Buddies Club Mission
A place for all the Davids in the world
David had a government job and lived in an apartment on my floor in a modest apartment building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. He was intelligent, neighborly, overweight, 50-something, and gay.
Last month, David killed himself. We residents learned this when we began to notice an odor on our floor that was getting worse. Finally, late one Sunday afternoon, I called authorities. I think there is a dead body in apartment 201, I told them. They arrived immediately, and forced the door.
David was dead and rotting in his apartment.
Some official people came and took the corpse off to that magical place called "away". Building management opened all the windows, and cleaned out the apartment. They hung a bag of something on David's door to kill the odor.
During the whole process, I never saw a single person who could be described as a member of David's family, or as a friend of David's, come to our floor.
This is a picture, taken from my apartment balconey, of all that was left of David's existence on this earth.
I had known David was in trouble. One evening, a couple of years or so before he died, I was doing laundry and every time I left my apartment to go down to the laundry room, I could hear David in his apartment ... howling. Howling like an animal—long, loud howls. I knocked on his door several times, "David!" The howling would stop, but he wouldn't come to the door. When I would come back up to the apartment, the howling would have begun again. Eventually, the girl below him called the police, and I'm not sure what happened after that.
Howling like an animal. Imagine the pain of that.
The Christmas before he killed himself, I knocked on his door. "David, my family is going to be in town for Christmas. Would you have dinner with us?"
"No," he said, "I'm going to go where I always go—the eastern shore."
"OK," I said too quickly.
"But that's very nice of you to ask," he said, and I felt guilty at the secret wave of relief I'd felt when he declined my invitation.
I suspect there were no Christmases on the eastern shore. I believe I suspected as much even as he claimed it. But, as it turned out, David wouldn't see another Christmas anywhere on the planet.
A few months after I'd invited David to Christmas dinner, a friend came by my apartment. "Who is that crazy guy down by the mail boxes?" my friend asked.
"Fat white guy?" I asked.
"That's my neighbor from apartment 201."
"He had shit running all down the back of his pants," my friend said.
"Oh, my God," I said, but I didn't go downstairs to see whether I could help him.
A week or two later, David was dead. He was dead, and unmourned; there wasn't a single person in the world who cared he was dead. During the three years I had lived next to David, I had never seen him receive a single visitor—there wasn't a single person in the world who had cared he was alive.
I believe David died of loneliness. I believe that had there been a place for him to go—a community—he would be alive today. I knew David was in distress before he died, but I didn't act to help him save for one tepid Christmas invitation. I believe that had there been a place for him to go—a community—I might have helped him.
It is the mission—the self-serving mission—of Buddy Clubs to provide that place.