Levon Chapter Eight
“Don’t do what you want. Do what you don’t want. Do what you’re trained not to want. Do the things that scare you the most.”
The more I read from Levon the more questions I had about this man who took me in. The more curious I became about his speculated, and tattered past, one kept so hidden in the doldrums of his mind. He spoke of the past like a war he tried to forget. The most arrogant, emotional, yet gentlest man I ever knew, had a war wage on within himself, one only he could fight. I didn’t know if I should give empathy, sympathy or ignore it all together and live on.
Levon’s art concealed himself much more than it ever revealed him.
The summer was flying by as most summers do. Like a gust of wind, the summer lifts you up into the crisp morning and drops you just as the heat of the day disperses into the dark of the night. The minute you get used to the freedom of living, is the very second the freedom gets ripped from your hands. The minute you get your summer routine, you don’t need it anymore.
Levon grew more and more recluse over the season. As long as I knew Levon he always went into hermit mode at the end of the summer, becoming even moodier. He later told me it was because he feared the winter. Snow brought him sadness and the cold shuddered his bones like a bridge in an earthquake. He said, “everyone dies in the winter, no one dies in the summer Jake. The winter is when the world leaves and it is just me.”
It was mid-August when I woke up in the middle of the night to thundering coughs. The room was still pitch black as I fumbled my way to the light switch all the way across the room, stubbing my toe on my boots and tripping over a week’s worth of laundry on the floor. They weren’t my coughs, and Evie didn’t live in our frat castle, but they came from Levon’s room. The walls shuttered with every bellow from Levon. I wasn’t sure the proper etiquette in this situation. Levon was a very private person. He never liked to show any weakness, but what if he was truly in trouble? Was it my responsibility to help? I am the only other person there who was able to help. Eventually, there was a hacking of lung butter that sounded like Vesuvius just erupted across the hall. I paused at my door and weighed my options. Fuck it. I ran to Levon’s door and just before I busted in Kramer style, I paused again, stared at the door and gently knocked. No response. I rapt again on the solid wood door, making sure he heard me.
“Hey Levon,” I whispered.” Not sure why I whispered.
No response other than another hacking of phlegm sounding like a wet water balloon being deflated. I tapped again… nothing but hacking away.
“Levon if you don’t answer I am either coming in or calling Evie,” I yelled through the door.
Then there was a crash, a thump. I grabbed the door handle. It was locked. “Levon,” I yelled again only to be responded by the sound of smashing glass. What the fuck is going on in there? The house was dark, only shadows directed my way through the maze upstairs as I sprinted across the hall back into my room to grab my cell phone. On the way I screamed, “That’s it Levon, whether you are dying or not I am calling Evie. When she gets here you better be dead, or she will kill you for scaring us like this.” If that didn’t get the old man motivated to answer my pleas than nothing would. It took three calls before Evie answered her phone. She probably had no idea where she put her phone. It was in her maroon Mulberry purse her granddaughter bought her on Seville Rd. in London. It was the most expensive thing she owned, and she cherished the old bag dearly. Her phone was always in there. The old will never learn.
“Evie, I don’t know what’s going on with Levon! I heard him coughing and I think he fell, there was a smash, sounded like glass, do I call 911? I am not sure. The door is locked, is there a key? I can’t break it down. You know I am not that big to break it down. (Trying to throw some humor in an otherwise dire situation). You think he is okay? Does he do this?”
“Slow down, slow down Jake. Open the middle drawer of the table at the top of the stairs, there should be keys in there. One of them is for his room. I am on my way. And yes, call 911! I am going to fucking kill him if he isn’t already dead.”
That’s my Evie.
I ran back down the hall to the table. I must have walked by this table a thousand times and never noticed it. Dawn was breaking through the east facing windows allowing for better visibility as I darted my way around the second floor of the colonial trying to not waste a single precious second as the coughing stopped and I feared the worse. I grabbed the keys pushing away the old letters, batteries, string, tape and old pocketknives that were also in the drawer. There were 4 keys on the red Camp Wilbur lanyard. The moment took forever. A long sigh was quicker than my sudden movements as I sprinted around in only my briefs. I slammed the first key into the door. Nothing. Second key. Nothing.
