Pledge for Life
by Ann Clay
Corinth had always been a sickly child, but to look at him today --- now as he strolled across the auditorium stage to the podium positioned at center front, the only belying clue of his illness rests in the overly large eyes graced by heavy dark lashes. His smooth ebony face lacked facial hair, but the clear strong lines, accentuated by a strong nose and full lips gestured his compelling masculine African traits. The cinnamon orbs beneath the forest of dark lashes scanned the audience, before he took a sighing breath. He then cleared his throat.
“I am extremely honored today, to address you and your family on such a joyous occasion,” his voice rang strong and clear across the cool interior of Worth Auditorium.
Twenty two years ago, no one believed he would live pass his tenth birthday --- that is no one but his aged mother and father, who decided they wanted a child so late in their lives. Despite their own plaguing health problems, they willingly accepted the known risks associated with having a child during his mother’s early stages of pregnancy at age fifty-one.
By the time he turned two, much of his life had been spent in the children’s ward of the local hospital. Still his parents never lost hope. They prayed and thanked the maker each day their precious little boy lived. Corinth began his journey to health when he learned to walk. He was a curious child, sticking his hands and face on practically everything that caught his eyes.
Corinth didn’t have a lot of friends. Most of the kids during his elementary years teased and taunted him. He withdrew from them, keeping mostly to himself. When he was in second grade, one day during lunch period, the same bullying kids taunted him when the prettiest girl he’d ever seen in his life stepped up to the leader of the group and threaten him.
“Ronald Lewis, if you don’t leave him alone I’m gonna sock you between the eyes,” she challenged. “Oh yea,” he dared. “Yeah,” she moved closer, standing in front of him toe to toe. She had to look up because she was a little thing.
“You’re lucky I don’t hit girls,” he warned. “And you’re lucky I do,” Meagan snapped one hand on her bony hip and shook her finger at him with the other. She then turned and grabbed Corinth by the hand, “Com’on Corinth,” she ordered. Corinth allowed Meagan to drag him along like a rag doll.
When she pulled him down next to her under the lone tree of the playground, her beautiful brown eyes dug into his mind and stayed there forever. “We will take care of each other,” she pledged. “You be my friend and I will be yours,” she vowed. Corinth wide eyes glistened with admiration. “Okay,” he smiled, still holding on to her soft hand. To this day the two have remained best friends. Only now he was her protector, a role he’d assumed the first year in junior high.
Meagan beamed with pride as she watched her best friend. Their friendship grew into love the year they graduated from high school. She decided to follow him to the local university in lieu the University of Pittsburgh as originally planned. As the class president and top student of his graduating class, Corinth had been select to be a student teacher while pursuing his graduate degree.
Meagan was well aware of Corinth’s health difficulties over the last several months. He had been in tremendous pain. Some nights his body would converge into uncontrollable seizures. He’d purposely kept his returned ailments from his parents attributing the set back to the stress of finals and preparation for commencement.
Meagan spent several nights holding him as he fought through the storm of hellish pains. Some nights they both cried – Meagan because all she had to offer was the comfort of her arms --- and Corinth because he hated subjecting Meagan to his suffering.
Her bravery always came shining through. “It’s okay honey. We’ll get through this,” she consoled. His little rescuer, from the first time she’d rescued him from Ronald Lewis in second grade up until now, had always considered him first.
Today he felt good, physically and mentally. His doctor had prescribed painkillers to take the edge off of the sharp body curling pains without the sluggish effect. His skin had returned to its vibrant ebony hue and his eyes were void of the yellow consistence it had assumed earlier in the week.
The day started well. He shared breakfast with his family; his appetite lagged but no one really questioned why. They most likely attributed it to the excitement of the upcoming festivities. Corinth, midstream into his speech, searched the audience for the familiar smiles he knew beamed from ear to ear.
This final student’s address he knew by heart and recited without thought. When he captured her loving gaze, he connected with her for an instance, relaying his passion for all she has meant to him. When she nodded, Corinth shifted his attention back to the rest of the audience.
After his final words rang through the microphone, his classmates as well as the rest of the auditorium stood and gave him a standing ovation. When Corinth received his diploma, his family exploded with boorish whistling and rooting. He lifted both hat and maroon cover above his head as payment for their support, a proud grin slide across his face.
Once the ceremony was over, Corinth quickly sought his family. He hugged his mother and father, his eyes searching for and finding Meagan at the same time. “We’re proud of you son,” they sang. Finally moving toward Meagan, he pulled her into his strong embrace. Corinth lips met the soft junction at her ear. “Thank you baby,” he whispered in her ear. Meagan squeezed her arms around his waist. Rising slightly on her toes, she gently kissed his full lips and smiled. “Congratulations!” she beamed. “We did this together Meg. I don’t think I could have done this by myself,” he confessed.
Corinth had from the beginning warned Meagan of his failing health. She remembered the day he told her that he might go to heaven. They were both eight years old at the time. She suggested that they go together, that she had a grandfather in heaven. They would stay with him. But when Corinth told her he was sick and that only he would go to heaven did she understand what he was trying to tell her.
Meagan didn’t cry at first. Instead she pledged to save him just like she’d done with Ronald Lewis. When she finally realized how serious his illness was, she cried until she fell asleep in his arm. It broke her heart to know that she might lose her friend. To her that meant they would never spent their golden years together. The last several months served as a quick reminder of hiayed silently for the well being of her unborn child.
Months later, after a lot of pampering and bed rest, and the many tests, ultrasounds, and Lord knows what else Meagan’s family and Corinth parents did, Jessica entered the world healthy and screaming at the top of her lungs. Corinth was wrong. His work wasn’t done. It would never be done