Dave was my best friend.
I was supposed to have lunch with him on February second. It was a Saturday, and we hadn’t seen each other in months. We made those plans on the Wednesday prior. He died the day before on Friday, alone in his basement. We never had our Saturday lunch.
I knew Dave had a history with heroin. In fact, it was one of the very first things he ever told me about himself. He was a felon. He used to be a dealer. He used to be a user. Everything he said was in the past tense, and I didn’t have a problem with it. Everything he said dripped like honey out of his mouth, over his straight white teeth, into his perfectly maintained beard, down his muscular body. He was a personal trainer before I met him, and it showed. I had never been friends with someone so handsome, but that’s not what drew me to him.
Dave looked excited about everything he said. That’s what hooked me in initially- his contagious enthusiasm, even about the shittiest things. We worked together, and I saw him more than my girlfriend, my family, or anyone else. We had only known each other a couple of weeks before having a really awkward discussion about whether or not it was ok to refer to one another as best friends in conversations with other people.
“I consider you one of my best friends, is that weird? It’s like we share the same mind.”
He was serious when he said that. His eyes didn’t light up with bullshit enthusiasm. He meant it, and he wanted me to know he did. I shared the sentiment, and thanked the universe for sending me someone who didn’t have a problem being honest during a time I really needed someone to be honest with.
That was May, and the next two months flew by. We told everyone we encountered that we were siblings. They always believed it. “I can see it! You two look alike,” they’d say. Every. Single. Time.
In mid July, I was out of town for work. While I was gone, Dave was arrested at our workplace. He said it was for an old charge, which proved to be true. I was his first phone call when he got out of jail, and he asked me if I thought that was weird. I was glad he knew I loved him. I was glad to be his first call.
Our boss fired him the next day. I was devastated. I knew how ashamed Dave would be, and I also knew what shame could to do one’s sobriety. He was doing so well… at that time I didn’t doubt that for a second.
The next time I saw him, he came to see me at work. He was high, and I knew it. He told me he snorted some Xanax. I gave him shit for it, but I told him I was only upset because I loved him. It was after that I started distancing myself from him a little; but he got back on track, he was doing well, and we started talking again.
A few weeks later, we went to dinner. He started dating someone and was excited to tell me about her. I shared with him some struggles I was having with my crazy brain, and he listened to me and validated my feelings like no other friend in my life had ever been able to. He understood, because like he said, we shared a brain. When we left the restaurant, he awkwardly threw a card into my car. I read it when he pulled away, and I cried big ugly tears. In it, he thanked me for always having his back. A few days later I went to his house so he could meet my new dog. That was the last time I would ever see him alive.
I wish I would have saved that card.
I checked in with him daily. After work he either called me on my drive home, or we would text for hours when I settled in for the evening. He got a new job that he enjoyed, and he encouraged me to apply for a position with a company I didn’t think I was qualified to work for– my dream job. He was insistent, and he was my biggest cheerleader.
In early December, he told me about his upcoming court date that was scheduled shortly after Christmas. It was only a few days after that conversation that he stopped replying when I messaged him. He stopped checking in on me. There was nothing but silence, and I knew why, so I went silent, too. He rarely reached out to me, and one of the few times he did I told him how angry I was. I told him he was better than to be using. Now I wish I would have taken the time to ask him why he started using again in the first place.
At his sentencing in court, he was given probation. A chance he didn’t think he would get. He took this new opportunity to turn things around again. He wanted to patch things up with his girlfriend, who had been distant because of his recent use. He also wanted to patch things up with me– so we did. In true Ali and Dave fashion, we had big life talks at 4am when neither of us could sleep. We talked about everything again. I asked a lot of questions, but didn’t get many answers like I used to. I was just happy he was coherent enough to hold a conversation. I was selfish. That was good enough for me.
Then, in late January, there was the best news. That dream job he had been encouraging me to apply for? I got it. I fucking got it. And I couldn’t wait to tell him. So he called me on a Wednesday. He sounded like the excited guy I met in June. We celebrated, we laughed, we reminisced. We talked for almost two hours. I soaked in every word, and I was so excited about life. My best friend was clean, and happy, and hopeful. He was going to counseling. He was looking forward to the future. He was positive. We talked about how much we had missed each other, and we planned a Saturday lunch. I had never looked forward to anything as much as I looked forward to seeing him again.
12:45am… Early Saturday morning. His girlfriend called me. I didn’t answer it. I figured they were out and just wanted to call to BS and tell me they were getting back together officially. I figured Dave would give me all the details at lunch, and I wanted to hear it from him, so I could watch his eyes light up when he told me. But that morning, he didn’t answer my texts about lunch. His girlfriend called me again, this time later in the morning. I wish I wouldn’t have answered. Because maybe if I didn’t answer, Dave would have just texted me back about when and where to meet. I wish life could work that way.
She told me he was gone. “Passed away” is the term she used. And I wish she would have just said died. Why try to make such an awful thing sound delicate? I remember asking what happened, but I already knew. Heroin happened.
I’m not really sure how the rest of the conversation went. Afterwards I remember going to the bathroom and throwing up. I remember wanting to run as far as my legs would carry me. I remember wanting to scream, but feeling as if someone had stolen my voice.
I still want to scream. I never have.
It felt like I had to wait a lifetime to go to his funeral. When someone dies at home there has to be an autopsy. When someone dies at home on a Friday, the autopsy takes a really long time to happen, because coroners get weekends off, too. The obituary said accidental overdose. An accident sounds like something that can be fixed… who can fix this? I wish the obituary would have said he died from addiction. That’s what it was. It wasn’t this one accident. It was a culmination of the struggle and the triumph and the final setback. A vicious cycle that, like all things, must end somehow.
I’ve been to plenty of funerals, the most recent being my grandmother’s in May. Yes…I’ve been to plenty of funerals, but those were all for older people who lived great lives who weren’t my best friend. Those people knew the end was near. Those people didn’t sound hopeful and full of life on the phone two days prior to their death. Those people weren’t supposed to have lunch with me on the day I found out they were dead. So, the funeral was awful. But Dave looked just like Dave. Muscular and handsome and like he would stand up and walk out of the casket at any moment. I was so grateful for that.
I met his mom for the first time at his funeral. I walked up to her and introduced myself. She said, “I know who you are. You were so good for Dave.” And after hearing that I lost all ability to speak rational thoughts. I remember saying “I just loved him,” over and over and over, like a sad, broken record. Was I really good for Dave? If I had been, wouldn’t he still be here and not in that box we stood in front of? I said goodbye to his mom. She wished me luck at my new job. His whole family, who I never met, knew about my new job. He must have been so proud of me.
But I’d give up my job if I could have him back. Because new jobs aren’t important. Because this is awful, and after 19 days it still hurts so much I can’t breathe sometimes. So now I have this new job, and a new grief counselor, and this feeling of trying to delicately hold everything together even though I still just want to scream until I’m hoarse. How do people live like this? The only person who would understand is the same person who caused all of this pain.
I hate drugs, and I miss my best friend.