Remembering Daniel: A story told is a story never forgotten
He was one of the most honest people I had ever met. His face was honest; it betrayed every emotion. His voice was honest. He always told you exactly what he was thinking. His heart was honest. He felt things more strongly than anyone I know. I loved him. I met him on the first day of 9th grade and was instantly smitten. He was always kind and jovial with me, despite my relatively uncool standing, to his relatively popular one.
Daniel was a year older, and he smoked cigarettes, and he had problems at home and at school. My parents didn’t like him, and about half way through the school year, he disappeared. It wasn’t until the late fall of the following year that he showed up, outside of school, right after the bell rang, wearing the same green army coat he wore everywhere, and scuffed-up red Converse shoes I’d always recognize him by. “Hey girl, long time no see. Want to come over for lunch?” I’ve never wanted to do anything more in my life. To my parents, I was studying at the nearby library. To my “livejournal”, I was living in the fantasy world of the young adult novels I enjoyed at that time.
My school had off-campus lunch because it was too small for a cafeteria so I went to Daniel’s house everyday. We listened to albums and talked about Niche in the pretentious way that only high-schoolers can. It never occurred to me to ask why he didn’t return with me to school after lunch, or why he disappeared the previous year. It wasn’t until years later that I learned how bad his home life was – a negligent father, but whose negligence was nothing compared to what his mother did to him with lit cigarettes and a revolving door of boyfriends. It turned out that he left school because he was falling behind, sleeping in class because he couldn’t sleep at home due to a third-shift job that he got after lying about his age.
One late fall day, I got a phone call from Kentucky. I answered it happily because only good news came from Kentucky. But not this time.
I moved to New York at the beginning of my junior year. Daniel and I kept in touch, but his phone would intermittently be shut off. Life moved on. I made new friends and had a “serious” high school relationship. One late fall day, I got a phone call from Kentucky. I answered it happily because only good news came from Kentucky. But not this time. Between hysterical sobs, I was informed that my first love, my friend, the person who taught me to question authority and to toe the line between doing exactly what was right and testing those boundaries, had shot himself with his father’s hunting rifle. He thought he was being sent to live with his mother again, and the only thing that could prevent that from happening was death – and death would be better than that hell. His friends who offered him couches and escapes weren’t enough that day. The ultimate escape was his choice.
It wasn’t until last year, almost 10 years to the day after his death, that he was found in a cemetery usually used for John and Jane Doe’s long after police have given up on them.
Daniel’s parents never had a funeral. They were annoyed when his friends had a wake for him. They refused to tell any of us where he was buried. It wasn’t until last year, almost 10 years to the day after his death, that he was found in a cemetery usually used for John and Jane Doe’s long after police have given up on them. His grave is marked with a metal sign similar to a license plate. He would’ve hated it. He wanted to be cremated or tossed in the woods to give life to a tree. Even in death, his family couldn’t give him dignity. But his friends can. We can remember him, and tell his story, and remember that he was a beautiful person, with an amazing soul and honest eyes who wore red Converse shoes and would show up when you least expect it and say, “Hey girl. You want to come over?”