Tuesday, January 17, 2017
SLICE OF LIFE
I met David shortly after I moved into my house seven years ago. He pedaled by on his bike and introduced himself. He told me he did yard work, and that he would be glad to help me out if I ever needed anything.
And over the past seven years, David has helped me out. A lot. He laid sod in my front parkway. He moved my lawn. He pruned my bushes. He shoveled snow. He cleaned my gutter. A couple of years ago, a late spring storm knocked down a huge branch that went all the way across my backyard. I wondered how I would ever get it out of there, and how much it would cost. David and his buddies sawed it into chunks and got rid of it within a matter of hours.
Sometimes I called and asked him to do work. Sometimes he just showed up and I would come home from work to a yard that had been mowed, or trees that been cut back. Mostly I paid him, but if I didn't have money, he just worked for free.
"I got you baby," he would say. "I got you."
David is my age, in his late fifties. As far as I can tell, he has spent pretty much his entire life in this neighborhood. As long as I have known him, he has never had a regular job. He didn't own a car, instead he rode his bike all over Park Hill. David knew everyone in the neighborhood. He knew who was having babies and who had died. He was invited to neighborhood barbecues and graduation parties. Whenever someone moved in, David was the always the first person to introduce himself. He was friends with everyone.
David hung out with a group of men, all about his age, that all had similar life circumstances. They all drank. A lot. I rarely saw David before ten or eleven in the morning. I knew that he wouldn't be available after about four, because that is when he and his buddies started drinking. In between ten and four, he did great work.
Despite his alcohol issues, he was my friend, and I always knew he had my back.
David lived about a block down the street from me, in a ramshackle house that he shared with his mother, and any number of other people. Several of the people that lived there were mechanics and worked on cars out in front of the house. My boys didn't like the people at that house. One of my sons insisted that the people who lived in that house had stolen the speakers out of his car. They might have, but I knew David didn't have anything to do with it, because David was my friend. He had my back.
Earlier this fall, David told me that his 85-year-old mother was selling her house. I wasn't sure I believed him. Where would she go? Where would he go? Where would all of the other people that seemed to live in the house go? David told me would move to an apartment on Colorado and 17th. It's not very far, and I just assumed I would still see him out and around on his bike.
About three weeks ago, the house really was sold. There wasn't a sign, it just seemed like somehow, during the night, all of the people that lived there, including David, disappeared. The next day, men were there tearing out the ramshackle fence and overgrown bushes. They've hauled away three dumpsters full of junk, and workmen are there every day renovating the house.
I haven't seen David. He called me one day about two weeks ago. First he asked if I had seen what they were doing to his house. Then he asked if he could move in with me. We both kind of laughed, but I wonder if he was really kidding. I wonder if he really does have an apartment. There's an abandoned motel at Colorado and 17th, and I wonder if he might be living there. We've had a couple of really cold spells and I'm wondering if he is somewhere warm and if he has food to eat.
I miss my friend David.
It's hard to find people who have your back.