“Prom night!” Dave squealed with the cocky grin of a terrible two’s toddler. Pointing at me from across the sticky, wobbly bar table, he winked and giggled uncontrollably. His adaptation of the so-oft overused, “That’s what she said,” joke had come to life, mixed in with the babbling of fellow drunks and Lady Gaga.
I don’t remember what I said exactly, but Dave didn’t hesitate to use his newest creation. Most likely, I said something similar to “It was really big,” or “Put X,Y, or Z in your mouth,” to entice his joke. That may have been the first time I’d heard him say it, but it certainly wasn’t the last. After a year or two into our friendship, “Prom Night” became a moniker I used just for Dave. That joke was him. Pure Michigan? Fuck that, Pure Dave.
On this particular Sunday night at LUNA, the dark, smoky, and somewhat sweaty atmosphere opened up Dave’s heart. He lived for the music, the friends, the one-liners that only the Corn Growers Association could rival. This was his playground, filled with live sounds, lights, and of course the several drinks shared with the oddball group of friends he’d cultivated.
I’m not exactly sure how that night ended – Most likely with us parading to the nearest Taco Bell, cackling to daffy combinations of gambling and boob talk. What I do remember is, that like on most nights, Dave was wearing his typical black shirt and jeans, and in puppy-like fashion made everyone around him happier.
I met Dave in August of 2009 if my memory serves me correctly. I was bouncing and barbacking at a cocktail lounge called the Bosco. You know the type of place. Fancy, overpriced drinks with a dozen ingredients apiece, hipster beers, and short wooden tables that only stood taller than the equally squatty lounge couches. It wasn’t exactly our kind of joint, but we needed the extra money.
Shortly after I began working there, Dave was hired. I liked him immediately. I think one of the first things he said to me was a line from Caddyshack, as I’d mentioned to him that I loved to golf…
Dave: My dinghy’s bigger than your whole boat!
Me: Hey baby, you must’ve been something before electricity.
It wasn’t long before he was introducing me to several people who are now very good friends of mine. Dave loved to share the laughter, and he equally enjoyed bringing new people into it as if they’d known him his whole life.
-Thursday, August 13, 2015-
Text Message 10:02 AM: What’s up baby? I’m on my way to the golf course :-D
Text Message 10:06 AM: Can you please call me when you get a chance
Text Message 10:11 AM: I’ll try. Are you okay?
Text Message 10:21 AM: It’s really important
When I called Lisa, I had a feeling something tragic had happened. Actually, it wasn’t so much a feeling as it was, sadly, an assumption. There was some expectation as to what the first words crossing the nothingness between our cell phones would be. It made it exactly none the easier to hear.
Me: Lisa, is everything okay?
Lisa: Dave is gone…
Silence for what felt like a lifetime
Me: Gone? Dead? How?
Lisa: What do you think?
Our conversation didn’t last much longer. I hadn’t the words, emotions, nor anything else to continue. A simple “I love you” back and forth and that was it. Dave was dead by his own hands. He’d cracked his last joke, danced his last dance, swallowed his last sip of beer, eaten his last Taco Bell feast. Gone.
I hopped in the golf cart and aimed it at the driving range…
After 6 years of friendship with Dave, it’s difficult for me to think that I actually knew him. I don’t think it’s possible for me to be alone having this thought. On the outside, Dave was a goofy slap, enriched with the youthful enthusiasm of a 5 year old. The extent of his movie/TV/pop culture knowledge was eclipsed only by the reaches of his heart. He was one of my favorite people, even if his mysteries outweighed his certainties at times.
The depth of him, though it had fleeting candid moments, was something I often misunderstood. From one week to another, I’d observe him moving from gleeful and exuberant to disillusioned and cynical. It was difficult at times. All I wanted for my friend was consistent happiness. His depression was just as extreme as his joy, though it’s become clear that the former was the greater of the two creatures.
There is very little in this world that makes me happier than thinking about Dave and the brief time we were able to share together. I have him to thank for the dozens of people I’ve befriended since our time working at Bosco. Though I moved to Chicago in 2010, Dave’s impact on my life continued to be profound, as I imagine it will continue to be.
I’m going to miss you Davey Crockett. Perhaps your heart was too large, your emotions too powerful, and your pain too deeply felt… Actually, it’s a truth. A blessing and curse gifted to you, sentenced to you. There is still, and probably always will be, anger in my heart toward you; it’s based in my own selfishness and want for you to still be here. I suppose you’re the artist and musician who’s written the most jubilant and tragic song. You were always fantastic at writing them. My friend, I’ll play your song often and do my best to remember the words, even if I do suck at singing. Again, I’m going to miss you Davey. I love you.
P.S. – I’m sorry I couldn’t get you one last birthday beer. I would have savored the taste had I know the pain that was in your heart.
With love – RLB