The world is full of common and cliché questions, and since Benjamin’s death, I find myself answering all of them: what is the meaning of life, why am I here, and most importantly, should I continue to persevere. Benjamin would have laughed at me, he hated those ridiculous philosophical questions. But he would’ve hated what I’m considering more, at least the old Benjamin would have. Yet, so much like the New Benjamin, I am not resisting my inevitable and tragic destiny. After all, we were invincible, once upon a time. It is only natural that we shatter the same way. But even though my story is the cliché of clichés, I need to defend myself. Please try to understand why I broke apart; please try to see how you would be tempted to do the same.
The day we started to grow apart he was white, pale, and tottering on two feet. His eyes were glazed with contention, concealing his illuminious twinkle and slowly draining his spark. He was skinny too, his gray sweatpants swimming off of his figure, with a red sweatshirt leaving everything but his despair to the imagination. There was nothing of the person I knew, I did not recognize my best friend.
Benjamin was my one confidant, though I was one of his many, and I didn’t care in the slightest. I told him everything. We spent night after night passionately yelling about the greatest wonders of the world and the most mundane of affairs. Before I met him, I was lamenting in my loneliness, spiraling like a dizzying rocket as I whirled out of control. I am the type of person who always looks happy, while I fall apart internally. Benjamin always pulls me out, has been pulling me out since the age of 10. He has days where his eyes light up, where his legs move with such strife, and I struggle to follow behind, much less to lead. But more often, he has days where the world feels too harsh, days where he wants to dive underground and ignore the effects of reality. Days where I do my best to bring him out, until he disappears into a white fog, hidden from my saving scrutiny.
He staggered through the aisles of Target, moving like a drunk through a shallow stream. It was as if the world was a dream he couldn’t quite believe. In reality he was high on pain pills, trying to soothe the roiling waves crashing inside him. I trusted him. I knew his addictive personality thrived from euphoria and a sense of purpose, since, until then, he took no pleasure in numbness. So it was difficult for my naïve self to imagine the dullness of the pills corrupting him. Years later, I remember this with a cynical smirk and a sheen of tears. A drug far more potent ruined Benjamin, one I knew far too well.
Benjamin always playfully teased me for being afraid, and he was completely justified in doing so. I was too timid, anxious of everything, too scared to live my life. I was the type of person who parked in the back of the lot to avoid pedestrians, who never tried new things, who never ventured outside of my box because I was so afraid of the consequences. He realized how scared I was, while attempting to change my perception. We were opposites, as I thrived in numbness to escape the constant fear. So I never changed and, because of me, Benjamin was unable to revert back to who he was meant to be.
The night Benjamin staggered out of that Target, I left his house early. He was trying to wean himself off of the pain pills. We were thinking of baking a cake, and the anticipation was exciting. For it was a symbol more than anything else, he was teaching me the ways of Julia Child. Showing me that he reveled in the orderliness of the recipe-it organized his addled emotions. At the same time, he wanted me to learn about the world so that I could forget my fear of it. He was going to teach me how to control my anxiety, step by step, ingredient by ingredient. Yet I’m still scared of the world, and the cake remains a figment of our imagination.
He was a bird, in finger and in air, until his wings were clipped. It started with the pain pills and then digressed into something more, something heartier; I still don’t know what. Benjamin has always been a bottler; he traps his emotions until they explode in a fit that rivals my fear in intensity. I could tell he was tired of ignoring his pain, tired of the bottle’s stress fractures burning away into sand. Life was too hard for the vessel that felt too much. So like a diet coke mixed with Mentos, he exploded, as he craved to feel nothing. He will never feel again.
I drove him home in near silence that night, my piano music playing softly in the background, while he looked at WebMD’s symptoms of withdrawal. I drove on, hoping for him to make fun of the music choice, hoping for a sign of life or personality. But he just sat there: his black flip-flops perched on the dashboard, sweatpants fraying as the moments passed. I was trying to bring him home, figuratively rather than literally. I thought I could achieve the first by accomplishing the latter, I was wrong.
Benjamin wanted to heal his cracks and avoid the darkness of his mind, yet, he was unable to stem the tide before the pills swallowed him whole. I should have known that night; autism does not require such strong pills. But my fear won out. And I lost him in every way possible.
Benjamin died last September; I was by his bedside until the very end. I was trying to bring him back from the pit of despair, trying to find him amidst the broken glass strewn in his conscience, trying to come upon his spirit still vying for the spotlight, but hoping to see him in the shadows. After all, a shadow is easily dispelled with the light. But Benjamin feared the shadows the way I feared the spotlight. His mind was addled in the dark, so he embraced the light. Yet, in his quest to stay whole, he was melted by the glare. I was terrified of the world and he was terrified of the emotions tricking his brain. I couldn’t save him. The only question remaining is if I can save myself, as I hold the last of Benjamin’s pills in my hands. But I don’t know if I should let the final curtain fall, or try my hand at glassblowing.