Duck does dates.
Don “Duck” Wills was born in Abilene, Texas in 1952. He’ll be 65 on September 1, 2017.
He remembers it was on Christmas Day, at the dinner table with all his family around, when his mother told him she wished he’d never been born.
He remembers the day his father committed suicide at age 33, and Duck was 10. The worst was Friday. It was on every Friday that his mother’s new husband would beat him with “the buckle end of a hook western belt” until his 13th birthday, which fell on a Friday. That was when he told his stepfather it was the last time he was going to take a beating from him. He stood there with a butcher knife and dared the man to close his eyes to sleep that night.
His stepfather was sufficiently frightened enough to stay awake for three days. After that he never spoke to Duck again, which didn’t bother Duck, and he never got another beating.
He joined the Air Force in May of 1972, did his basic training at Lackland, his schooling at Wichita Falls, and was stationed at Lubbock, Texas. He wanted to travel the world. But he was stuck in a boring detail, he said, and it drove him crazy. So he tried to commit suicide. The military charged him with an attempt to destroy government property. He was released with an honorable discharge, but lost all his benefits except the most basic health benefits. Then he caught a bus to San Diego, choosing this city because it was a straight shot west with the same climate and rainfall as his home town, arriving at 10:45 a.m. on January 1, 2001.
Following that experience he learned through a counselor he has bipolar disorder. That explains his inability to focus in grade school; why his teachers merely passed him to the next grade level so they could get him out of their classrooms. His admission that he was gay at age nine didn’t surprise him but created a rift in the family that never healed. He hasn’t spoken to his brother or sister in 30 years. His sister abandoned her own three children, and he adopted them so they could stay in the family. They’re all back in Texas.
A dental technician by trade, he says he can multi-task like no one’s business. He can make an awesome set of x-rays and the best gold crown you’ve ever seen. But he feels the industry is stacked against him because more women seem to be getting jobs than men in his field. So he lives off his disability check, supplementing the money by making sure he knows where the free food giveaways are downtown.
His friends try to comfort him about his recent argument and breakup with his boyfriend, who has been taking Duck’s few possessions and selling them to buy the drug spice. Someone, probably the boyfriend, stuck a screwdriver in the lock of Duck’s storage bin, making it impossible to get in. He thinks the boyfriend was looking for more things to sell, but worries about his personal papers and documents stored there being thrown out by the managers if he doesn’t have the money to pay the rent in time to rescue his belongings.
Duck’s last suicide attempt was January 28, 2001, three weeks after he’d arrived by bus in San Diego. He succeeded; he was “flat line” in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. He was in a coma for five days before they revived him. Since then he has been living on the streets or in SROs temporarily till his disability check runs out. By day he is one of the more colorful characters hanging out in the Civic Center.