On New Year’s Eve 2006, when I was going through the heart of my drama with Chavon Ward, I remember writing a prayer in Triumphs & Tribulations VII that read as follows: “God, as I move forward into the new year, I just ask that You bring the right people into my life at the right time”. It’s really deep—truly next-level stuff—how God takes simple words and leaves lasting marks on your life with them. In today’s post to The 24 To 30 feature, I’ll cover the story of Chantelle Bateman…
THE BACKGROUND. I first met Chantelle in April 2006. She was a member of an online chat forum and message board I used to be a part of called MilitaryVibes. Her screen name was OmniPoetry. She was a Marine and we were roughly the same age…she was 3 weeks older. She was one of the people I was really cool with on the site. I was attracted to the way she used her words in the poems she published and the unique jargon she often wrote in on the discussion threads. She wasn’t a bad-looking chick, either. She always rocked glasses that she called “sexy specs” and the Corinne Bailey Rae hair. When we were on the boards, she put out some deep stuff…like revolutionary stuff. In fact, it was because of her that I moved away from the love poetry I wrote into the more deeper level stuff that I’ve written. Chantelle threw down with the guys on the sports threads, too. She was one of the first women I knew who really got down with all sports…including baseball and hockey. We talked and texted offline occasionally but it never went past that because we lived on opposite coasts. Our dynamic was pretty much that simple until February 7, 2007. After Chavon had gone through with the abortion earlier that day, I was so hurt by it. My thinking was I could literally give my life, as a serviceman, to protect the freedoms of other Americans but, as a prospective father, I couldn’t do anything to stop a woman from having an abortion. I felt as if there was nothing left for me. I was contemplating jumping off the Main Street Bridge in Downtown Jacksonville. I was actually pretty close, too…like maybe a matter of minutes. But Chantelle had perfect timing. She had called me to give a shout-out to the Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team on their thrashing of hated rival, Kansas State, earlier that evening. A few days before, I had wrote about how heartbroken I was over a Kansas loss to Texas A&M (that damn shot by Acie Law IV) and I got mashed by the other guys on the boards about it. She had called just to tell me how that loss was just a blip in what was otherwise a great season for them. That phone call turned out to be my saving grace. After that, Chantelle was like one of the people I kept close with. Even when MilitaryVibes disbanded, we still kept in touch. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the little bit of the night shift during that deployment to Iraq without her keeping me laughing through email. She eventually separated from the Marines and got heavily involved in an advocacy group called Iraq Veterans Against the War. That’s when she was deep on her “make love, not war” initiative. Time and our respective paths in life as we grew older led to us going different ways. Nothing acrimonious, just different walks in life. I’m almost certain if either of us reached out to each other, we’d probably be flowing like we were years ago.
THE MOMENT OF IMPACT. Chantelle’s moment of impact is pretty cut and dry: she saved my life. No, no, no…I’m not talking about what she did in February 2007, when her timely phone call stopped me from doing something when I was in an extremely emotional state. I’m talking about what she did on June 22, 2009. She saved me from being a victim in that DC Metro Red Line collision. I was supposed to have met up with her when I arrived in DC the day before but my luggage got lost and we ended up missing our window of opportunity as I fell behind on my tight schedule. Amazingly, I was able to get back on schedule the next day and before I was to board an Amtrak Acela Express to New York City, I was gonna do some sightseeing and shopping…using the Red Line as my mode of transport. She ended up calling me up, telling me to meet her in the U Street Corridor, which required use of the Green Line. That late change of plans caused me to deviate from my meticulous schedule. While we were in Busboys & Poets, there was a tragic collision of 2 trains between Takoma and Fort Totten Stations. I didn’t realize what happened until I was on the Amtrak a couple of hours later but when I looked at the time of the incident, it was very likely I would’ve been on Red Line Train 214—the one that got rear-ended by Red Line Train 112—and the probability of me being injured or killed would’ve been high as I usually rode in the extreme rear car of trains back then. Her calling me back and us meeting in person for the first and only time saved my life…literally.
HOW IT GOT ME TO 30. The old folks always say that the Lord works in mysterious ways. Leading up to that incident in DC that day, my reputation was all about being precisely on time…down to the second. But that experience taught me the value of being just a bit slow, just a bit late. At the time, she was the only person I knew in the DC area and I happened to be behind schedule because of the airlines. If a single factor was different, I’m probably dead and I don’t get a chance to tell that story in testimony. Chantelle Bateman’s role in my life—as I approach 30—is a reminder that avoiding the perils of life is not a matter that I can do entirely on my own. It sometimes requires the assistance of others God throws into our paths. It’s also a reminder that God really listens to the prayers of man and acts on them…even years down the road.