Once upon a time, I had a childhood friend named David.
David was sweet. And kind. I thought he was the strongest boy ever. I thought he hung the moon and set the sun spinning through the sky. He told me about Star Wars and going fishing with his father. He was the first boy whose hand I held. I called him a friend but he meant so much more.
There was another boy. We’ll call him “S”. S was disabled and didn’t have friends. I felt sorry for S. I spent time with him on the playground rather than with David. S was not kind. He was cruel. He pinched me and laughed when I cried. David stood off in the distance, watching with a clouded, angry face.
S stopped coming to school. David kicked me under the table when I signed a “Get Well” card. I don’t remember much of the friendship after that.
The following year, we would start middle school in earnest. However, my family moved and I never saw David again. I didn’t have a phone number and this was years before e-mail, Facebook, and text messages.
Earlier last year, I tried to look up my old friend. I had his first and last name. I knew enough about his parents to help verify details. Thanks to a run-in I had with some of his high school classmates, I knew where he wanted to go to college.
David died. He was twenty. When I was struggling with the death of my father, David left this world. I don’t know how or why. The obituary doesn’t give the details and I couldn’t find a newspaper article. But I know where his grave is located. I saw a picture of it, though I have not gotten up the courage to go visit it.
Looking back, I realized that how I thought of and how I felt for David informed how I wrote Emmerich. Emmerich fits that image of quiet strength that I developed through my friendship with David. My childhood friend lives on in this character.
Secret Burdens will be dedicated to the memory of David. I hope he knows that I’m sorry for any way I childishly hurt his feelings. I hope he knows that I miss him very much.
Also published on Medium.