I Will Remember You, David

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"I will remember you.  Will you remember me?  Don't let your life pass you by.  Weep not for the memories."  - Sarah McLachlan, "I Will Remember You"

Me and 200-some-odd fellow graduates sat in the humid high school gymnasium and listened to a group of our classmates sing this song at graduation.  Among the crowd, somewhere in the rows behind me, sat my friend David Nudelman.

Never was there a more unlikely pairing than David and me.  David was notorious by the end of first grade for his chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, so when he and I ended up in the same class in second grade, no one would ever have guessed that the always attentive and obedient Ashley Harp would befriend the rebel without a cause.  But I was wearing a patch over my right eye at the time for muscle therapy.  David would later tell me that the eye patch was what drew him to me.  I suppose I looked a little rogue with one eye covered.

David continued to make a name for himself as a brash and brilliant troublemaker, and I followed my path of crossed t's and dotted i's and citizenship certificates.  Whenever our paths crossed, we were once again good friends.  I rather admired his rule-breaking ways, vicariously thrilled by behavior I would never engage in myself.  And I think he rather begrudgingly thought well of my overachieving decorum.

Despite his reputation as a disruptive force, David also was well known as a keenly intelligent student.  Those teachers who managed to develop a rapport with him and harness his restless energy were, I think, astounded by his abilities.  If David failed to do well, it had nothing to do with aptitude and everything to do with attitude.

When life became a little bit more hardscrabble than he could handle somewhere in the middle of high school, he landed a stint in a detention center.  I wrote him letters filled with all the inane goings-on of classes and football games.  He wrote me, too, with a confiscated pencil on ruled notebook paper in the middle of the night.  I still have those letters.

I remember sitting behind David in biology.  I remember his band's performance at the high school variety show that was cut short by a surprising f-bomb (and the ensuing cries of, "Cut the mic!!  Cut the mic!!).   I remember David's handwriting and his voice.  I remember his freckles.  And his hugs.

Since high school, David and I have been in spotty contact.  A couple of chance encounters.  E-mails here and there.  And then the comment now and again on Facebook posts.  But the lessened contact didn't lessen the affection.  The special place in my heart for the bad boy with the wicked wit who made me laugh and loved me even when I was super awkward and believed in me when I wasn't sure how to believe in myself.


"I'm so tired but I can't sleep.  Standing on the edge of something much too deep.  It's funny how we feel so much but cannot say a word.  We are screaming inside, oh, but we can't be heard." -Sarah McLachlan, "I Will Remember You"

When I heard last week that he was gone, as soon as I absorbed it, I knew it was true.  Like I told a mutual friend, he was a force to be reckoned to with.  And that force was gone.

I drove home from Atlanta with tears streaming down my face and an ache in my heart.  Such brilliance.  Such charisma.  Such a loss.

I dug out my old annuals and found where he signed in each one.  The year that he went away and we wrote letters, he wrote in my yearbook: "I love you so much, and I will always be there for you, and I know that you will always be there for me."

I wish he'd still believed that last week.  I wish that he'd called me or written me a letter.  I wish I had known that things were grim.  I wish that I could give him a great, rib-crushing hug and sort it out with him.

David, my friend, my unlikely dear friend, is gone.  But not forgotten.  I will remember him and what I learned from him about the great joy that comes from the love you find in unexpected places.

Peace and Godspeed, David.


Anonymous said...

beautiful and so true. He was so wonderful and caring if you got through the tough exterior.

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