Matters of life and death

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about an old friend of mine from growing up in Colorado. David was a guy I met in middle school, and I thought he was pretty annoying when we first crossed paths. I thought he was kind of a dork.

But by about eighth grade, I gave up thinking I was cool and realized I was a dork, too. With that barrier out of the way, and with him and I really being the only two people dedicated to the middle school track team, we started to become pretty cool friends. We liked a lot of the same music, and we introduced each other to music that we hadn't known of previously.

We became better friends in high school when we did cross country and track there. David, whose specialty in track was the hurdles, was this really short, pale dude who looked like the last guy who had any athletic ability. When he lined up on the starting line, it was almost a comical sight to see the diminutive David stacking up against these big, hulking dudes in speed suits who were obviously using the track season to stay in shape for football or basketball. But by his senior year, he was one of the best hurdlers in the state.

We went to different colleges, but stayed in touch. I have to say he remained in better touch than I did. I was spending most of my year in Kansas, so I couldn't see him much during the school year. When I came back during the summers, we would play ultimate Frisbee on occasion but I was usually off doing my own thing.

Him and I would chat occasionally after college. He was a teacher in Colorado. And I was, as always, doing my own thing in Kansas City. The last time I talked to him, nothing seemed amiss.

Then a couple months later I got an e-mail from one of his old friends, informing me that there was going to be a funeral service for him the following week.

Apparently a few week before I got that e-mail, a sheriff in Colorado found his car. A couple weeks later, some hiker found his body. I learned he had hit a rough spot in his life. He bought a shotgun. He took his own life.

When I hear about things like this, I always wonder what the last thoughts a person has before they pull the trigger. Or fade off in a drug overdose. Or breathe their last struggled breath in a noose. Or whatever.

For David, his life hadn't been an easy one. He didn't have the best family life. For parts of his life, he was living on spare couches or spare bedrooms in various friends' houses. For other parts of his life, he was being ushered out to places like Texas or elsewhere as his dad would just move somewhere on a whim. I still have letters he wrote to me from these places when we were in high school.

In them, he talks about how I was one of his best friends. In fact, his MySpace page is still in existence, trapped like a bug in amber, with the various nonsense that accompanies anyone's MySpace page. In his, I'm still one of his top eight friends. Every yearly anniversary of his death, some woman posts something about missing him.

I miss him, too, as anyone would after they lose a friend. But I also spend a lot of time wondering if I could have been a better friend in the years that followed our high school graduation. In those years, I was off somewhere else, making new friends, being too busy, experiencing new experiences. We would connect every now and again, but I always knew it wasn't as often as it should have been. And it probably wasn't as often as he would have liked.

David drifts in and out of my thoughts. Particularly in the autumn. That's when we used to go on these long runs for cross country training. We would gripe sometimes about wishing the others were as dedicated as we were. And other times we would just shoot the shit. Girls. Music. Teachers. Whatever.

Every autumn, I kind of replay some of those conversations. And with the exception of teachers, who I no longer deal with, I find myself thinking about the same subjects we used to blabber about.

And each time, I think what a shame it is that David's no longer around to talk with.

1 comment:

Olivia said...

This is a very touching tribute to David, Steve. Thanks for the reminder about what being a friend really means, and for the memories you shared about David. He was a good guy. I think about him now and then too, even though I didn't know him that well. He walked me home from school sometimes and he was a great listener on those walks. It is a shame he's not around anymore to talk with, you're right. Thanks for this post.