It strikes me every time I spread mayonnaise on a piece of bread. I have a completely visceral reaction as I move the knife across the surface, moving to fill every crack and crevice. It's the way Darren did it. Sometimes I actively work to subvert it, choosing instead to make a lazy smear in some more devil-may-care fashion. Just to prove that I don't have to do it just the way Darren did it.
This is the guy my dad first christened "the Tupperware kid," due to the high volume of resealable plastic food storage containers he unloaded into the dorm room across the hall from me in my freshman year. Much of that same Tupperware moved in with me the following year as we shared an apartment across the street from the University of Colorado. One of the big plastic tumblers is still the home of Peter Parker, the amazing Spider-Plant.
I don't think I would ever have bought a Prince album if I hadn't first heard Darren play his music. I might never have experienced the ease and relative freedom of the Curb Party, or the batfish submarine, or the joy of cruising Muskogee in the bigger-than-a-Humvee-Dynobuick. Darren brought me flavors that I might have otherwise missed. He was an E-ticket attraction. That's why I miss him today.
When I forgot to check the oil in my Volkswagen bug before we drove east to visit Darren's home in Oklahoma, the engine threw a rod, and we rolled to a stop some thirty miles outside of Tulsa. I went around to inspect the damage, and was greeted by smoke, and a small flame when I lifted the hood. Darren's assessment: "Hmm. Fire. Bad sign." I blew it out like a birthday candle without hesitating to think about what additional oxygen might do to an engine that was on fire. Darren and our good friend Matt hiked down the hill, where they were attacked by a goat, to call for help.
Darren's dad came to the rescue, and drove us the rest of the way into Muskogee. We missed the football game that night that had been our main reason for making the interstate trek, but the hospitality we experience more than made up for it. Later that weekend, he made arrangements for the remains of my car to be towed back the next week and took the three of us back to Colorado where we all belonged.
Darren's the guy who first gave me the idea of "Hungry Drunk Boy Pizza." He and a buddy spent a summer researching every five-star review Rolling Stone ever wrote, and then went out and bought those albums. Darren was what Reader's Digest would call my most unforgettable character. I miss him today.