“Levon! You okay?”
“Sport.” He finally responded. He sounded exhausted struggling to get even the one word out.
“I am coming in Levon, just hold on one more second.”
Third key. Nothing. Of course, it would be the last key I fucking try. Fourth key. Nothing. What the fuck. “Levon none of these fucking keys work!”
Just as I finished the last syllable of “work,” a key flew out from under the door. “Levon why the fuck would you have the key inside the…Never mind…” I swung the door open to find Levon lying prostrate on his stomach with blood all over his chin and shirt. There were blood splatters on his sheets and ground. The bedside lamp was on the ground shattered into a million glass and cedar shards, Levon kept pointing at his legs. Evie’s car door slammed outside and before we could react the front door crashed open. Evie’s heavy-footed stampede came prancing up the stairs, echoing through the house.
“Levon you better be really fucking hurt or dead otherwise I am going to…” Evie paused her rant as she came around the corner to me holding Levon upright wiping blood off his face. Levon still had aftershock coughs that shook his whole body.
“OOO Jesus, what happened?”
“I have no idea I just got the door open.”
Kurt and Ernest made their way up to the second floor to find out what the commotion was about. When they saw Levon on the ground with Evie and I surrounding him they quickly came over and licked his face. In between coughs Levon was able to tell us some of what happened.
“I…I had a cough. Then I looked down. There was blood. I stood up to go to the bathroom, but my legs gave way. On my way down I grabbed the lamp. I couldn’t move. I can’t…I don’t know…”
“Sounds like a stroke, maybe an aneurism?” Evie said.
“I’m fine, seriously,” Levon stoically attempted to brush off his near-death experience and catch his breathe.
“Shut up Levon, this isn’t normal. You need to go to the hospital.”
“They aren’t going to tell me anything I don’t already know,” He said. “I ain’t in it for the health.”
“Don’t be such a mule, you are coughing up blood and your legs are paralyzed… this isn’t negotiable you ass.”
I watched the two go through these exchanges as I slowly backed out of the room without saying a word. It scared me to see Levon in such a weak and vulnerable state. The man, who was teaching me to be a man was reduced to blood filled coughs and shaking legs. What if he died? I had no one else. The reality of mortality finally hit me as it does all people at some point is his or her life. The moment you realize you can’t hold on to everyone, the moment you realize that life is a fleeting blur and every man, woman and child will eventually have the same fate, is the very moment innocence is completely lost. It is in that very moment of realization that people choose their outlook on the rest of life. Either they choose to have everything taste a little sweeter, a little brighter, a little happier, or they choose to have the world become greyer, slower, and bitter. Neither Evie nor Levon saw me back out of the room, shaken to the core at the fragility of life.
“Jake, call 911 again. Tell them he is stable but still doesn’t have full motion of his legs. We need an ambulance now,” Evie shouted.
“Jake if you call the ambulance, I am kicking you out of my house. I am fine,” Levon rebutted.
“Levon if you don’t shut up…”
“Yes, yes I know you are always right.”
“That’s better,” Evie said with a victorious smirk.
I called 911, blacking out the conversation entirely and went straight to my room, stunned, at how quickly this man who I have become to know, admire and love was almost ripped from my grasp, leaving me alone, again.
Before I knew it, the EMT’s took a bitching Levon out the front door. I did not move from my room. Suddenly it was silent in the house. The air was stifling and the sepia glow on the shadows gave the world a nostalgic feel. You can become lost in the past if one is not careful. It could turn into a lotus flower trance, stuck on repeat.
The house silently creaked under the strain of each step as I crossed the hallway into Levon’s room. The blood remained, the glass still scattered on the pine floors. I began cleaning up and collapsed to the floor exhausted in the dawn light. The room looked different. I never paid close attention to the decor and layout of Levon’s personal den. His room was not like the rest of the house. It was orderly, bright, and well kept. No books were randomly placed in stacks, his wallet neatly placed next to his Frederique Constant watch. His closet was packed with the care of a person with some of the most intense OCD I ever saw.
