Yesterday I lost an old friend to a massive stroke, David Wilkins. He was in his late '40s.
David and I go way back... We were roommates for awhile from the late '80s into the early '90s. We haven't remained close over the years, but managed to keep in touch every now and then to catch each other up in our crazy lives. Unfortunately, the last time Dave tried to reach me, I ignored his message on my answering machine. It was about a month ago and I had my hands full with my own dramatic spectrum of life, and figured I would touch base with Dave later. You never think that you won't have that chance again.
His life was a bit like mine, in retrospect... Dave was a rambler of sorts, never keeping the same job for more than a year or two, and living vicariously through the present day with a glimmer of hope for something better tomorrow. Even though each day came with a slippery slope, he managed to keep a smile on his face and had the tenacity to force a smile in the face of adversity. There was always a lot of adversity.
I was living with Shep in Des Moines in the late '80s and David Wilkins was our next door neighbor. At first we found him to be a very unpleasant person at least in the sense that he didn't seem to like us all that much. Shep and I were loud apartment tenants... Very loud. We played vinyl day and night at full volume, and I don't think we were very popular with any of our neighbors. David, living right next door to us got the brunt of most of our volume and he was never very nice to us, until one night when Shep and I managed to get home from the bar at exactly the same time Mr. Wilkins also got home from a bar. For a moment there was an awkward silence in the hallway as we fumbled for our keys to unlock the doors to our respective apartments, then the realization that Dave was carrying beer... And so were we... And thus began a long friendship between the three of us.
I'll never forget the time Dave passed out in our apartment from drinking and Shep and I stole his keys. We went into Dave's apartment and moved furniture around, and then gingerly placed the keys back in Dave's possession as he still lay passed out in our living room chair. The next morning Dave went home, and of course was shocked to find that a "ghost had messed his apartment up"... To add fuel to our fire we convinced our landlady to make up a cockeyed story about a previous tenant killing himself in Dave's apartment adding credibility to his argument that his place was haunted.
Dave managed to pass out in our place quite often, and each time Shep and I would go over and mess his stuff around only to act surprised the next morning when Dave would claim his poltergeist was back. He never did catch on that it was us messing with his stuff.
There was also the time when Dave came to my family's Thanksgiving with me. As new roommates, we had been drinking pretty heavily the night before, and somehow managed to get ourselves awake for the 45 minute journey to my home town before noon. David drank the skunkiest beer money could buy, and it made for some rancid moments. This particular morning however, he caught me off guard. I pulled over in Altoona to pump gas into my car, and after I paid, I came out to see all of the windows of my car rolled up tightly and Dave in the passenger seat laughing at himself hysterically. Still in a bit of fog from the night before, and quite possibly still buzzing, I didn't think anything of it until I got in behind the wheel.
Dave had farted the world record of vaporous stinkers (no fucking joke) and upon realizing this, had rolled all the windows up tight to save it for me... Of course my first response was sheer horror as I realized what I was smelling, and then to open my car door and let out a nice yellow puke puddle on the ground next to the gas pump. I remember Dave laughing about it all the way to my parent's home, constantly threatening me with another release. Each time he brought it up I told him that I was going to stab him in the head with a tire iron... Years later whenever we eventually "caught up" with each other again that story always came up, and I still laugh when I think about it today.
There are so many other stories, and some are more flattering than these. I should probably share some of those too, as I may when time allows. My head is full of memories, and these stories usually find themselves onto this tablet eventually. Dave was a very good man who had a very good heart. He would do anything for those he cared about, and took a genuine interest in my family and my ever changing situation. For that I always appreciated him, and enjoyed his company. He always had a tendency to make me laugh. For that I will miss him.
I really wish I would have made time to return his call the last time he tried to reach me. As I said, you never think that you won't have that chance again... I'm getting to that age when people close to me are going to start dropping. It's inevitable... It might be one or two a year for awhile, but that number will always increase with time. I realize now that I need to reach out to those who reach out to me. Right now is always better than never.
Dave coined one of my all time favorite phrases: "We are all in this dying game together." He would say it in one of those moments of adversity as a way to rally the souls. Sadly, from now on there will be one less player in the game.
Rest in peace, David.