© Photo courtesy of Willo Photography
My best friend was named David. I have a few best friends, to be fair. The one you all know, Jessica, my best friend in the traditional ‘right hand woman, maid if honor’ sense. My husband, who is my legal obligation best friend (just kidding babe love you). My daughter, who is my best friend out of sheer circumstance, since we hang out practically non-stop.
But then there was David, and he was my best friend. He and I talked every few months, with emoji-heavy texting conversations in between. He would fill me in on his life and ask for my advice whenever he had a ‘crisis’ (and he definitely used that word lightly), he would tell me how his cats were doing, he would update me about his work.
And holy hell, was his work amazing. He was an artist – photography, mostly, though he could do makeup that easily rivaled the red carpet gurus who doll up famous faces like Gaga and JLaw. His photography was unbelievable. I called him a baby Annie Leibovitz once, and he said ‘he wished’. He didn’t need to wish; he was there. His stuff blew the garbage on ANTM out of the water, and it wouldn’t have looked out of place in the glossy pages of Vogue. Or at least Vogue Italia.
Beyond that, he was a funny, introspective, sweet guy. He was deeply creative, with a mind that didn’t work like others – didn’t work ‘right’, I’d tell him. He had an eye for art. I know people say it all the time, but he could honestly find beauty in anything; once, he took my friend and me to an honest-to-god broken down, abandoned trailer, complete with dead roaches in the corners, and set up lights and a photoshoot. I bitched and moaned the entire time about how it was gross, how it was cold, how my arms were tired from holding up the lighting thingy, and he told me sweetly to shut the fuck up. An hour later when we were back in his warm house, he pulled up an image to show us and it was amazing. Of course it was; for me to expect anything less had really just been stupidity on my part.
He introduced me to Rooney. He called me Gracie when no one else was allowed to. He did my makeup and hated my boyfriends and judged me for owning not one, not two, but all three Avril Lavigne CD’s. He gave me rides everywhere because I didn’t have a car. He bought my little sister a Pillow Pet for literally no reason other than that he wanted to be ‘her favorite’ (it worked). He took naps with me and spooned me and allowed me to be my weird, overly tactile self. He asked me what I thought about his boyfriend, and then actually listened to what I said. He told me with no motivation other than mild annoyance that I was really, really beautiful, and the least beautiful thing about me was how I clearly didn’t believe that. He was an amazing person, and sometime it’s said about people like David that ‘they broke the mold with that one’. But with David, there was no mold. He just sort of happened, a lucky combination of circumstance and creative genius that won’t ever happen again, and I was one of the special few to not only know him, but to know him well.
I just found out he’s gone, and it feels so strange. Losing a friend young isn’t comparable to any pain I’ve experienced before. I want to cry, but my tears feel useless and selfish when he has family out there who are hurting more than I am. I feel strangely guilty, like I should have called him more, but that also feels narcissistic, to think that I am so influential that a single extra phone call could have changed something so final. And then there’s Facebook, and Instagram, and I feel hollow, like I’m othered from the shared grief since I’m not posting anything to his wall or sharing our memories. But that’s just it – I want to keep them close, as though if I share them with too many people they’ll become less mine, less ours, less real. Like they’ll lose their worth and seem more like a ploy for attention in a communal pain than what they actually are – hilarious, bizarre memories of him yelling at me to ‘get more naked’ in a corn field while cars whizzed past mere feet from us.
This blog is called how to learn your twenties, which insinuates that we, the writers, will be the teachers. The truth in the title is that it’s a tongue-in-cheek one, since neither Jess nor I know what we’re doing any more than you do, and we’re all really just sort of doggy-paddling our way through this decade of life as overgrown children with adult responsibilities. On the topic of loss, though, I don’t think that it really matters how old you are, how mature you are, how much you’ve handled in the past. Nothing will ever feel as strange and quietly painful as losing a friend. What’s unique to our generation is finding out about that loss through an Instagram post, the caption bracketed on both sides with fifteen heart emojis. It’s weird and public and new, a far cry from a mutual friend calling you up to console you through the news. But it’s our reality now, and there is a sort of beauty in it, the way we can pay respects to those we’ve lost in our own words on our own platforms.
A sort of beauty in it, just like there is a sort of beauty in everything, and David was one of the strange, gifted few who could always pluck it out without effort. He will be missed so hugely.