Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Darin was American, and had been in the Navy, or the Army, I can't remember which, and he liked to tell stories about torture and seeing people die. We'd be loading our vans with trays of sandwiches, vegetables, fruit, and dessert, for the afternoon delivery run, and I remember catching snippets of his stories as I ran in and out of the basement or the back door of the restaurant. The Serbs and the Croats, I think. The Croatian war- I remember this, because my sister D was going to go backpacking around Croatia with a friend and he thought that was an awful idea, too dangerous and wild for 2 young girls.
Darin was large, with red hair and beard, pockmarked skin, and kind eyes. He was loud and crass, but he also would go out of his way to help me with my early morning food runs- making sure my pots of coffee were filled and organized, writing easy directions on addresses that weren't common sense to find. Usually in the early mornings it was just the two of us anyway, and I think he appreciated me being around.
When he started telling his war stories, I would try to let him know when they were getting too gory for me. Soon enough, instead of tales of battle and blood, he would open up to me about his personal life: his family, the love-of-his-life who he had helped through rehab for drug and alcohol abuse more than once but was married to someone else now, his plans to become a history teacher.
It was near the end of the summer when Darin's cellphone was stolen. It was slow and hot; the dumpster reeked after only hours of being emptied, the wasps were particularly bad around the doorways, and everything felt covered in a slick, sticky skin of sweat and oil and fruit juice. I was breaking out with more acne than I had ever had in my entire teenagehood from working late afternoons in the grease-filled air of the kitchen after deliveries- chopping carrots, peeling potatoes, patiently creating hor d'oeuvres, anything anyone needed help with. My two new best friends were K and R who had the same tasks as me, and because we spent every day at work together we spent every night together too, having wild adventures, while my old, more conservative friends were off travelling or watching tv in their air-conditioned houses...but that's another story for another time. Because it was slow, there wasn't much for us to do after our lunch runs. K and R and I would end up being given the oddest jobs to accomplish- clearing out basement rooms full of junk, washing windows, sweeping the lot where the vans were parked. It was during one of those lazy, sultry afternoons that Darin discovered his phone was gone. He had a tracking device on it though, and once on the computer he discovered it was in a garage or a house far up North in the city. He was furious, trying to call it, angry that someone would steal from him, the dangerous ex-soldier. He decided that as soon as he was done his shift he was going to drive up to the house and knock on the door and demand that they return it. This was the most drama we had seen in days, and because I knew Darin best and knew how angry he was I asked if I could go along with him. Well, I didn't really ask, so much as told my friends, and my boss, and Darin, that I was going.
We got in his van, and I rolled the windows down all the way. Some rock music was playing on the radio, and I was feeling so very happy to be on an adventure. There was a certain freedom and joy that was to be had from going out of the ordinary. The sun was right overhead, and it turned even the turbulent neighbourhood we found ourselves in quite pretty and idyllic. We drove for a long time, trying to narrow down from the grainy internet picture where the phone was located. Finally we got it to the right property. Darin wanted to break into the garage to look for his phone, but I thought it would be best if we knocked on the front door first to see if anyone was home who could explain. No one answered our knocking, and after convincing Darin that breaking in to the house itself was a bad idea also, he wrote an angry note and posted it in their mail box. I took the note out and rewrote it with much less expletives, and reposted it. Then we got in the van and drove back to the restaurant.