Monday, May 3, 2010

My friend, Darren

My friend, Darren, is a little thief. Everybody knows it. In fact, that’s what they call him: Darren, the little thief.

Darren doesn’t mind. He’s proud of being a thief. It’s what he wants to be. Has, in fact, practically since he could crawl.

If you give him half a chance, Darren will regale you with exploits. He has the gift of weaving thievery and swagger into stories that excite the boy in all of us. Some are bragging, to be sure, but most are true. His cheerful lack of guilt just makes them that much more amusing.

Darren looks for all the world like a 1950s teen idol: waves of dark brown hair that make a pompadour without the need for product; sable brows that rise in crescents over bedroom eyes. A snub nose and a pouty mouth complete the picture.

If Darren’s face is ’50s teen (he’s really in his twenties), his style of dress comes straight out of the ’80s. He sports a tailored leather jacket even on the hottest days. His whip-thin build looks good in slim-fit jeans. He’s fond of jewellery, but isn’t into bling: a bracelet, neck chain and a ring or two in silver are enough to make him feel like a somebody. All that’s missing is the Rolex—an oversight, I'm sure, to be corrected.

By his own admission, Darren likes to look a little cheap. His models are those dirty TV cops who always dress like Ginos, or small fry in the mob. That he’s neither makes them fodder for his fantasies.

Fantasy looms large in Darren’s life. The myth of lawlessness attracts him as a way to get respect. Growing up he had twelve “fathers”, none of whom competed with the dark lords of his favourite video games. While the leader of a brotherhood of paid assassins or the master of a Thieves' Guild may inhabit an exotic moral landscape, they at least provide rewards for work accomplished and a sense of affirmation.

Listening to Darren talk, you realize that thievery is his vocation. He’s not a kleptomaniac, or wicked. He steals for the challenge and the blood-rush of the risk. He means no harm. Ethics play a large role in his choice of victims. He’s learned why it’s not right to steal from family. He never takes what someone cannot do without. He’s never greedy with his booty though he’d sometimes like to be. And if he takes from you—something small because the thrill proved irresistible—he’ll 'fess up long before you’ve registered the loss. Not quite ready to be Robin Hood, he doesn’t steal for gain alone. Every theft is practice for the heist he dreams one day of pulling off.

If you believe, as I do, that our lives are based on stories we unconsciously enact, it’s wonderful to have a friend who’s chosen which one he intends to tell—quite consciously—and happily shares chapters even in their roughest form. An evening with Darren is a cavalcade of anecdotes, adventures most of us can only dream about.

As far as I'm concerned, if the price of having Darren as a friend is making sure my wallet’s safe, the price is well worth paying.

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