I eventually got the strength to stand up and clean the crime scene, returning the spotless bedroom to its original state of conformity. As I finished cleaning, walking out the room I grabbed the ring of keys on the Camp Wilbur lanyard. I walked back over to the light brown table, opened the drawer and placed the keys back. Then suddenly I stopped. I put down the brown Whole Foods bag filled with shards of the lamp Levon made when he was in 11th grade shop class. Directly in front of me was the room. The room I have never seen. It was the room that was always locked. It was the room with the beautiful porch overlooking the Atlantic. I looked back at the table with the newly discovered keys sitting inside. Why the fuck not try?
First key. Nothing. Second key, third key, the same…Nothing. Then finally the fourth key, it felt perfect. There was no way it wouldn’t work. The knob didn’t budge. Discouraged, I put the keys back and went downstairs to make some coffee and try to digest what the fuck just happened. I called the hospital and they confirmed he was admitted. Evie called me back and told me it was a stroke and would eventually get full recovery of his paralysis. As I hung up the phone, it hit me. I knew how to open the door. Levon’s key. It had to be the master key. I sprinted upstairs skipping a step with each leap. Slid down the hall and stopped at the door. The key was still in the doorknob. I snatched it out, did an about face and ran to the east.
I gently opened the door and was absolutely terrified. I should have been excited, or maybe a little apprehensive but I was terrified. It felt like opening a tomb or mausoleum. The door was heavier than the others in the house. It took all my might to push the door ajar. There is something about opening a locked door. No matter the circumstance, it always comes from fear of the unknown. In reality, it is such a primal instinct. The curiosity to learn, the curiosity to grow, the curiosity to explore places you have never been, seen, smelt, tasted. We were built to answer questions and explore what we do not know. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but that cat lived an awesome fucking life before it died.
The sun crept in bit-by-bit, illuminating a line down the hallway behind me. A golden glow showered the room as the sun peaked over the horizon and beamed through the lace curtains covering the glass French doors, which led out onto the sprawling, pristine porch, jutting out over the ocean.
There was an easel with a white stool set up in front of the doors. All of the paintbrushes and cloths were set up as if someone just was getting ready to paint. There was a sewing station and what seemed to be a knitting station. Resting on top of the knitting station equipped with spools of yarn and every size needle, was a half made navy blue blanket. It looked like someone was making it and dropped it never to return. There was a wall of books, none I ever saw before. After a quick glance I realized the theme. Most of the books were about women during revolutions, an odd subject to find in Levon’s house. There were dog bowls labeled Madeline. As far as I knew, Levon never had a dog named Madeline. It was always Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and Ernest Hemingway. Levon did tell me about a dog he named Booker T. Washington and a turtle called Thomas J. Esquire. Anyway…I digress… Around the corner there was a small fireplace with a brown leather love seat. The wood piled and ready to be burnt. A large wooden chest with animals carved into the side, adorned with brass handles, loomed in the far corner of the room at the foot of a queen bed with all white linens. The room was locked in a time capsule. Despite never having seen this room open, nor anyone clean it. There wasn’t a speck of dust. It was vacuum-sealed in time. It was frozen in the past. I was terrified to disturb the presence of the ghostly room. It was an abandoned room in a well lived home. It remained frozen, an ageless room forgotten by the outside world.
The air was colder, cleaner and punched you in the gut. I finally fought through the fear to completely open the door. Softly, I stepped into the room crossing the threshold with much hesitation. My second foot crossed the threshold and immediately something in me shuddered and I jumped back. Something was not right. It was that spine tingling feeling you can never explain, like when you know someone is watching you, or when you know exactly what someone is going to say. You don’t know why you get those feelings; you only know you do.
Without any help from myself, the door slammed shut in my face. I reached back for the handle and it was locked again. With chills running up and down my body I backed away, put Levon’s key back on his dresser and swore I would never tell anyone what occurred.
Sometimes it is best to forget what you can’t explain.
 Reference to V for Vendetta.
 Levon said this to me many times over his life. He never explained and I never asked why the winter made him shudder. Evie told me later that everyone close to Levon died or left in the winter months, specifically the last two weeks in January and first two weeks in February. Levon never ventured out of the house during that 4-week period.