The Bad Kids
You know how, growing up, there was always that one group of really bad kids? Maybe you were one of them. Maybe you just knew to avoid them. You know the ones. The kids who got really bad grades? The ones your parents told you to avoid. The ones who probably did drugs? The ones who had sex before everyone else? Who drank, and smoked, and got sent to the principal’s office all the time for talking back to the teacher?
When I was growing up, we had one of those groups. And, I mean, they were really bad. And, one of the worst of the worst was this one kid, David Jones. I mean, David was kind of rough all around. Teachers were afraid of him, jocks avoided him—no one fucked with him. He’d disrupt any class in order to get out of it. He was always in trouble. But, in small doses, he wasn’t that bad. He was in choir with us, and he had a really good voice. He was pretty funny, and he was nice one-on-one. He would even talk to me on rare occasions and he didn’t, like, pick on me. He was just…you know, bad, I guess. It was just that, when it came to the grown-ups, no one took him seriously. So, it was the most amazing thing when, this one time, he kind of blew us all away…
David blew us all away
It was the end of 8th grade, and we had a talent show. It was your basic bullshit: dance numbers, girls singing fucking Disney musicals—you get the picture. Then, out of fucking nowhere, David and his friends get on stage. They had guitars, and amps; the whole thing. And, they’re gonna play a fucking song, right?
So, this is 1992, 1993, I guess. They could have played Nirvana—it would have made sense. They could have played Metallica, I don’t know. These guys were pretty rough. But, no. Fucking wait for it. They get up, and everyone gets real quiet. And, out of fucking nowhere, these “bad” kids? The ones who got in trouble all the time? The ones the teachers were afraid of? No. They start playing The House of the Rising Sun. By The Animals. From the ’60’s.
David Jones just gets up and sings this song—a song that our parents grew up listening to as kids—like he was born to sing it. The teachers did. not. know. what. to. think. The only one who really had anything nice to say was our choir teacher, Ms. Knott. She said something like, David had “a lot of hidden potential.” I think she got fired that year, or something…
Then we lost him
Yes, no one ever took David Jones very seriously. He pulled one more fast one on us about year later in 10th grade when, sometime during the very early hours of February 12th, he took his own life. I remember coming to class that morning and hearing our German teacher, Frau Ernst, read us this canned announcement. It was unreal. I remember my friends silently sobbing in their chairs. No one knew what to do, then, either.
I didn’t know David very well, we weren’t friends. No, I didn’t have a “thing” for him. But, it was the first time someone my own age passed away. It was the first suicide in my life. And, I’ve never forgotten it.
For some reason, I think about it a lot. I think David missed out. Music got a lot better, for one thing. Life got loads better after high school. Becoming an adult was the best thing that ever happened to most of us. And, for anyone who peaked in high school, the joke was on them. I think about the fact that, as an object lesson, I really wish we didn’t need that kind of fucking sacrifice to learn these things. I wish I hadn’t been told by the Catholic church that he was going to Hell. In some ways, I guess I’m glad they did. People’s true colors come out in these types of situations, I suppose.
The House of the Rising Sun has always been, and will always be, one of my favorite songs. Its haunting intro, the singer’s voice, the great bluesy chords. I’ll always think of David singing it when I hear it. I’ll always think of the kids that no one took seriously back in 8th grade who could have done so much more if people had gotten over themselves. And, it will always make me panic just a little bit. Panic that I might not be reaching my full potential. That I might be squandering the short amount of time I have left. That I didn’t get up on stage and make an impression on anyone that day. And, that I might never fucking get the chance to.
And, it will always make me panic just a little bit. Panic that I might not be reaching my full potential. That I might be squandering the short amount of time I have left. That I didn’t get up on stage and make an impression on anyone that day. And, that I might never fucking get the chance to.