When I was a freshman in college, I had a "secret admirer." I would receive notes in my mailbox, kids on campus would make mention of this admirer, and after a few short months, his identity was revealed. His name was Darren.
The first week of my junior year of college, I was walking on "the strip" after the bars closed. A crowd congregated to watch a fight. I watched with the crowd as two boys threw punches at each other, rolling around the street. I noticed that Darren, my not-so-secret admirer, was standing there as well. I approached him, which made him nervous, and asked if he knew of an after hours party.
That was the first night I ever spoke to Darren where he spoke back. Normally, he was too shy. We ended up at his friend Adam's house for a few hours. At Adam's, Darren revealed that he had dropped out of college and moved back to his family's home. He was now living in a small town in central Illinois.
Eight weeks later, after many, many long phone calls, Darren moved back to our college town and lived with me in my one bedroom apartment. Though he was back in town, he was not enrolled in school and he was not working. In any case, we had a great time together.
Darren and I lived a life of heavy drinking and crime. We begged, we borrowed & mostly we stole in an effort to make ends meet. I applied for food stamps, so we only worried about had rent and hooch. His car was falling to pieces, smoke would billow from the vehicle as we drove down the street. Cars couldn't drive behind us as they surely would be blinded from the smoke that Darren's late model, powder blue, Chevy Malibu would spew. We would simply laugh at our absurd level of poverty and dispair.
As poor as we were, Darren and I always managed to have great fun. He was a poet, a lover of the arts and a music enthusiast. Our apartment was filled with books, films and incredible records purchased from the second-hand store. He would play my favorite songs and I would dance alone in the living room. When my song was over, I would demand that he play the song again. And again. And Again.
Each night, I would make dinner and Darren would make cocktails. We would stay up late playing Monopoly until the wee hours of the morning. When it was time for bed, we would each take our turn saying good-night to the ghost we were certain lived in our attic.
The one thing I loved about Darren, in addition to the friendship, the laughter, the grifting...was the joy of being so romantically poor. Regardless of how little money we had, Darren always brought me a gifts. Several times a month, he would come home with something for me. Whether it was a fine point, felt tip pen that he stole for me from the bookstore or a moleskin journal, he always brought me something. The Luxembourg vase was one of my most prized gifts.
Darren spent most of his empty days surfing the thrift stores while I was in school or work. He would look for small treasures and on that particular day, he found the Luxembourg vase. I've owned this vase since 1992.
Darren and I, we often dreamed of traveling through Europe and for some reason, Luxembourg was one of our favorite countries to fantasize about. The tiny country seemed wealthy and majestic. Darren came home one evening with a tiny, ceramic vase with painted imagery that depicted a vision Luxembourg on the front. It was the sweetest gift. So appropriate for our sweetest life.