I keep a photograph of David Wells on my phone, so his picture is always with me. I don’t know why. I am often envious of those who no longer remember what a loved one looks like after they pass away. It has never happened to me.
I first met David in the summer of 1982 at my grandmother’s house. I had gone there for a reason that now escapes me, but she wasn’t there. I was about to leave when a friend who lived down the street from my grandmother showed up. David was with him and given that he was just a few months older than me, we got along great and the three of us played for quite a while. It was getting late so we said our goodbyes and I left, thinking I would never see him again.
School started a few weeks later. It was my first day of junior high and I didn’t know anything (my neglectful mother had not told me anything). I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. I finally figured out the ‘homeroom’ thing and went there. We didn’t have assigned seating so I took the first available desk. It just happened to be right next to David. Finally a familiar face!
He remembered me as if we had always known each other. We compared class schedules and discovered that we had at least two thirds of them together, including lunch and orchestra. We became inseparable. One of the most difficult classes I had was gym, because no matter where I turned there were boys undressing. My homosexual tendencies were already manifesting and I was afraid of getting aroused in front of them. David showed me that it was no big deal and undressed in front of me.
We ate together, played pranks together, went trick-or-treating together, got in trouble together. We made robots and cities in the mud. We spent the night at each other’s house. The first time I was at his, he confided in me that he normally slept in the nude. I said I didn’t mind if he did, hoping he would, but he didn’t. He didn’t reject me for saying what I said. We slept together in the same bed in our underwear. I was aroused all night long, but nothing sexually happened. I am glad it didn’t, because I never felt so safe and satisfied, and sex would have spoiled it.
It has been suggested to me by my friend that the reason he may have killed himself was that he had discovered he was gay. I don’t know anything about that, but it sure would explain a lot; like his willingness to confide in me about something so personal; his willingness to go to the bathroom in front of me; his willingness to undress in front of me.
I think one of the reasons I went hardcore in the gay lifestyle was that I was missing his comraderie, his accepting who I was without question, being intimate with him without sex. I was confusing sex with intimacy and acted out. I still miss him terribly and weep over my loss.
After he died, I never forgot what he looked like. Most people when they speak of someone they have lost they speak of how they no memory of what they look like. For me I never forgot his face except when my memory was erased. I still remember what he looked like: his wavy dark hair, his boyish face, how skinny he was. I remember spending the night with him that first night and each other night. I remember him playing video games at the store. I remember the expression on his face when a soda can exploded in front of us at school, our first day of school, the last time I saw him…
We had drifted apart physically as I had moved and so had he. We both went to other school districts and met again at an orchestra competition. I was going and he was coming. He played the cello and I played the violin. We said hi and I informed him that our school had won a prize. He was excited for me, but we couldn’t talk much as the schoolbus was waiting for me and he had to follow his teacher.
He took his own life on September 24, 1984.
Some people tell me that I am just beating a dead horse, that I shouldn’t dredge up his memory. Great, except how does one forget the first person you ever loved with all your heart? His life and his death affected me so profoundly and thoroughly that I can’t even talk about him with breaking down crying. I am no longer in mourning for him, but I still ache for him.