A story of letting go and of those left behind, Benjamin explores the deep and complicated facets of human emotion. It follows Amily, a young woman, through her long and tumultuous relationship with Benjamin, who has over the years been dream, friend, teacher, lover, and finally, uneasy companion. When she learns that Benjamin has been diagnosed with cancer, although she hasn’t seen him in years, she rushes back to her hometown, so that he can finally teach her the final lesson: how to say goodbye.
I remember my dreams as impressions rather than images. My mind is wired for words and language, not visuals.
In the haze of sleep I feel lost. I think I’m scared, but it might just be hurt. There’s a feeling like nausea of the mind, a deep rooted sadness that can seem like sickness. My heart is retching. Someone unseen has betrayed me. I am reeling in the aftermath.
My mind is dark, and I am alone. That much, I know for sure.
When I wake up, it isn’t morning yet, and my first thought is of Benjamin. It has been every morning for nine years now. I try to go back to sleep, but it’s something called insomnia. There are three patterns for it to follow and I’ve had the one they call ‘nocturnal awakenings’ for years now. I lay in the dark and I think of him, and how he did this to me, left me tired and pale and isolated.
By the time the sun rises and leaves me lying in a patch of yellow, I’ve managed to convince myself all over again that I’ve done it to myself.
And that’s the way it should be.
* * * *
“Amily?” I know her voice as soon as she speaks, and I relax.
“When do you work tomorrow? I’m going to see Ben.”
Immediately, without thought, I respond. “He’s out of food. I was just there, he wouldn’t let me go out and get him anything.”
She sighs, sounding heavy. “I figured.”
Automatic, again. “I still had my lunch, he ate that for dinner. He’s not hungry.”
“I know, Amily, don’t worry. When do you work tomorrow?”
“Right, sorry.” I rub my exhausted eyes. “I have the day off. I was going to go to Benjamin’s in the morning anyway. I’m sure I’ll see you.”
“Amily...why don’t you just take a day for yourself tomorrow? You sound so tired.”
“You worry about him more than you worry about yourself.” There is a clatter on her end, the sound of something breaking, and then quiet cursing.
“Really, Hannah. I’m okay.”
“You spend too much time inside. You used to glow when the sun came out.”
I close my eyes, and try to convince myself that I won’t take this as an insult. I say steadily, “I get out sometimes, don’t worry.”
“You should pamper yourself on your day off.” She’s starting to sound distracted, her interest in my conversation waning. “Paint your toenails.”
I smile softly, remembering when I was ten years old and she painted them for me. It seemed I never bored her then.
“At least sleep in,” she says. “You don’t need to be there early.”
“If I don’t see you at Ben’s, I’ll stop by on my way home. Really, just sleep in.”
After I hang up the phone, my tiny apartment seems too quiet. I’ve lived here over a year, and still my furniture is sparse. I have hundreds of books and inadequate shelving, so half of my library sleeps in stacks in one corner of my living room. The walls are still covered in white spots of putty. The rent was reduced if I agreed to paint myself, and I just haven’t found the time. But the family upstairs is quiet. It’s close to Benjamin.
I sit down on my couch, and I have no TV, but I can watch anything I like on my computer. The family upstairs, in addition to being quiet, doesn’t know how to password protect their wireless signal. Opening my laptop, I arrange it on the couch cushion beside me. I look around at the silence and desolation of my home life, and I wonder again if I should go to the animal shelter and get myself a kitten.
But I’m not home enough to take care of it. This is an argument I have with myself nightly. So I put something on the screen, something bright and loud, and I do my best to forget about everything else.