He was dead. David Wells was dead.
I stared in shock at the obituary that I was reading, my eyes brimming with tears. The assignment to write a paragraph on a news story was forgotten. My best friend was dead.
It was September 26, 1984. He had died on September 24, having shot himself in the head. He had been found by his older brother Steve.
I stood up, barely able to even to hold my balance. I told the teacher (who was overwhelmed with half- finished homework assignments and misspelled essays) that I needed to go the bathroom. She was annoyed that I would miss the start of her lesson on Pompeii. Still, she relented.
I left the class and went for the nearest bathroom, hoping that no one would see me crying. No one did. I went into the bathroom and began sobbing. David Wells was dead. He had killed himself. Why? Why? WHY?
I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. I was a blubbering snotty mess. Real guys didn’t cry, only fags do. I cleaned my face up the best I could, but I couldn’t do anything about my eyes. They were red from all the crying. What would David think of me weeping like a little baby over him? How long had I been in here anyway?
The bathroom door opened and a kid from my class came in.
“Hey, you okay?” he said.
“Yeah,” I said, putting on a macho façade, “Just washing my face.”
“You’ve been gone for a long time. Mrs. Weaver sent me to look for you.”
“I’ll be right there,” I said stoically. It was all fake, because I just wanted to die.
The kid left. I splashed water on my face and dried off. My eyes were still red. I returned back to class in a fog. I no longer cared about the paragraph or the lecture about Pompeii. My best friend in the whole world was dead. The teacher saw my eyes and knew something had happened, but didn’t stop her lecture about the destruction of Pompeii.
It was near the end of the school day and I might as well have been walking through peanut butter. Time couldn’t have been any slower, almost as though everything was passing in slow motion. The bell rang and I dutifully boarded the school bus in a funk. My best friend was dead.
I vomited on the school bus. The driver pulled over and asked if I was okay. I told him that I was a little car sick but was otherwise fine. I apologized for the mess and offered to clean it up. He told me it was okay. We were near my bus stop anyway. I got off. It was only a block to the house. On the way there, I threw up again. When I finished, I got up off my knees and continued walking home. I was crying again, though from the vomiting or David’s death, I don’t know. I walked into the house. My mom’s sister was sitting on her fat ass, as usual, instead of working. Mom could see I was upset and asked “What’s wrong?”
“David Wells is dead,” I said. She stared past me all glassy eyed, almost as if this was a dream. She was stoned, probably on marijuana. I suddenly felt a great heaving in my stomach and ran to the bathroom, barely making it so I could vomit again. When I finished, I wiped my mouth and went back to the living room.
“How did it happen?” she asked. Apparently she had heard.
“He killed himself.”
“Do you want to go to the funeral?”
I thought for a moment, and then I realized I didn’t even know where it was or when it began. I didn’t even have suitable clothes for it. I started feeling the familiar ache in my stomach and I knew what was coming. I ran back to the bathroom and vomited again. How could I have so much to throw up?
I left the bathroom and went to my room without a word. I laid there on my bed and cried myself to sleep, hating the fact that I couldn’t control my tears. I must have been a fag.
I awoke the next day, still in my clothes that I had worn the day before. The sun had risen, almost if it was mocking my misery. It was after ten. I hurriedly got dressed for school and rushed out of my room. Mom was asleep in bed, still in her nursing uniform that she had worn to work, the night before. I roused her and said “Mom, I’m late for school.”
“I called you in,” she said sleepily. I went back to my room, undressed and crawled back into bed. I got up only to use the restroom. The house was unusually quiet as Mom’s sister had gone over to Grandma’s and taken the kids with her. It was just me alone. My best friend was dead, but only a fag cries.
I sat there in bed, thinking about him and our childhood together. I was going to miss him terribly and began weeping for my loss. Then I thought about what I said about wanting to see him naked. Oh my God! Was I attracted to him?! Did I love him?! I must be a fag. I began weeping again. The only person I ever loved outside of my family was a dude. I masturbated in misery, careful not to think about him, but to focus instead on the guy with the big dick in the girlie magazine.
I went back to school the next day. I thought everyone was staring at me, as I had cried in school. I was a fag and David Wells was dead. I couldn’t concentrate on past participles like I was supposed to. One of the students who worked in the school office showed up at the door of my English class and called my name. I looked up confused. What had I done now?
“Yes?” I inquired.
“You need to come to the councilor’s office,” she said.
Mrs. Ramirez nodded in consent for me to go. She went back to writing in her gradebook. I got up from my desk and followed her. I looked at her butt and found nothing appealing. I must be a fag. She led me down the empty halls of Mackenzie Junior High to the office. Mr. Zuniga was waiting for me. He shook my hand, showed me into his office and closed the door. I was very uncomfortable, as I had never been her before. David was dead.
“How are you doing?” he said.
“How do you think I’m doing!” my mind screamed. “Fine.” I said, without emotion. Only fags cried.
“I heard about what happened and that you knew – “ he picked up a sheaf papers – “Jonathan.”
Who was Jonathan? Oh that’s right, that was his first name. He didn’t even know that he went by his middle name. “HIS NAME WAS DAVID!” I screamed silently.
“Yes,” I said, stoically. His name was DAVID! DAVID! DAVID!
“How do you feel?” he asked quietly.
“My best friend is dead and I might be gay! How do you think I feel?”
“I feel okay I guess.”
“You’re not going to hurt yourself, are you?”
The thought had never crossed my mind, till now. I didn’t even know how David had died, yet. Was it a gunshot? Was it pills? Was it asphyxiation in his father’s garage? Did I even want to try these things? Would they hurt?
“No.” Should I kill myself?
“You know you can always talk to me, right?” said Mr. Zuniga.
“During school hours.”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m gay and David is dead.”
“My door is always open,” said Mr. Zuniga.
“Except when the school is locked!”
“I know,” I said.
He looked at me, with sympathy in his eyes. I viewed him with contempt and suspicion. “He just wants to protect his reputation. “ He got up and shook my hand. I thanked him and left his office.
I went back to English class in the same fog I was in a couple of days before. I didn’t care about participles or diagramming sentences. I didn’t care about Pompeii. I didn’t care about the quadratic formula. I didn’t care about learning to type a resume. I didn’t care about basketball. I didn’t care about the piece by Vivaldi. I didn’t care about talc being the softest rock known to man. I didn’t care they were serving pizza for lunch.
My best friend was dead and I was going to hell for being gay.