Yooo!!!! Today I am blessed to be alive and to see another year of life. Everyone says that 35 is the milestone, but for me, 36 is my year of years! I just feel it y’all.
Anyone who knows me understands that I always find a way to give to y’all on my birth date. Covid has put a damper on us getting together physically, so please accept this short, yet thought provoking story about love, loss, pain and choice in its place.
A Love Story About Passion, Pain & Choice
The month of December was always hard for Marcus. It’s the month that everything changed forever. The month he met Janelle, the month he proposed to her, the month they got married, and the month that he was born. As he chilled in bed, he thought about the first time he saw her. He had just moved back to New Orleans after being stationed in Korea for seven years and stopped by Café Du Monde in the French Quarter for beignets. If you know anything about NOLA, then you know why he went there.
Marcus, a 10-year army veteran, had all of the options in the world when it came to women. While he possessed all of the qualifications for being a man whore—you know, tall, butter pecan complexion, the body of a Shona warrior—women flocked to Mr. Alexandre for his heart. He was truly a refreshing exception to the “all handsome, successful, black men are playas” stereotype.
Despite having his pick of quality women, Marcus still hadn’t quite met his rib. That was until Janelle walked into his life. Geezus Kryst! That woman is fine! Marcus thought to himself as Janelle made her way to the counter.
“Hi. I’ll take a container of the Coffee and Chickory Decaf along with a can of the French Roast to go please,” she said.
Shat! Even her voice sounds sexy, he thought. Nope! Not letting her leave without getting the digits.
Janelle was a cute little petite woman with a beautiful curly mane. Her auburn highlights complimented her honey brown skin and almond-shaped eyes. Plus baby had back!
“Excuse me,” Marcus said as he tripped his 6’3” frame up to the exit where she was standing. “Good morning. I’m Marcus …Marcus Alexandre. How are you?”
“Hello,” Janelle said with a pleasant smile. “I’m well. My name’s Janelle.”
“Well Ms. …”
“Bry …” Marcus said with a smile. “I couldn’t help but notice you and I’d like to take you out sometime. That’s IF you’re available and interested,” Marcus said nodding towards the two different types of coffee Janelle had just purchased.
“I’m free. I just like variety,” she said flirtatiously.
“Well you will do a brother real proper if you allow me to take you out this Friday. It’s my birthday,” he said with a genuine smile.
“And you want to take ME out on YOUR birthday?” Janelle said suspiciously.
They exchanged numbers and the rest was history. Not even 10 months after they met, Marcus popped the question. The wedding took place the following December, and a little bun was in the oven that following June.
Marcus was the happiest that he’d ever been and Janelle finally found her king. Life was more than good. That was until one fateful August day that stripped Marcus of everything.
“Mr. Alexandre, your mother-in-law is on the line,” Marcus’s assistant said with a concerned look on her face. Janelle had gone to visit her parents for the weekend in Pensacola. He spoke with her earlier that morning and she told him she was going for a boat ride with her family.
“Hi Muriel. What’s going on?”
“Marcus …,” Muriel said through tears. “It’s Janelle. She …she …she gone!”
“Wait, what? Muriel what are you talking about?! What do you mean she’s gone?” Marcus uttered.
“Paul and I …we …we were on the main level of the boat and when we called for her to …to come up she didn’t answer,” Muriel stammered. “She laid down for a quick nap and passed away in her sleep.”
“The baby?!” he asked already knowing the answer.
“She didn’t make it,” Muriel wailed.
Marcus sat in silence. He didn’t know or have the words to respond.
Three years later and the memory was as fresh as day. December 19th. One week after their wedding anniversary and three days before his birthday. Marcus would’ve allowed his thoughts to rob him of the day if it were not for his phone ringing.
“What are you doing?” It was his best friend Camille. She called on this day every year like clockwork. Getting him out of the house was soon to follow.
“I just finished working out,” Marcus lied. He didn’t want to be bothered and he knew that if he told Camille that he’d been sulking for the last three hours she’d push.
“You’re lying,” she said. “It’s 10:00am. Anyone who knows you well knows that you don’t workout after 7am. Try again.”
Marcus couldn’t help but laugh. The woman knew him well. After 20 years of friendship she very well should.
“Alright,” he sighed. “Where are we going this time?”
“Be ready in 30,” Camille said.
Camille pulled up in her Benz truck promptly. The entrepreneur in her wouldn’t allow her to be late, so Marcus knew to be ready.
“Okay, you got me out of the house. Now are you going to tell me where we are going?”
“Easy Mr. Capricorn. You do realize that you don’t always have to be in control right?” she teased.
