Love Conquers All
by Roderick L. Britt
As I drive to work, I find myself traveling along the exact highway that claimed the life of one of my closest friends. Amy and I attended Old Dominion University together, and were introduced by mutual friends. These friends called themselves trying to "hook us up," but I think Amy and I knew from the start that we were destined just to be good friends. We had so many things in common. Like myself, Amy was tall, an only-child, and had was deep-rooted in her southern lineage. More than that, though, we discovered that we shared the same birthday. Now, I had met many people in my lifetime, but I had never met anyone who shared my birthday. This fact alone would serve as the bow that wrapped this most surprising of gift boxes ... and would stand as the foundation upon which the gift within would stand. Her presence was almost unreal to be true, but I welcomed her friendship with open arms.
Over the years, the college years, that is, Amy and I would celebrate all of our birthdays together. Our friends would all meet up at the dorm and plot a way for us to get as much alcohol as we could possibly consume. These impromptu parties would often run into the wee hours of the morning, and would often end with us struggling to haul our hung-over bodies to class the next day. When I look back on them now, those were some of the best times that I have ever had in my life. Though many storms were brewing within me at that time, the smiles and laughter that would encompass me then more than lifted my sometimes-broken spirits. And like the ringleader of it all, Amy was somehow always in the center of it all. When Amy graduated, she moved back home with her parents in Bassett, Virginia. Though we were miles away, our willingness to share our birthdays together never waned.
In fact, a year after graduation, Amy was in town the weekend of our birthday. Like old times, all of the crew gathered at the home of one of my brotha's, and we toasted my and Amy's birthday with as much alcohol as we could get our hands on. I remember, the weather was unusually warm for that time of year, so we lit up the grill in the backyard and just had the time of our lives. After the effects of our elixirs kicked in, we found ourselves singing a loud and off-key version of Boyz II Men's "So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday." As one might imagine, my partner's neighbors, who served as an unwilling audience to our late-night concert, were not happy. Proof of this would eventually become our knowledge when the police showed up at my friend's front door. As we laughed about it all, none of us knew that would be the last Amy and I would celebrate our birthdays together again.
Two years later, I found myself visiting my then best friend and his new wife in their New Jersey home. It was five days before Christmas, and we were to drive back to Virginia on Christmas Eve. Woody, the aforementioned best friend, and I had a ball during my stay there. Woody was in charge of getting transportation to those high rollers who would come in to gamble their riches away at the Trump Plaza. He had arranged for a limousine to drive me around town during my stay, so for one of the first times in my life, I was given a glimpse of how the other half lives. I had total access to all of the VIP lounges at all of trump's casinos.
It would fascinate me how these rich people, usually Caucasian, would eye me up and down with that snooty look of theirs. I could only imagine what was going through their heads, and the thought made me chuckle inside. Since I am so tall, they must have figured me to be a ball player, but I would introduce myself as the "Editor-in-Chief of Ebony Man magazine." You can only imagine what a kick I got out of this. Upon entering these lounges, I would immediately be greeted by some host or hostess, who would always provide me with my private waiter or waitress for the night. (*chuckling) Oh, yes ... Brotha Rod had arrived!
Well, after making my appearances from this casino to that one, or from this nightclub to that one, Woody and I would retire back to his home for the evening. Since he was off, we planned to take the limo to New York the next day, because I had never visited the Big Apple.
As fate would have it, that was a trip that I was not to make. Upon returning to the house, Woody received a page from his job with a message to contact them immediately. He would make the call, only to hand the telephone over to me. "Your family in Virginia is trying to reach you," the woman's voice stated, "There is an emergency at home." This fear came over me like I had never felt before, and all I could think to myself is that I hope my mom is okay. When I called, my cousin Karen answered the telephone. With hesitation, she informed me that my friend Amy had been killed in a car accident last night, driving to Norfolk to visit friends. All I could do was scream.
For probably the first time in my life, I wondered how God could be so cruel. It was December 22nd, three days before Christmas, and the day that I would stop living. I made reservations to catch the train home the next morning, with possibly the worst amount of pain that I had experienced up until that time. Like a movie projector of some kind, my mind flashed pictures of Amy in my head and of all of those good times that we shared together. At that moment, it dawned on me that I had sent Amy a card for Christmas, and I wondered if her eyes met my sentiments before her final journey. And as if a soundtrack to my pain, the New Jersey radio station that serenaded me on my way to the train station would play a final ode to Amy.
As the a cappella refrains of sweet harmony filled the car's speakers, Boyz II Men began to sing. My eyes filled with unstoppable tears, and I mourned my friends passing with a song. Oh, and as if comfort to my hurting soul, I would discover that Amy did indeed read my Christmas card before setting off for Norfolk. She was able, through my written words, to hear me tell her that I love her. The perfect ending to this winter story. Even in death, love conquers all.