This semester I am taking a Creative Non-Fiction class and this week we have a paper due. The paper must be over a significant memory (with reflection). It’s funny how I made a list of things I wanted to write about and totally went the opposite direction of my list. Instead I decided to write about the day one of my best friends died in 1989. This is a creative non-fiction piece which means I was able to use some creative liberties such as the color of my sweater, etc. But all in all, this is a recollection of actual events as they unfolded.
A Letter from Home
I had been attending Central Bible College in Springfield Missouri for less than two months in the fall of 1989, when the song “Turn, Turn, Turn,” became a reality for me. The declarations belted out by the recording group the Byrds, that “to everything there is a season…a time to be born, and a time to die…” played over in my mind as I sat alone (both physically and mentally) in my dorm room.
October 2, 1989 had been as any day prior to this one since stepping foot on the grounds of the small private college which held within its walls a vast expanse of knowledge. The day had dragged on with the same mundane routine of attending bible and theological classes that ended in the afternoon as the chill of fall swept through the air. My intentions, when I pushed my way past the crowd of students that fled the building as desperately as I did, had been to head back to my dorm room to change from the confines of the white skirt and blue sweater I wore, courtesy of the rules set forth in the student handbook that women must wear a skirt or dress while attending classes. Normally, my comfort would come first, but there had been a nudging, almost an urgent pull to walk to the campus post office and check my mailbox. A mailbox, that more often than not held nothing more than dust particles and a reminder that there was no one back home sitting at a table with pen to paper filled with excitement as they started a letter, Dear April.
The sensation grew stronger with each step toward the woman’s dormitory until I could do nothing but give into the nagging that felt like push pins were being shoved into the base of my skull. I turned on my heels, the black flats I wore scuffling against a cold gray sidewalk and made the two minute trek to the basement of the Student Union, where my portal to the outside world was housed. As I descended the flight of exactly eleven steps and placed the ball of my right foot onto the dark brown carpet, which looked as if it had been laid at the completion of the college in 1922, my heart clenched with an ache of anticipation.
Dear God, please don’t let it be a bill, became my chant with each step I took to the row of golden boxes. I stood before the container assigned to me at registration, more afraid of it being empty than what might be within its walls. I placed the worn key made specifically for box B415, into the golden door. My heart raced, my fingers trembled, as I peered through a window so small that it seemed more appropriate for a doll house than a mailbox. Just pass the smoky glass, an impossibility sat among the dust bunnies. A white envelope. An envelope sure to contain words from home of all I had been missing all these months; my pathway to something bigger than the unseen barrier surrounding this college. I pushed open the obstruction of gold and quickly snatched my dispatch from that far away land. My eyes immediately misted over as I stared at the return address. News had come from home and from none other than my beloved friend Angie.
Angie and I had only known each other a couple years, but she had always been the kind of person that people gravitated to and stayed near her as long as they were permitted. She was a beautiful girl of eighteen years old, with blonde hair that reached her shoulders, a smile that made you forget there was ever sadness in the world, and deep brown tear-drop eyes that sparkled when she spoke of her love for family and friends. My faithful friend had done something so few had. She had taken the time out of her busy schedule with thoughts of me and put inspiration to paper.
I quickly tore open the three by six envelope and read her words written in blue ink on college ruled paper, that gave me the inside scoop of what was happening back home. I ascended the steps away from that portal of gold, heading back to my dorm and read the letter twice before I placed key to lock. Angie’s letter was short, packed with more information than thought possible for the two pages she filled. I laughed and sighed at all she wrote, then smiled when I read, “Love ya: Angela Marie.” I carefully folded the letter, placed it back into its protective shell and tucked it into my sock drawer. I went about my day, the letter at the forefront of my thoughts, until my roommate Sara came rushing through the door of our small abode. Sara was a friend I came to college with from our hometown, Warrensburg, a little town in Missouri. She too was Angie’s friend and I wondered if she received a letter also.
I quickly found out that no letter had come for Sara, but she did receive news from home. Sara’s words as she burst through the door, slammed against my chest taking all the air within my lungs. “Angie’s dead.” “No she’s not,” I responded. “I just got a letter from her today.”
Sara told me that Angie had been killed in a car accident earlier that day. She didn’t know all the details just that Angie had died. I later found out it was at the time I was walking to my dorm reading her letter. Even in her death, my friend was speaking to me. I’ll never know why such a beautiful woman was taken at such a young age. It’s not for me to know. I only know Angie left me with the most precious gift she could give me the day of her death. A letter from home and the words, “Love ya,” that remind me every day of how precious life is and to take time out for those in my life. I still have Angie’s letter, I always will.