One Phone Call

We’re halfway there — halfway through basic training. It has flown by.  I’m no longer the same young woman who stepped off the bus a few short weeks ago wearing size 2 acid washed jeans and a Girbaud t-shirt. I’m stronger, more confident, and prepared to take on the world. I was proud of myself for the first time. I was living my life on my own terms sort of. Nothing could stop me now. My future was looking quite bright — a career in the Air Force and a chance to see the world.

Later that evening after dinner, we had a special treat waiting for us. We earned a three-minute phone call home and a chance to buy some snacks. I could hardly wait to get two plain Hershey bars and a Coke. By the time I finished my snacks, I was next in line to call home. I wondered who would answer the phone. Would my mom still be mad at me for leaving? No time to worry about that now. The phone is ringing.


“Hi, it’s Michelle.”

“Oh my God, how ya doin?”

“I’m good. I just got three minutes to talk. How y’all doin?”

“We doin fine, baby.  You eatin?”

“Yea, I’m eatin’ — don’t have much choice. It’s ok though.”

“Well, that’s good. I made a tuna casserole tonight.”

“Wow, that sounds good. Ok, I gotta go. My time is almost up.”

“Oh, ok. You know Marcus died.”

“Huh? Wait, what?”

“Yep, passed out while running about a week ago and never woke up. They think it was a heart attack.”

For an instant, I was high on life and connected to the real world, and the next moment I was trapped in that tiny phone booth — wondering if I would ever be able to take another breath. And then I breathed, and a flood of tears came down in torrents, drenching my shirt and blinding me temporarily. Most of the details have faded away, but I remember the moment my mother told me that my friend had died. I cried hot, silent tears  as I exited the tiny phone booth. People were asking me what was the matter, but I couldn’t form the words to speak–no word retrieval at all. I found my way to a bench, and my friend Mary came and sat next to me and hugged me. All I remember next was being in the communal shower, cleaning it after all the girls has showered and headed to bed.

Marcus and I had spent so much time hanging out and running in preparation for basic. He was going to the Navy. We planned to meet up after tech school to hang out in Europe some place and party with our friends Georgeanna and Russell like we did for an entire week before he took me to the Greyhound station to leave for basic.There was no way to prepare for this enormous sense of loss. I felt so alone even though I was surrounded by 20 ladies. I couldn’t believe that my friend was gone and that I wouldn’t see him again. One night while on dorm guard duty, I could almost feel his presence. Perhaps he was there in spirit to let me know that he was fine and that heaven was this remarkable place — far better than we had imagined.

Part IV – Halt!

17 Thoughts

  1. Wow Michelle, I was right there with you in this moment. You painted the picture so well. Thank you for shairng. I love this song and remember hearing Tamela Mann’s version at WLDI!

    1. Hi Laurie. I don’t know how I missed your comment. First and foremost, thank you for this feedback. This was about 25 years ago. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

  2. I’m sorry about the loss of your Marcus! If you think you felt his presence, you did. They are always around and whenever you want to speak to them they are here. Apparently God needed him early or he only had a short lesson to learn in this life and did so. The good news is you will meet up with Marcus again and then you can party as you had planned, and this party will be greater than any either of you imagined!! xo

  3. Great writing here, Michelle. How odd that such painful landmark points in our lives are also the most inspiring. As I read, I could actually imagine. I doubt there’s a more fitting song to close the story. I’m sure Marcus is proud of you, my friend.

    1. Hey there, my friend. I love Mercy Me, and that song is a beautiful reminder of what may be awaiting us and our response to it. “Marcus” was a childhood friend and just a really good person. I’m a better person for having known him.

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