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When Beauty Is a Curse

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It. Some people have it, some don't. The "it" factor is undefined. It refers to a personal radiance that surpasses looks alone. It is part charisma, but not entirely that. We often say they just have "something" that turns every head when they walk into the room.

David had "it." I could show you photographs, but they don't do him justice; they capture his good looks, but they don't quite capture "it." It was in his smile, his movements, his pose, his attitude -- all of these things combined together, things you can't capture in a photograph.

His smile melted his admirers, turning them into putty. When he walked into crowded rooms, I could see every eye drawn to him.

For several years he was my closest friend. Every day we talked on the phone for at least an hour or two. I knew every aspect of his life. One night we met at a party and went to his house, and I just sat with him until early morning. He talked; I listened. He must have told me everything that night alone.

I also knew about his curse. You see, "it" was his curse.

2012-02-03-david1.jpg

As astounding as it sounds to those of us without "it", David felt damned. He wanted one thing more than anything else: he simply wanted someone to love him. He didn't want someone attracted to his looks. He didn't want someone merely drawn to his "it" factor. He wanted people to see him for who he was. He wanted them to love him for something much deeper.

He never felt sure that any of his suitors loved him. And the one person who really did love him never said a word, afraid to complicate David's life further. It was better to be there for him, to support him and be his counsel.

David never knew how to approach the person he loved. He played coy and tried to create a scenario to force a declaration by announcing a new relationship. That caused the opposite reaction than the one he wished for: instead, the person he loved backed away, caring too much for him to interfere if he found someone who made him happy.

David moved across country to pursue this new relationship, but his unhappiness grew deeper. He was plagued by doubts that anyone could actually love him. They wanted his looks; they wanted "it."

His calls grew more frequent. Two or three times a day, for an hour, two hours, sometimes three or four hours. His pain was real. His doubts were real. His job took him away from home for several days per week. And one day he went home to discover he was being cheated on. Every doubt he had was confirmed.

We spent hours on the phone that afternoon. I stayed on with him as long as he wanted. After three hours he said he had to go. A few hours later he called back. He had been drinking. We talked for two more hours, then he said he had to hang up. I promised him we would talk in the morning.

At 4 a.m. the phone rang again. There was no hesitation to answer. If he needed to talk, I'd be there for him.

It wasn't David. Instead, it was the cheating partner calling. "I'm calling because I realized that no one else would think of telling you. David shot himself a couple of hours ago and died. I know how much you meant to him, and him to you, and I didn't think his family would think to call you."

More was said, but I don't remember it. I know there was a horrifying sound that scared me -- it was coming from me.

The next several days didn't exist for me, quite literally. Early in the morning friends came to my home; one went to the chemist and came back with some sedatives -- prescription laws there are not the same as in the U.S. The sedatives literally knocked me out. That is how it was for three days. The sedative would wear off, I'd awake, relive it all over again, and take another one. I slept for those days, until friends drove me to the funeral home in Pretoria. I had to see him, just to make it all real to myself.

I walked into the empty viewing room. None of David's admirers were there. It was just me and his body lying in the casket. I remembered his jokes about dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse. They didn't seem very funny to me. I looked at his face. "It" was gone; "it" had left with his life. The face was the same, the body was the same, but "it" had vanished. And so had he.

There are times when I see someone who clearly has "it." I see the admirers flocking around them. For those who qualify as celebrities, the paparazzi follow them everywhere. And like most other people, I find that a bit of jealousy creeps in. I start to wonder why they should have "it" when most of us are "it"-deficient. There is no fairness to "it." There is no concept of justice, or redistribution of "it." There can't be. But David always comes to mind, and then I have to wonder if these people are so lucky after all. David would have traded all of "it" for the surety of knowing that people saw beyond "it," that they saw deeper than what drew their attention. My deepest regret is never making it clear to him that one person had.

If you are tempted to take your own life, please talk to the our friends at the Trevor Project, 866-488-2386. Your act will destroy more than just your own life.