I was thinking about Darren when I was at work today. Obviously I've been trying hard to erase the whole shower incident from my mind, so I wasn't dwelling on that especially.
No. I was thinking about his slightly crazed smile. He doesn't look like a particularly happy-go-lucky kind of chap. I don't know if he has ever been in the armed forces, but he has the slightly stiff-gait, ramrod straight back and perfectly pressed shirts and suits that make me think he has a military background. The manic grin, therefore, comes as something of a surprise and it looks a touch out of place on his face, just beneath the eyebrows that are raised so high that they actually threaten to disappear into his very short and immaculately groomed hair. It's the kind of smile that doesn't so much look fake as a touch desperate. It's the smile of a man clinging onto his sanity by this fingernails. It is perhaps the grin of a man who is desperately trying to hide the darkness within.
I learnt a bit more about him today. Apparently he's a qualified hypnotist and likes to use these techniques in his day-to-day life. He tells the story about how it was proving difficult to get his young daughter to take some medication, so he fed her some strawberries and made a real point of squeezing her hand as she ate. The next time she needed to take her pill, he carefully squeezed her hand so that she remembered the positive association, and the pill tasted like strawberries to her. She's never had a problem taking medicine since.
His friends, I was told, remain somewhat sceptical of his powers. So sceptical, in fact, that only a demonstration was ever going to convince them that there might be something in this after all. So Darren hypnotised them, and whilst they were in a trance, suggested to them that whenever he pressed an imaginary button on the table, they would collapse into hysterics.
Worked a treat apparently.
So I'm a little bit torn about what I should do the next time Darren chases me for an overdue project status report. Should I reach for an imaginary button on the desk and watch as my colleagues around me collapse into fits of giggles, or should I look at him blankly for a moment before saying:
"Sorry Darren, I didn't recognise you with your clothes on"
On the other hand though, do I really want to be there when his smile and his possibly tenuous grip on his sanity slip and the darkness comes welling out? Not really. I've seen films about evil hypnotists, you know....
So, in the meantime, I'll greet that manic smile and slightly disconcerting personal style with a forced grin all of my own.
It's probably better that way.