...kinda horrible, when you think about it.
These two girls sat in front of David K and me in the fifth grade. Periodically, they'd turn in their seats towards us, fists clenched. They'd proceed to punch us in the nuts, gleefully exclaiming 'STONED YA!!!'
David and I pretended to resist their unprovoked attacks - but not too much, lest they stop. We were eleven-year-old geeks relishing in the attentions of these oh-so-fine babes.
It's one of my earliest memories of David and our camaraderie.
That, and going to Lawson’s Store on Saturday afternoons, splurging on a quarter’s worth of penny candy, which was a pretty decent heap of sweet in those days.
The goodies fueled tournaments of Clue in David’s parents’ basement. We were crazy about Clue. We promised we wouldn't cheat and I don't think either of us ever did.
Miss Scarlett in the Conservatory with the Lead Pipe!
It was on the sidewalk outside David’s house one summer evening that my gang and I agreed we were gonna be bad boys from then on in. We excitedly promised one another we'd start drinking booze and smoking pot and having fun like the rocko-coolie kids.
And holy moley - the marathon philosophical discussions we'd have, late at night, in playgrounds or on street corners. Even as a teenager, David yearned for the meaning of life and what was right and true.
I hadn't thought of him for ages until last week. Perusing my high school alumni website, the words stung like a splash of ammonia to the eyes: 'David K passed away December 12, 2006, after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer'.
Oh no. Not David K. Poor, poor David. Too young. No way. David is the first of my high school group to die. No. No. No.
We’d not been in touch since the early ‘80s. There’d been no falling out, just a falling away.
In the latter years of our friendship, David and his family converted to Mormonism. Religion didn’t interfere with the camaraderie though. David was a buddy first, before everything else, or so it seemed to the rest of us.
But his life moved in a different direction. He was called to France on his Mission. We stayed in touch, at least for a little while.
I did a little digging a few days ago and I found the semi-serious missives he'd written me in his teeny-weeny script over 25 years ago. David liked to make fun of himself, mindful of the reputation of his fellow followers. In April of '81, he sent a mini-glossary of Parisian Missionary terms:
Bats [BATZ]: Slang for a tenant building. Derived from the French noun 'batiment', meaning building. These are what Missionaries 'prey on'. Hahaha…yech!
Four-story-walk-ups [FOR-STORI-WAK-OPS]: Post-war buildings which seem to have been designed with the intent of discouraging would-be 'door-to-doorers'. Though shunned by salesmen, these buildings – notorious for their odors – are fair game for Missionaries.
Weirdos [WIR-DOZ]: Admittedly a relative term, these people seem to like disco and leather. Some seem to be extra-terrestrial. Theory has it that, though most are obviously affected by the phases of the moon, they are in fact something called 'avant-gard'. Many are from the 'Left Bank'.
I don’t remember if I'd ever told David I was gay. Probably not - I wasn’t yet living the life back then, not fully anyway. But maybe he surmised it and was having some fun with that last definition. I'll never know and I don't care. Sometimes it’s not about sexual identity. Sometimes it’s just plain old friendship.
After his two years abroad, David returned and I heard he ended up in the American midwest with an Asian wife. By that time I was on my own sort of mission and had pretty much lost interest in my gang of yesteryear.
Now he's gone. Me and my battered balls will never again meet up with David K and his. Sigh. I still can’t believe it's true.