I just realized I don’t have any pictures of David.
David McDonald (from St. Eustache) was a high school friend who I stayed in touch with for almost thirty years after we graduated. The last communication I had from him was in January 2004. A postcard from his hotel room telling me he had lost all his e-mail addresses when the Tsunami hit Krabi. He said he was banged up a bit, but survived, and would be home in time for his birthday in February. A few days after the postcard arrived, I got a mysterious phone message from one of his sisters urging me to please contact her. I figured it was about a surprise party for his homecoming/birthday, but the news was dire. David had died in his hotel bed while reading. Shock and disbelief and questions swirled in my head.
David loved to travel. He was a consultant for CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) and essentially travelled all over to write papers on whether Canada should invest in various projects or not. He was a geographer, and assessed environmental impact of these projects and whether everything was in line with our governmental policies concerning every aspect of investing. He loved his job, fluent in French, English and then Spanish, he was able to travel broadly to nations that spoke those languages.
He even travelled for vacation. Dave was in Thailand after spending nearly a month in Nepal on vacation. These are places with great and readily available drugs. My friend was a connoisseur. David was a “Bon Vivant”. The official story of his death was that he was missing his blood pressure pills and he was banged up. My instinct told me otherwise.
We were taught by Presentation brothers at a boarding school for “troubled youth” in Montebello, Quebec and all the boys had “house duties”. Ours was to care for Brother Raymond’s plants while he was off in Ireland (he was “Provincial”, which meant he overlooked several schools and several other groups of monks). Dave suggested that we plant some pot seeds among Brother Raymond’s other plants, so we did. The pot grew well and we were never detected. We replanted some outdoors and there was a photo of him and me grinning through the leaves. At the funeral, his sister said she had that photo and promised to send it to me. Didn’t happen.
Several times a week we all had to “run the U” for exercise. The “U” a 7 km route through picturesque rural Quebec farmland. Picture a hundred boys running along a gravel road that looped back in a “U”. Brother Stafford was driven up and down the road in a Renault with his portly head poking up through the sun roof and encouraging us to run through his megaphone by saying. ” remember boys, ‘no pain, no gain!'”
One hot sunny day in May, David and I were really lagging behind. We were only running half-heartedly, and when Brother Stafford (who we all referred to as ‘Agnes’) had driven past us, David said “follow me” and we peeled off to the left and into a thicket of dense trees.
There was a footpath that led us to a hidden swimming hole at the foot of a tiny waterfall in a creek surrounded by moss and ferns and heather. It was heaven. How David knew about this, I’ll never know. We stripped naked and plunged into the dark pool and frolicked and laughed joyfully in the cool refreshing water. We got out to air dry on the moss and David lit a joint. We laid back and marvelled in the moment at the beauty surrounding us and Dave’s cleverness at not only avoiding the “U”, but at creating a perfect moment, now a perfect memory.
After a while in our reverie we heard the lead boys returning, (the other side of the “U”) the rhythmic pounding of sneakers on gravel and much puffing and snorting. We heard the Renault whizzing back and forth. We got dressed and after the largest body of runners had passed, we bolted out of the woods with our still wet hair and tucked safely in with some exhausted and oblivious Juniors and we pretended to look like we’d run the whole way.
Dave turned to me and said slyly, “No pain, no pain!”