For the Love of David
By, Rayceen Pendarvis, HRH
I have never shared this story in print. I am writing about David on the eve of the anniversary of his death, which also happens to be the week of my birthday. Every year around this time, I reflect upon my time with my best friend, my companion, and the greatest love of my life.
I remember the day when I fell in love with him. While hanging out with Geneva, China, and Jaquan, my inner circle of friends who have since become my guardian angles, I met this man who had recently arrived in DC from Redbank, NJ. On this one night, there would eventually be nearly twenty of us traveling together for our own safety. We were a colorful group—from butch to femme and bougie to banjee—dancing and singing in the streets of our nation’s capital as if we were the cast of Fame. After leaving Little Tavern, we were all sitting on the steps of the National Museum of American Art. David began to sing and I had a revelation. I knew he loved music, but this was the first time I heard his beautiful singing voice. In that moment, it was as if everyone else vanished and he was singing just for me. He crooned and I swooned; it was love.
The next day, I called Geneva. David had been staying at her home, and I wanted to learn everything I could about this man with whom I had become so enraptured. Before I could ask about him, Geneva informed me that David had been asking about me.
David and I spent time together and we became hooked on each other; love was the drug and it was an addiction for which we didn’t want a cure. Long before there was marriage equality, we exchanged rings and promised each other that our love would bind us. We were committed to each other before God and everyone around us knew that our love was something we would let no man put asunder.
For much of our time together, we had a long-distance relationship. This would be challenging for many, but, in many ways, it made our relationship stronger. I was on Amtrak from DC to New York so frequently that I knew the conductors by name. Seeing David was the highlight of my week.
True love is a gift that adds and never takes away; what I had with David embodied that. He affirmed, supported, and adored me. With David, I never felt too fat, too femme, or too much because he encouraged me to be me and accepted me in every way. His strength allowed me to be vulnerable because he was never afraid to share his emotions. In many ways, he enabled me to find the courage to be free.
For a time when we lived together, my daughters lived with us. Seeing him interact with them and how they grew to adore each other was a beautiful experience. In a time before same-sex couples raising children was commonplace, my girls had two daddies. We were not challenging the status quo; we were simply living our truth. Being introduced to his mother was another gift he gave me. I was grateful for her love and acceptance; Mrs. Davis became a second mother to me.
I will never forget that moment in 2009 when I received the call from Mrs. Davis telling me that her only son, the man I loved and with whom I shared twenty years of my life, had passed away. In that instance, I could not breathe and the waves of emotion which hit me were amplified as I began to weep for her losing her child. I then had to find the strength to take the trip, on my birthday, to bury my soul mate. As had often been the case, I found strength in David’s presence.
Upon arriving at the church two hours early, the custodian let me in and, upon noticing my suitcase, asked if I was Rayceen. A woman arrived shortly after me, and after I mentioned that I had traveled from DC, she asked if I was Rayceen, about whom she often heard David speak. I felt David’s presence then and I have felt it every day since. Love never dies.
I honor David by speaking about the importance of love. When I’m on stage, and I talk about kindness and compassion, I’m honoring our love. I want LGBTQ people to know that they deserve to be loved. I want the children to experience love in their lives. That’s why I want to fix people up. I mention that my collaborator, Zar, is single and eligible every chance I get; I tell Team Rayceen volunteers to be open to possibility, and; I encourage attendees of The Ask Rayceen Show to mingle and introduce themselves to someone new. I do all these things for the love of David. Like Corretta Scott King, I’m married to the movement.
David would sing to me on my birthday at the stroke of midnight. Even if we were experiencing strife, I would hear a song. It has been several years since I’ve heard that beautiful voice of his, but on my birthday, I have my memories. David continues to sing to me in my dreams.
Rayceen Pendarvis is an emcee, entertainer, activist, and host of The Ask Rayceen Show, a free, monthly, live event in Washington, DC, which began a new season March 1, 2017, at the HRC Equality Center. Rayceen Pendarvis, Team Rayceen, and The Ask Rayceen Show are on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For more information, please visit www.AskRayceen.com.