I Never Was One for Introductions

There she was, sitting across the room. I didn’t know it at the time, but she would be the one saving my life on that particular day. Maybe I should back up. I never was one for introductions. People used to call me no-name in high school because I would carry on a conversation for hours without once cluing the other in on what they should say if they wished to beckon me. I’ve changed a lot since then, everyone does, for the most part. But back to introductions. Hello, my name is Justus Rivers, and I am alive today because of a girl who doesn’t even know my name.

I never expected to be one of “those” kids. The ones who, when you pass, seem to cause in you a sudden fascination with your feet. Eye contact is certainly out of the question. Feeling sorry for them, you don’t quite know what to say. The sick kids. Sadly spending most of their time in the hospital, unable to go to parties, unable to really enjoy the high school experience. They just make you feel awkward. Well friends, that was me.

On some day in July, the 26th if you were really wondering, in the year 1999, I was playing outside like any kid would during the summer. There was nothing spectacular about that day. It was my 12th birthday. Never being one for big parties, I only had my two best friends over. “Hey Justus, betcha can’t climb as high as I can!” Joseph had always been one for beating people. He challenged me and our other friend Grayson frequently, and he usually won. If he lost, it was because Grayson beat him, never me. I was not nearly as athletic as either of them. Naturally, I started climbing after him, determined to finally beat him at something, it was my birthday after all. Higher and higher I climbed using only the sky as my limit. My one advantage was that I was smaller, allowing me to climb about a foot higher than Joe. “Yeah well,” Joe said from below me, “I let you win. Happy birthday.” High on life, on top of the world, I stood motionless in the tree, soaking in this rare moment. Then something happened. I don’t remember much, but Joe and Grayson tell me I just fell. I woke up in a hospital bed, my little sister crying in my dad’s lap and my mother in the hallway talking to a doctor. My 12th birthday, the day I found out I had leukemia.

After spending the remainder of my middle school years and the first half of high school making my peers feel awkward, I got better. For a time, at least. However, good things don’t always last. I went into relapse when I was 18. Not expecting the sudden blow, I didn’t notice anything at first, except a bad case of fatigue. I figured I should probably talk to my doctor at that point. He told me that the time of my un-notice gave the disease time to spread to my kidneys. So much for the college life I had dreamed of, right?

I was sitting in the waiting room, a typical Saturday afternoon activity, when I first saw her. Sitting across the room, entangled in John Green’s Paper Towns, she had me captivated. Her long red hair, glowing like a bonfire on a cold winter evening, set her apart from the sea of faces. Her skin was a porcelain kind of ivory, which would have looked out of place on anyone but her. She was wearing a white sundress and cowboy boots and though I couldn’t tell for sure, due to the distance between us, and the glare from her turquoise rimmed glasses, I had a strong feeling her eyes were green. Judging by the book she was reading and the youth etched into her face, she was about seventeen years old. “Cecilia Carter,” the receptionist called, breaking my trance, “the doctor will see you now.” Cecilia, what a beautiful name, closed her book, gingerly placed it in her brown leather bag, and stood up with heavenly grace. As she walked in my direction, I happened to be seated by the door, her sundress moved like liquid around her body. She walked passed me and smiled. She returned the gesture, sending my heart into a frenzy. Looking back, I wonder if she knew what she was about to do. As she reached to turn the handle, I noticed she had a small tattoo of a fish on her wrist. Then she was gone.

It wasn’t long before the receptionist called my name. I made the same journey to the back that Cecelia had, though my walk was much clumsier than hers. It was the day of my hopeful kidney transplant. A man from Oregon had agreed to be a donor after finding out he was a match. I entered the hospital room where I would be spending the next few days with hope. This disease wouldn’t defeat me. With Cecelia still on my mind, I smiled warmly at Dr. Humphreys, the doctor who would be performing the transplant. He shook my hand and asked me to sit down. “I’m afraid I have some bad news, Justus. I’ve just gotten off the phone with Lionel, the man who was to be your donor. His wife needs a kidney transplant.” My heart stopped. I had been waiting for this transplant for quite some time already. If I didn’t have the surgery soon, I could die. “We’re trying to find another donor, but these things do take time. I suggest you go home and rest. It isn’t impossible that you’ll be able to have the surgery today, but please don’t get your hopes too high, it would take a miracle.”

A few hours later, I was sitting in a restaurant down the road. I couldn’t go home. I had made myself a cake with the words “Happy Transplant Day” written on top in icing. I was on my third round of fries when Dr. Humphreys called. He said God must be smiling on me today, they had found another donor. I could come back to the hospital right now; they were ready for surgery. “In my forty years at the hospital, this has never happened. You are a lucky man, Justus Rivers.” I immediately asked for the check. After paying, I stood up to leave, but something caught my eye. I spied Cecelia walking in the door. She was with a friend, and she looked tired. Not wanting to leave her presence, I stood at table a little longer. As the pair passed by, I caught a snippet of their conversation. “You’re practically a hero, Cece, really. I mean you’re saving someone’s life, right now. Back at the hospital, some lucky person is getting your kidney. Imagine that.” At that point, I found my hand reaching out to touch Cecelia’s shoulder. She turned in shock, then, seeing I wasn’t a serial killer, she smiled. I explained the situation, expressed my gratitude, and asked if there was any way I could repay her. She simply smiled and said “making a miracle happen is on my bucket list.” And with that she turned to walk to her table.

After the surgery, I replayed the conversation over and over again in my head. On the eight hundredth time around, I realized I had told her everything about my life, but I had omitted one important detail. Feeling like a fool, I became aware of the fact that I had forgotten to mention my name. But what can I say. I never was one for introductions.





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