Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Don't make me prove it.

Today is heavy on the Salt. And fucked. Up.

I used to sit in the park with Ben, his head in my lap and I would stroke his hair and sing him Veruca Salt songs. It was our quiet time, downtime, when everything got loud and busy we would usually happen upon each other somewhere slightly removed from the fray and embrace it together because he was a quiet wild man. Perverted as all get out, but quiet nonetheless. We had a lot in common and were so close at one time. So close.

    Take me away, I know
    I could use the rest.
    I wanna clear up this mess.
    I need a few days with my good sense.
    I need a few good days.
    Benjamin, no. Benjamin, no.
    where did you go?

    When you were falling from my tree, I was not scared.
    I thought you'd meet me back up there.
    It never dawned on me you were home free.
    It never dawned on me, no.
    Benjamin, no. Benjamin, no.
    where did you go?

    You said that I could tie you down
    Take me away, I know
    I could use the rest.

He beat me to the finish line and it still smarts, and I am sad. It's been a week.

Ben is moving in with his girlfriend, they're doing well, having been together for what, twelve weeks? Maybe sixteen. They're doing great, and life is good for Ben again. He seems to have found his direction, more importantly he seems to have found love.

Most of the guys eventually forgave him for his indiscretions concerning me, as I did and encouraged them to, he and Jacob were even hanging out a little bit together, probably a mutual parasitic relationship in which Ben could utilize Jacob's uncharacteristic expertise at motorcycle repair and his brawn for moving furniture and Jacob, well, Jacob could keep an eye on Ben.

Because Jacob forgives so easily sometimes, as very good people often do, but don't fool yourself into thinking he ever forgets anything. He never trusted Ben one hundred percent. I did. I still do.

Ben has even brought his girlfriend over a few times for some group dinners and she is wonderful, sweet and has him wrapped. She's so beautiful, dark hair and eyes and skin, tall and graceful, with a wardrobe from a magazine and a flair for putting the guys in their places. She's everything I am not
On the basis of doing everything he can to make his relationship work, Ben requested a private meeting, just me and him, no chaperones, no husbands or well-meaning friends. He was barely granted it, Jacob conceding to letting him close the porch door so we could have a private conversation while he and the other guys were out back having a beer. Of course, I didn't know that Jacob knew the reason behind the meeting, but Ben was smart enough to think ahead so that I would once again have support around me right when I fell. And I'm sorry, but everyone other than Jacob is going to find out here because for once in my life I haven't talked about it at all.

Ben told me he wouldn't be coming around anymore. Ever. Including group activities, if I was going to be present he would skip it. In order for him to give his relationship a fighting chance, he doesn't want to be distracted. He doesn't want my presence in his life because I make him have doubts, I make his mind wander and I make it difficult for him to concentrate on the one he should be with.

Nothing was ever the same between Ben and I when I left Cole. He tried to find his own common ground and be friends with both of us, and he remained close when Cole died and he no longer had to choose who to call first. We stumbled and he went as nuts as I did, understandably, it was a stressful period. There were a lot of dumb moves made by everyone, we all reeled. It wasn't just about me. Things came out during that time period that knocked everyone flat. Ben caused a lot of problems but he helped make a lot of things better.

Maybe I should have written more about the good things Ben did.

I won't even forget some of the memories between us, the times he took up the cause of Cole being a family man and tore a strip off of Loch the night that Loch and Cole drove all night after drinking and Loch wrapped the car around a tree. Ben couldn't believe he could be so stupid to put Cole, a husband, a father in that amount of peril. Uncharacteristic, Ben's driven like that idiotically often in the past and we all gave him hell, but he said, no way, this is Bridget's husband you're taking chances with. They've got kids. I heard Ben's voice echoing in my ears that night long after the police came and removed him from the emergency room for causing a disturbance, he was so far into Loch's face Loch pressed the button for assistance. Luckily, Cole walked away with few scratches and Loch's result was over fifty stitches and a DUI charge.

Ben spending hours with then four-year old Ruthie and two-year old Henry making ice cream from scratch because he said it would blow their tiny little minds. It didn't work but they had a blast. They proceeded to waste a lot of time doing that for the next three summers and never got a decent batch.

Approximately twelve hundred fistfights in front of my eyes because Ben always left his corner swinging at some perceived atrocity, whether he was in hockey gear or not, whether it was his fight or not. He had everyone's back. He was all heart.

And Ben taking time off work to help look after me and the kids and Jacob, who was struggling to keep it all together under a massive workload and a life-altering spring, a wounded and threatened girlfriend, two children who were suddenly his sole responsibility and a best friend turned worst enemy. I remember one morning about three or four days afterward I was struggling to get into a sweater with my sling on and I was so frustrated I had started to cry and Ben went and got one of Jacob's big zip-up fleece sweaters and he put it on me over everything and zipped it up and even left my hair inside the collar like I like it and he sat with me for hours, bored out of his mind while I stared out the window in shock. He made dumb jokes and gently forced me outside for walks as soon as I was ready and he dropped everything to help out until I was healed. He stole every sprig of lilac bloom he could find off the neighbors' trees because he knew they cheered me up. He did intimate things he had no business doing in life but things that caregivers do every day when someone is hurt or unable and I marvelled at his objectivity. It was the one time he skipped the jokes and was serious. I met a version of Ben last May that I didn't know before.

He was one of my favorite people and now he's kissed me off, written me out of his life in favor of a different one, probably a calmer one, one that is full of love without tension, and without history weighing down the days. Friendship without pain. Breathing without coveting Bridget. Moving on already.

I can't blame him, but I'm allowing it to hurt. I bet it felt good for him. I wrote him out more than one over the past year out of necessity and maybe payback makes it okay. I know this isn't a temporary exclusion, it's permanent and it involves Jacob too. Ben has asked that I include him in the long-distance email updates I send out when the kids reach certain milestones and so I added his address to that group and removed it from everything else. His number is gone from my phone, all of his books, DVDs and orphaned sports gear have been collected and returned.

Unlike everyone else who has drifted or moved away, Ben didn't tell me that if I ever needed anything to call him, he knows that role has been filled many times over. He told me he would always love me but now it was time for him to go and find his own new untainted happiness, just for him, and that I fucked him up hard, and he wished that he had never met me.

I can see what you're saying
But I don't hear you at all.

It wasn't a gracious exit and it was intended to cause pain. It did, some of what he said being positively unprintable in his need to twist until I bled.

I didn't cry until he was gone. And then I think I cried for the rest of that day and some of the next.

It was a predictable finish to a fucked-up friendship and though we found each other a few times, it still hurts to lose a friend. It hurts a whole hell of a lot. I did love him. I think I always will.

Now everyone in my world is going to nod and proclaim that this is good, that Ben and I were so bad for each other (yeah, at one point our nickname was the toxic twins and we liked it.) and should have gone our separate ways a long time ago. I don't have a lot of friends, and I can't make new ones, for I don't know quite how to keep them at arms length. It's becoming a trend, can't you see it?

I always hold just a little too tight, just a little too long. It wasn't Ben, it was Bridget.

It's me.

    Decembers all alone and he's calling me on the phone
    But he sounds so cold
    He says he loves me so
    But how would I ever know?
    Certain words grow old
    Its a vicious kind of catch
    It sides me blind now
    I'm out of my mind
    I want to scream
    Don't you want to be happy with me?

    I'm afraid if you don't come around soon
    I'll turn sadder than you ever were
    And you'll learn loneliness is worse

I will always love you, Ben.