I can’t quite remember the first time I met David McLaughlin, but I have never been able to forget him since. I’m sure many other people who knew him feel that way as well. We were in theatre together in college.
The first play I remember us being together in was a children’s show called “The Wish Peddler.” Dave looked like a frat boy, but he found himself as an actor on the USCA stage. His first show he auditioned for, and he wound up with the lead role; that was one thing the two of us had in common.
In the 3 years that we worked together, studied together and partied together, Dave put his all into his art. He partied like there was no tomorrow, too. At cast parties, Dave usually played the part of the host; whether or not it was his house, whether or not he knew the people actually throwing the party. You could find him with a drink in one hand, a smoke in the other, talking about whatever was on his mind. Arts, sports or the world in general, Dave was everywhere you wanted to be.
And yet, as gregarious as he could be, Dave was not a simple social butterfly. He could be introspective and play the part of life advisor when the situation called for it. I remember one time when I was mooning over one of many women I had unrequited love for, I was giving Dave a ride in my car and he asked me about this woman, who I’ll call “Madame X.”
I told him my tale of woe, wondering if I’d ever get together with Madame X, or meet anyone who would take me as I am. Dave listened, and patiently told me that, although Madame X was certainly attractive (I believe his exact description was “I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crackers”), that I deserved better, and assured me that if I played it cool, I’d find love.
I was a little envious of David. He seemed to have all the things I wanted back then: respect, popularity, a good relationship with a great woman. Things began to unravel a bit for him after he left school. He stopped acting, and when I’d see him downtown, he’d seem to get a bit prickly when the subject of theatre came up. He was still playing the part of the bon vivant, but when I looked into his eyes there was something there; it was a pain that I wanted to talk to him about, but could never find the opportunity or courage to approach him.
I feel a bit guilty about that right now. I wish I could have sloughed off my own torpor and shook him into talking to me. I wanted to find out what was going on in his mind. David did reasonably well in his post-college career; he became a caterer, and his business was recently praised in a “best of the town” issue of a local magazine. I wish he were still around to enjoy it.
Dave’s roommate found him dead this morning, at the base of the stairs in their apartment building. I’m still not sure what happened to him. Right now, I can only pray to my God that he is at peace now.
Godspeed, David. I hope to meet you again, drink in hand, bitching about the Blackhawks and ready to pull out every stop to make us laugh no matter how crappy we feel.
David Lee McLaughlin