well, I have no idea to be honest.”

“But… what?” Cathleen stuttered.

Matt sighed deeply and said, “I found that painting in a dumpster while I was taking the trash out one day. I have never seen anything like it, so I just grabbed it, cleaned it off a bit, and hung it up,” he said matter-of-factly. “I have been conducting research to find the artist for a whole 6 months now, ever since I found the painting, but I haven’t gotten anything yet.” He let his eyes stare into Cathleen’s, and she could almost taste the longing he felt to find the truth behind his painting.

“You’ll find it someday,” said Cathleen appreciatively, wishing her words to be true.

The two of them became best friends. Not long after, they became one, and never needed an explanation for their connection; they simply lived in the moment. Cathleen knew, as they talked, laughed, listened, and kissed goodnight, that she loved him.

One Sunday morning, Cathleen woke up unusually early. She figured she was just excited; Matt had a big surprise planned for their anniversary that day. A whole year; she felt so proud of it.

Even at 7:30 am, Cathleen was ready to leave the house, having showered and eaten. She picked up her violin case from where she had left it the day before and closed the front door quietly, trying not to wake her parents up, then she strode down the sidewalk towards the Music Institute.

She pictured Matt and his laugh from their make-shift date that had the previous night as she walked down the thin sidewalk. He had made her laugh so hard with his uncanny impression of their old History teacher, Mrs. Lean, that Sprite had spurted out straight through her nose. Chuckling quietly to herself, she turned the corner, and entered the building.

Once Cathleen was in a private practice room, she took out her violin tenderly, and started playing with one long, low note. Then her body swayed as the joyful music from her heart surrounded her in the enclosed room. She practiced three of her favorite pieces for almost an hour and a half, until her phone lit up and vibrated on the table next to her. Cathleen glanced at the screen- Matt. He had texted her: “come outside Cate… xoxo”

Her heart beat like the wings of a hummingbird as she gently placed her violin back in its case. As she walked quickly down the hall towards the front doors, she could see Matt standing on the other side of the street. He was holding three great big balloons, and grinning widely.

“Matt!” Cathleen called out with a giggle, “what are you doing?”

“Happy Anniversary!” he called back across the street, over the bustling noise of a car passing in between them. A few people turned their heads as they walked along the sidewalk, but Cathleen didn’t care in the slightest. All she cared about was the boy in front of her, the unique, magnificent boy who, for some reason, loved her too.

Matt looked to see if any cars were coming, and then started walking quickly across the street to Cathleen. She watched as he got halfway across, until one of the strings from the balloons became caught and wrapped around Matt’s ankle. Instinctively, he bent down to unwrap it.

Neither Cathleen nor Matt saw the car speeding down the wrong lane, until it was too late.

“Cathleen!” Her mom knocked on her door. “Cate, can I come in? I’ve got your laundry.”

Cathleen just sat on her bed, not able to move a muscle. The memories played in front of her eyes like a movie, an agonizing movie, and the pain filled her to the brim until thick tears of grief overflowed down her pale cheeks. She continued staring at the rose on her bedside table.

“Cathleen…” her mom started, her voice tinted with worry. “Alright, I’m coming in,” and she slowly opened the door.

Cathleen could hear her mom’s small intake of breath as she witnessed her daughter sobbing silently on the bed, her head bent, and her body sagging lower and lower each second.

“Cate,” her mom whispered, sitting down on the bed next to her, dropping the newly ironed laundry on the floor, “sweetie, what is it?”

Cathleen couldn’t hold it all in anymore. She had forced herself not to think of the day of her one year anniversary with Matt for so long, but she couldn’t any longer. She leaned into her mother’s warm hold, and let herself fall into someone else for the first time in a long time. Her mother stroked her hair and waited for Cathleen to cry all of her tears.

“I can’t… today… Mom” Cathleen said, after having no tears left, “I just can’t.”

“Yes you can Cate,” said her mom determinedly. “You have practiced so hard, I know you can do it. Matt would be happy for you.” She whispered the last words, and Cathleen felt guilt take place of some of her anguish.

“But it’s my fault he’s dead!” Cathleen said through another dry sob. It was the first time she had ever revealed her stinging guilt. “I chose to play at the Institute that morning; I chose to have him pick me up instead of walking home.” Music killed him, thought Cathleen disgustedly.

“You are not to blame,” said her mom calmly, “it was bad timing and a drunk driver, no one could have known.”

Cathleen looked up into her mother’s eyes, so like her own, and saw truth behind them. She pictured Matt’s smile in her head, even after a year, she could remember his smile with clear detail. She imagined him saying, as he knew he would if he were to still be here, “C’mon Cate, you’re unbelievably talented. You can’t hide that from the rest of the world.”

She knew Matt’s death had changed her, had stopped her playing violin for ten months. However, she also knew that she hadn’t started playing again two months ago to give up now. She played for Matt. She played for his family, their friends, and their love for each other that had ended so abruptly. Tonight, at her first concert since Matt died, she would play with all of her heart and soul for them again. Though she will never be the same again, Cathleen learned from Matt to live life to the fullest. She was going to do exactly what Matt would have wanted her to do.

“Thanks Mom,” she said, and gave her mom a quick peck on the cheek.

“You’re welcome,” her mom said. Then she added, “You look beautiful.”

Cathleen smiled, knowing how much her mom loved to see her in her concert clothes. Her mom left Cathleen alone in her room. The walls seemed brighter to Cathleen, and the colors more vibrant, as though a thin piece of gray paper had been lifted from her eyes. The painting of the small boy on the red tricycle stood out more clearly against her pale walls than ever before.

The red, wilted rose caught Cathleen’s eye, as it always did, but this time she did not simply look away. This time, she retrieved a small, glass vase from her mother’s cabinets, and slowly placed the rose inside it. She knew it would stay there for a long time.

After one last look at the rose, Cathleen left her room, her violin case in her hand.

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CreativeScript said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 12:31 am

This is really cool! Can you write more?

And look at my stuff & comment?

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