Ben died this morning.
Ben was a fabulously hilarious person. You’d have liked him. Well, then again, maybe not. Truth is, he was wildly opinionated and stubborn. He could have me gnashing my teeth in frustration one minute and laughing until I
shit peed my pants the next. He was also my best friend, confidante and partner-in-crime for the better part of thirty years.
We would finish each others sentences, read each other’s minds and at times we’d joke about the eventuality of our fusing together as one gigantic bitch. Ben and Jen, Jen and Ben. The original “Bennifer” we called ourselves. We were inseparable. Even as I moved from state to state, Ben was just a marathon phone call away. He would come see me every Christmas, no matter where I landed. We took countless trips together – Las Vegas, Chicago, Key West, New York City and many many more.
We would pick apart our boyfriends. We would bitch about work. We would comment on pop culture. “Richie Sambora? Girl, he’s like a Chanel suit, he NEVER goes out of style”. We both fell in love simultaneously with Nate Berkus.
Often, extremely late at night when it was just the two of us we’d settle onto a sofa or a beach or roof somewhere with a bottle of SKYY Vodka and have a summit in which we would actually get serious and share our dreams, secrets and aspirations. We’d talk about anything and everything. Our accomplishments and failures. Our embarrassments. Whatever true story our heart was holding, we’d share it with each other and over the years, it was like we knew each other from the inside out.
Except that we didn’t.
Ben drank himself to death and I couldn’t stop him.
It took a long time, but I know there was never another outcome to our story. I watched and listened over the years when quiet concern gave way to paralyzing paranoia. I heard lie after lie come out of his mouth. I never understood what demons he was fighting, as he increasingly became more withdrawn. It was like his skull was full of razor blades and I hardly recognized this person he had become.
I tried to help but then became more and more frustrated when he’d dismiss my suggestions. He’d laugh and tease me with his caustic opinions on recovery or any other organized addiction groups. It was too late in the game when he finally came around. I think over the years there was depression, mental illness and what they refer to as alcoholic dementia. My best friend was gone, but he wasn’t, and that’s a difficult mourning process.
In the days ahead I’ll have plenty of grieving to do myself. Right now I’m still in disbelief, as insane as that sounds.
He was family. He was my best friend. He was the olive to my martini. And now I’m sober and he’s gone. I’m angry that instead of joyful memories of the past I’m left with rueful snapshots of frivolity and recklessness instead of just good times.
It wasn’t supposed to go this way.