Friday, February 10, 2012
Today is the seven-year anniversary of Dave's death. Can it have been so long already? Today is the seven-year anniversary of the worst day of my life. As you always hear people say about meaningful life events, "I remember it like it was yesterday." But truly, so many of the details of that day & the ones that followed it are as fresh in my mind as if they've just happened.
When I first got the news, I was walking down the street in my college town, headed back to my sorority house from the dining hall, where I'd eaten cereal for dinner. The news came through the line: "Joel found Dave," & I knew what it meant without any details. I screamed, fell to the ground, pleaded with the voice on the other end to tell me this wasn't happening. From a fraternity house nearby, a few brothers looked on with worry, but no one offered help or concern, so I dragged myself up off the pavement & stumbled my way home. My sorority was hosting an event, an ice cream social for prospective new members, & I couldn't keep from crying in the foyer - & nothing makes a sorority look appealing like a sobbing sister, so I was ushered up to my room, where I begged for someone to find my old roommate. We weren't even friends anymore, but she'd met Dave once, the day we moved into the dorms freshman year, & I felt like she was the only one who could begin to understand the news I was trying to process.
And then I remembered someone else: A girl named Katie lived down the street in another sorority house, a girl Dave had dated briefly after me. We weren't friends, not even close to it, but at that moment, Katie was the only person I could bear to see. Suddenly, I felt like I'd burst if I didn't tell her the news immediately; I ran down the street, disheveled & red-faced, & knocked on the door to her house, where a pretty, prissy sister gave me a once-over with disdain. "I have to see Katie," I insisted. "It's important." But when I broke the news to her, I felt no relief; if anything, I felt worse.
My ex-boyfriend, Scott, came over & packed my bags for me, putting everything in its place & even choosing my funeral outfit for me. When I began the three-hour drive home, I was in hysterics, almost unable to see the road before me through my tears. I called everyone I knew, anyone who could possibly need or want to know that Dave was dead, not just to spread the news but to feel less alone. An hour from home, three of my best friends met me at a gas station, & one of them drove my car the rest of the way. I was grateful for the rest & the company.
The days & weeks that followed are a blur, but there are pieces that stand out clearly above the rest. We buried Dave on Valentine's Day in the rain, sealed his coffin with goodbye messages written on pastel paper hearts that reminded me of the ones he'd painstakingly cut out for me not three years before on the same holiday. The pastor, a local celebrity of sorts, made bland, generic statements that made no reference & gave no reverence to Dave's beautiful spirit. No one said "suicide;" no one talked of the illness that took him, the darkness that weighed him down, the depths that swallowed him whole.
Dave's friends & I spent the night of the funeral at a Brandtson concert, his favorite band, where his best friend Kevin had to tell the musicians that their longtime fan, a familiar face in the crowd, was gone, dead. They dedicated the show to him & started their set with "Mercy Medical," a song about suicide; we stood together in silence, mouthing the words & swaying to the rhythm, losing ourselves in lyrics that finally admitted what Dave had done: "It's bravery to stay away from ending life before it's over." The clock struck 10:47 during the show, Dave's lucky time of day, & we watched the clock turn together, blinking back tears & forcing out smiles - the knowing kind between friends who share a history that will continue long beyond the time when they have anything else in common.
Life is quite different today, because that's what happens during the course of time. But every year, this day creeps up on me, looms over me like a black cloud, reminding me of the day we learned that Dave was gone, the days afterwards when we read the goodbye letter through tears in his mother's living room & drank ourselves stupid to pretend like nothing hurt. Every year, we text one another to ask "Are you OK?" & I spend the day listening to Dave's music, to Jimmy Eat World & Brandtson & the Gloria Record, the songs that kept us young & now make us feel old - old without him.
Goodbye, my lover. Goodbye, my friend. You have been the one for me.
(If you're new to the blog, you can learn more about Dave's story & my own here, here, & here. Thanks for reading.)