My friend Dave was a one of a kind type of guy. I know many say this about the dead, but for me this was sincerely true.
I met him when I first moved to Melbourne. I had begun waitressing in a large glamorous restaurant called the Waterfront. Dave was the head bartender there. The Waterfront was the type of place that at the time attracted celebrities and gangsters both of which had to be treated as VIPs. It was by where the Spirit of Tasmania docked and there were times where some of our guests would arrive literally by super yacht.
It was the kind of place that as a waitress you could receive large tips both in cash and some times even in cocaine.
Dave was outgoing, hilariously funny and always up for a chat. He had traveled the world and lived in many countries. He made friends wherever he went. At that time he was living in a backpackers in St Kilda aptly called ‘The Mansion’.
The Mansion as per it’s name was a mansion or probably had been once in it’s younger days. At that time it was a large crumbling house in grey. Dave and another Waterfront staffer and friend – Donnie, lived there socialising with the backpackers that passed through those run-down walls.
As anyone working in hospitality can probably attest, when you work separate hours from the rest of the world, your hospitality team become your family. And the Waterfront crew were no different. We were all young, mostly foreign and all aching for company and adventure. Much of our time outside of work was spent frequenting the bars in St Kilda where Dave seemed to know everyone and would often score us free or at least cheap alcohol.
I was young and far away from family and apart from working all I wanted to do was party. No matter how far down the rabbit hole I would travel though, I always felt safe as Dave was there, and I trusted him completely. Once, on a particularly hot new years eve night, we were traveling by tram from the city and I had begun fainting from the heat. Dave helped me off the tram and sat with me for several hours at the tram stop until I was able to maintain consciousness. We then headed back to the Mansion where I spent the the rest of the night sleeping it off in Dave’s kindly sacrificed bed. Another time at a dance party after taking several pills that as it turned out where laced with hallucinogenics I began seeing people’s faces twist and morph into grotesque masks. This was followed by literal vertical vomiting. I was in such a bad state that I could not trust myself to get home safely. Dave in his infinite kindness taxied with me all the way to my house north of the city before heading back to his home in the south. This was the type of guy he was, an amazing person to have on your team.
One of the things I remember most about Dave is what a great story teller he was. Every time we would catch up Dave would have a new yarn to spin. These were usually not very PG and generally involved some young backpacker he had “courted”. There was the story of Brown-eye Girl – a German backpacker who had invited Dave to her room where she had immediately dropped trow, bent over and demanded that Dave have sex with her. Dave promptly obliged and it was only part way through that he realised that both of her room mates were in residence and awkwardly trying to ignore what was happening in the middle of their room. He always had an innate ability to get himself into the weirdest/funniest situations.
Dave actually met his wife at the Mansion, she was a lovely french girl, who we all assumed would be another flash in the pan, but this one stuck and the two of them ended up getting married and having two beautiful children together.
I can’t remember how this came about, but one day we were all discussing how if we were each animals what would we be. Dave looked me square in the eye and told me that I would be a Lioness. For me it was a great compliment. For the first time in what may have been ever I felt like someone was seeing me for exactly who I wanted to be. They say it is much easier to remember the bad things people say about us over the good, but I have kept this comment safe in my heart as a precious gift. To this day it makes me feel better just thinking that there was once someone in the world that saw me in this way.
Years later when Dave messaged to say he had lung cancer it had been a long time since we had seen each other. He had been living in Switzerland with his wife and I had recently returned from living in London. I had moved back to Melbourne as my visa had expired. With no job I was in a dark depression having left the city I loved -London- my friends there, and a boy that I cared for deeply. I had so little to give and so when I received the group message that Dave had been diagnosed with cancer I couldn’t even respond to wish him well. I ignored the fact that this was potentially serious, I simply could not face the possibility that he could be in real trouble. So I said nothing.
Then the Facebook post came several months later telling us that he had died. I fought even harder to remain in denial. His wife sent out a request for us to share our stories of Dave so that she would have something to show their kids what kind of guy he was. But even this I could not do. Partially because our stories together were not fit for children, but also because this would be admitting to myself that he was actually gone. This I have learned is the blessing and the curse of having a friend pass that is in a different country. Their death remains ever so slightly unreal. And because of this you can ignore it but also you can never really have closure as their is no way to properly grieve. Funerals I have discovered, are for the living.
One night after returning home from drinks and dinner with a friend it hit me. Alone in my darkened room the tsunami of grief crashed down on me and I began to cry. Primal, childlike sobs of sadness came shuddering out of me like a geyser and I could no longer ignore the fact that Dave was truly gone.
I miss you Dave and I am so sorry I was not able to say good bye. You were one of the most unique and beautiful souls I have been blessed to know. My life is eternally enriched because I was lucky enough to call you friend.