Thursday, October 4, 2018

About David

This entry, most likely, won't make any sense, and most likely, I will keep writing on it, over and over, as an attempt to reconcile my feelings. I started this journal eight years ago as a way to cope with death and loss. I thought then-- and still believe now-- that if I could write it out enough, I could find my way through to the other side. It's like the story of when people die. Their spirits are on one shore. A man on a boat arrives at the shore and drops anchor for the spirit to board. With the spirit on the boat, the man guides the boat to the other shore, drops anchor again, and the spirit makes it to the other side.

When I think about all the people I've lost, this is where they are. And in that space, I wonder what the man on the boat would say. When I try my hardest to write my way through things, I try to tell myself what the man would say.

When I was young and angry-- and I was young and angry for a long time-- I believed in God and believed in heaven and hell. There are pictures in my mind that I can't imagine existing on any other plane of consciousness. People I can conjure that I can't imagine being a part of my life again, over and over, in endless worlds, with both of us in them. 

Outside of my great grandmother and great Uncle Joe, the first real loss I experienced was when Manny died. I was nineteen. David didn't know how to deal with my grief. In his defense, no one really did. My dad told me I was being stupid, my mom cooked me food and bought me an inspirational wall hanging with an inspirational quote, and none of it was good. When Manny died, I burned everything down. I swore he was haunting me, and I left everything behind. I started a new life-- frantically-- then that didn't work out, and I ran away. I went to Nebraska to be alone for a while, lived off of my savings, spent my days in the library, and I wrote my way through the tragedy. I didn't tell anyone in Florida where I was.

I eventually went back to Florida, but it was only to keep writing. Literature classes were my church, the books my Bible, the professors my spiritual guides. I saw a dream specialist for a little while-- an old anthropology professor who acted a lot like the man on the boat, leading me into those old and frightening rooms so I could confront what was in them. I lived in my brother's old bedroom, slept on my childhood bed, and spent my days listening to records, writing, and frantically reading everything I could. I was looking for something I needed to find. David had already moved to NYC by then and I didn't care too much. Anyone that was out of Florida I was happy for. We wrote letters and talked. He sent me postcards and songs. He sent me pins and a shirt from the record shop he managed.

When David's mom got sick and slowly died, he could hardly cope with the grief of it. We talked for hours and hours, we spent years talking about it. I was the man on the boat, David was the spirit then. At that point, I had spent so many hours on that boat. He had been my friend for so long already, and meant so much to me, that I didn't mind. For years and years, until I was about twenty-six, we flew back and forth to see one another. 

We would have magic days and nights.Dancing until 7a at a pop-up party in Brooklyn, surround by a thousand people, all dancing to old blues and doo wop 45s. That time in Central Park, on Davis Islands, at that sushi restaurant in Brooklyn that played Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark".  The punk concerts we went to. The mix tapes he made me. All those nights we stayed up til morning laughing and talking, moving from one party to the next.Then the next day David would be dead quite, totally freaked out by all that happiness. One of us would go home and then the whole thing would begin again. There were a lot of trips that fell apart too, planes neither of us got on, at the last minute, yelling and upset feelings. Over the nineteen years, we tested our loyalty to one another a lot.

The last time I saw David, I was twenty-six. It was the 4th of July. He was living in NYC and called me. He said he needed help, asked if I would move in with him for the summer. I thought that maybe the dark half of things would go away, and all that happiness would not be overwhelming at all. I took leave from work, packed my bag, and flew to NYC. I took a cab to the apartment, and he could hardly get to the door. The way he was acting stunned me. The fact that the room I was supposed to stay in was completely bare stunned me. It was 100 degrees in the apartment, except for in David's room, where he had air conditioning. He stayed in bed all day. He slept until after dark, after the 4th of July fireworks really got underway. I had been there for a good 8 hours, in the empty, suffocating side of the apartment, trying to figure out what to do. I unpacked and repacked my things twice. Eventually though, I pinned a 900 dollar check to the refrigerator and took a car to Jersey. I flew home the next day. David called in the middle of the night to see where I was. I told him I was visiting friends. We didn't talk for a while after that. I know what was happening in his life, and it wasn't what was happening in mine.

Over the years, I've thought a lot about my decision to leave instead of stay. I think that the who I am now-- who I've grown into-- could have stayed and been okay. Who I am now could have probably had the strength to changes things. Who I am now is who he needed then. 

About a year after I left, we talked again. It was awkward for a few years. We were both still making bad decisions-- mine with people, his with other things-- and he was angry with me. But in the last few years, we talked almost everyday. In the last two years, he told me things, gave me every answer to every question I've ever had about how things happened, from his perspective, since we were sixteen. This summer he gave me too many truths from the last nineteen years. He said he just thought he should tell me. I'm glad he did. 

This year, David and I had been friends for nineteen years. From his perspective, he said it was twenty. The last year he'd say, "God Kristen, I've known you twenty years, and..." That's the part that's keeping me up at night. I always thought I'd see David again. He'd make fun of me for living out in South Dakota, but he always talked about getting time off of work to go to Wyoming. He talked about saving his money to get out of NYC, go some place quiet.

On Monday of this week, I found out David died at the end of last week. I didn’t sleep much Monday night as I found myself trying to catalog everything I could possibly remember about all we’d been through together. My first thoughts went to the hard times, all the coming of age stories of navigating each other through the deaths of loved ones, the strange feelings of time travel that you can only experience with someone you’ve known for so long. Then around 2a, I started to remember all the magic, all those moments in my youth that will forever be cataloged as some of the greatest nights of my life. after that, I spent hours thinking about that magic time travel, and how every time we talked, we could pull at those same strings. There’s a part of Rocky V where Mickey talks about how suddenly, you look around and realize you don’t know anyone anymore and you wonder what you’re still doing here. We grow older and the tethers to our youth— who we used to be— start disappearing. And we have to carry that old, reckless world around inside of us. As we grow older, that’s the only place the past keeps living. That was a lot to deal with at 4a. Milosz believed that the purpose of writing is to create a space for the dead. Writing is what helps to pull the world on the inside to the outside, which has the power to construct a similar sense of time travel that only an old friend can do. And I have nineteen years of journals, a stack of poems and stories all about David and the magic we could conjure. 

When I say I'll miss David forever, it isn't an understatement. I'll miss him everyday. Outside of Tim and Langston, no one has impacted my life so immensely. 

Since Monday, I've tried not to think directly about it. Some moments, when I am with Tim and Langston, when I am fully present, I feel okay. I live in a place where I don't know a lot of people and am surrounded by people who don't know this part of my life. When I was a kid, I would always ask my parents who they used to be, what they did before being my mom and dad. They always said "nothing." I tell Langston how much I miss my friend. Yesterday, he told me that when he lived in my belly, he could see my friend on the "Network". I asked what the "Network" was, and Langston said he built a little TV in my belly, so he could watch everything. Then when he moved out of my belly, he broke the TV and took it with him. 

This is kind. But I'm still not sleeping. All the love I have both comforts me and makes me nostalgic. It makes me feel like giving things, giving everything I can.

And I know my idea of death has changed. Now, hope that when we die, all of us, in all of history, are in the same place. We are all on the exact same plane. There is only one of us, there's only ever been one of us, and that idea of separate planes of the same people is gone. And I am okay with that. If the people I am scared of are there, that's okay, as long as everyone else, all the people I love so much, are there too. It wouldn't matter then. 

No comments: