The first thing he does when I get to the bar is introduce me to a friend of his. It’s the typical exchange of credentials: name, medium, professional affiliations. Dave’s friend is named, Andrew, I think, or Peter– definitely one of the apostles, and he is a professional actor.
“No waiting?” I ask. “No teaching?”
The man owns perhaps four bags of things and has no apartment and is effectively homeless, but, Dave says, has managed to make his living completely on his craft, rather than having to panhandle or borrow money from Dave’s parents. In something like 27 hours, he will be leaving for New York City for a job and further fortune, the city of dreams and institutionalized masochism. I stare at him openly at this point, in a friendly sort of way but curious to see what a successful person looks like. In the most positive way a person can be average, he is the most average looking man I have ever seen. Much in the way I have often swore that Dave probably pisses sunshine (which would perhaps be a better explanation than the one given to me about his nickname, “Golden Dave”), he is completely lacking in controversy– not a hint of scarring, injury, or what I like to call “coke teeth.” He is wearing a hooded sweatshirt apropos of the Chicago fall and it appears to be hiding nothing. He even eats meat, actually– as we talk and sip at our beers, they are eating a new burger named after Dave himself, and we are all pretty sincerely in awe of that. What’s more suspicious is that he is completely and genuinely likable– between Dave and Peter/Andrew, I am pretty sure that I am the most evil creature to have ever walked the face of God’s green earth, so much so that even though we are drinking beers, I feel secretly awful for sneaking outside every once in a while for a cigarette.
Dave, aside from being an amazing poet and a man of admirable facial hair abilities, is a wonderful conversationalist. He is enthusiastic about everything and makes absolutely certain that you are aware of it, his enthusiasm for you: he makes eye contact and asks thoughtful, specific questions, like this one:
“So what do you miss the most, like, materially?”
The question itself never gets answered and no one cares either way. We come to the conclusion that all you really end up missing is having an apartment and the sense of a home, a place to put things and sleep that is yours, and the freedom to ride your bicycle with friends or a lover on the days when it is too beautiful to stay indoors. He tells us a story about auditioning, having to drive five hours for two minutes on stage, which in actuality is more like thirty seconds because by then the decision is made, and the long drive home, the staggering ratio of time and money, and coming out of it with total satisfaction, whether anything happened or not. The two of them talk about old days, college and oceans. Dave tells me about Anacortes, a somewhat run-down old ship town that mostly exists as a gateway to British Columbia and the Islands, and how a group of artists once moved there and bought the fire station and turned it into an art gallery and a studio, building a self-sustaining community from the floors up.
“The best artists are living in these small towns,” Dave says, and I wonder what we are even doing in Chicago, why Patrick (?) is on his way to New York City, and why Dave is not in Anacortes, why I am not in Couer d’Alene, or Kill Devil Hills, why I have done nothing great with my life. I drink privately to their sense of stability, their sense of comfort with themselves, and at the same time sort of wish that I could go with Dave to Anacortes and he could teach me about the harbor towns, and how to hold a conversation like a normal human being. I wish that I’d met them all when they were younger, and realize that probably we wouldn’t have been friends– me being evil, the both of them golden and too smart to have anything to do with me. I wish that I was in Anacortes.
On a napkin, before I leave, I ask Dave to tell me everything about himself that he is willing to tell me. I realize my error but I hand it over anyway, and he is friendly about it, says sure, any time, pal, and I feel better.
Later that night, I drink myself to near ruin with a boy I am calling my brother, who I have known only a year. He is destructive and we spend a lot of time on the ground in a strange grief, lonely, purposeless, and with no where to go but home. We talk about going to Raleigh, to Portland, to Youngstown, where my friend Sam lived and wanted to take me because he said it had more alcohol than God. A bit earlier in the night, an arguably naked dancer/rugby player had kicked us out of his apartment for breaking his chairs and less than a block away, my brother destroyed the car of someone that neither of us knew, someone who had done nothing to deserve it.
“I have to live until I have nothing left to give,” he says, echoing a philosophy I had shared with him the week before. It is a step up, slightly, from his suicidal tendencies and yet somehow, much more destructive. I think for a while of going home and leaving him, and after a block of walking, I turn back to retrieve him.
“I think I am more stable than you,” he says as I hold him up.
I light a cigarette and wish I could fall asleep on the beach. I wonder how much colder it is this time of year in Washington and how long I’d have to stay before the ocean air could wash the city’s immorality from my skin.
“Yes,” I said, laughing. “You most certainly are.”