That’s pretty funny given the fact that you’re an intense ass Aquarius, but whatever, Marcus chuckled to himself.
Twenty minutes later, they pulled up to a very familiar campus.
“What are we doing at Dillard University?” Marcus asked.
Camille parked the car and said, “Just come on.”
Marcus didn’t go to college so he couldn’t tell you much about Dillard outside of the occasional visit when Camille went there. They walked along a trail that led to an uneventful spot on campus. One lone tree stood behind what looked like an all girls dorm.
“Have a seat Mr. Alexandre,” Camille said as she made her way to the grass under the tree. “Now before you ask why we’re here, give me a moment to explain.”
Camille closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Marcus was confused. Usually they’d just go out to eat and she would crack a few jokes to keep his mind off of things. Today felt different. Today was different.
When Camille opened her green eyes, silent tears and sadness filled them. Marcus knew his best friend was beautiful, but her vulnerability made her even more attractive. But she was sis and their chemistry had been nothing more than platonic.
“We have been friends for a very long time, but there are some things that I planned to take to the grave,” she said. “What I am about to tell you is one of them.”
Marcus stared at his decades long friend incredulously. He could’ve sworn he knew everything about this woman through and through.
“You know for as long as you’ve known me I’ve been single. So long that it’s a running joke among our friends,” Camille chuckled. “But the truth is that I’ve loved deeper than I ever let on before.”
She had Marcus’s full attention. For as long as he knew her, she was the one that didn’t commit. It seemed like she “loved” them and left them as soon as she met them, so to witness such raw emotion from her threw him off.
“About a year before you and I met, I lost the love of my life. Trevor and I had been together since we were teenagers,” Camille continued. “We both would’ve ended up going to Dillard, but St. Xavier had the better medical program.”
“If I wasn’t going over to his campus to spend nights and weekends with him he was over here,” she said through reminiscent, happy tears. “We were inseparable.”
Why didn’t she tell me about this dude? Something must’ve happened, Marcus thought to himself. He wanted to interrupt and ask several questions, but decided not to.
Camille released a long sigh before continuing. “I haven’t been to this tree since graduation …” she trailed off shaking herself back to the present moment.
“Two months before our sophomore year, Trevor suggested we go to Atlanta for the weekend. Nothing special was going on; we just hadn’t had a nice getaway all school year due to him working over breaks. We packed our bags, hopped in his ’89 Chevy and headed down I65,” she continued.
“It was such a dope weekend. We stayed in a cheap motel, ordered fried chicken the whole weekend, and made love until the sun came up. As we were gearing up to head back, Trevor started convulsing. He collapsed in my arms and died of an acute brain aneurysm.”
“Oh my God…” Marcus murmured. “Why didn’t you ever tell me about this?”
“For years I wanted to pretend that Trevor never existed,” Camille said. “I vowed not to love another man again. That way he could never be taken away from me. A large part of me felt guilty for moving on despite knowing Trevor would want me to,” Camille confessed. “That is why we are here right now Marcus. I need for you to do what I never was able to. I need for you to let Janelle go.”
“I will never let her go,” Marcus exclaimed becoming enraged all of a sudden.
“Stop,” Camille said. “Now isn’t the time to get angry or defensive. I didn’t say forget her, but you have got to find a way to let her go.”
Marcus knew Camille was right. He just didn’t want to face the truth. He felt terribly guilty about entertaining other women, and found an excuse as to why he couldn’t do so. None of his reasons were why he couldn’t move on. He refused to live in the present because that meant living without Janelle.
“This tree…” Camille said. “This tree was our tree. It was where we met whenever he would come visit me at the dorms,” she said as she looked at the back of the dorm next to where the tree was. “Trevor had a terrible sense of direction, but he knew this tree. Our tree.”
Camille stood up and walked over to where Marcus was seated. She kneeled down, grabbed his hand and looked into his eyes.
“Tonya. Chanelle. Ginger. The list of women who have attempted to love you is lonnnggg friend. I love you and always will, and I want you to be free. Do not be like me,” Camille emphasized. “It all begins and ends with a decision. Choose to love again. Janelle and the baby would want you to. They would want you to be happy.”
The drive home was quiet. Marcus was digesting everything that he’d learned about his best friend, and what she wanted for him. She was right. Janelle wouldn’t want him to be alone. He didn’t want to be alone.
He hugged Camille and thanked her for loving him like only a best friend could. Marcus entered his condo and sat on the sofa. He thought about what Camille said. He was actively choosing to remain stuck in the past. But that was about to end right now.
Marcus picked up his phone and hit the “call” button.
“Hey Tonya. Long time no talk…” he said.