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It was that moment when he realized he’d been going in the wrong direction. For Ben, it was the same feeling of missing a step in the dark, the certainty that it had been there, even while tumbling down. He would wonder how his life could possibly have turned out the way it had, even though he knew. Usually, he could shake it off, and not allow it to interrupt whatever debauchery he was in or about to get into, and not think about it for as long as he could help it. He had no business hoping to be anything more than what he was – a partier, a philanderer, and a mad genius equally capable of talking his way out of trouble as figuring out the point where x equalled y. Figuring out where something magical could be built from nothing.
To ask for more would only be setting himself up for disaster. That’s what he told himself, every single time that pesky little bit of what if infiltrated his drug-addled brain.
Every time except for the last time.
It had been unpredictable, that birth of hope. Nothing he really hoped for ever happened, after all. But last year, it had started in rehab with that sunrise over the ocean, and the realization that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been awake early enough to actually see the sun, let alone a sunrise. He scheduled his projects and classes and whatever else he was up to for the afternoons and evenings, so he could enjoy the nights and spend the mornings sleeping them off. When he was in rehab, it was usually the same – whatever withdrawal sickness he was going through left him limp and exhausted, and when that was over, his appointments and meetings were never that early, anyway.
So, he wasn’t exactly sure what had gotten him out of bed on that Friday morning in August during his California convalescence. It was harder than usual to shake off this most recent trip to the edge of the mortal coil. Really, he hadn’t been able to sleep much that night, so he had given up when the first hints of the day bled through the gauzy curtains of his room. He was steeped in a familiar mixture of sorrow, self-loathing and shame, questions going around and around in his mind. How had he lost track of what he’d been taking? How had he wound up here again? He was smarter than that. He knew better – he knew what happened when he overdosed.
Like always, they assumed he was like his mother, and would commit him until he was no longer a “danger” to himself. And for a few days or weeks he’d be unable to do anything more than go through the motions and charm them into letting him go early, so that he could go about his life and get back to the fun bits.
But after that LA PACE project, he’d gone too far, and gotten into a spot of legal trouble that he couldn’t quite talk his way out of, and had been nicely asked to voluntarily check himself into a shiny, upbeat facility that was supposed to get him clean and sober. Laughing, he’d taken the deal, already planning what he would do and who he would meet up with when he was let out for good behaviour.
Ah, yes, he remembered, now. He’d gone to the balcony to toss out the workbooks and journals and crap they had given him. He’d stopped to marvel at the fact that anyone could leap over the balcony and to their deaths if they so chose. It was pretty poor design, but one that he was grateful for. And then the first rays of the sun had glittered over the ocean, and he had heard the Voice.
His attempts to dismiss it, laugh it off, and remain rooted in his self-punishment gave way to the tiniest crack of doubt. The Voice hadn’t used words, exactly. Rather, it reached inside of him, scooping out whatever it was that was holding him together for all the years since his mother had died. It left him bereft, empty, and without a clue of how to put himself back to rights. And then, that box of hope that he had so carefully tucked away into that far corner of his mind burst wide open, unable to contain all of his dreams and longings and the deepest desires of his heart.
At some point, when the torrent had slowed to a trickle and he lay crumpled like a wet rag in a corner of the balcony, he had come to a place of exhausted acceptance. And as he’d been bathed in light so pure and golden and all-penetrating, he’d finally released a wordless plea that he never believed could be fulfilled: Save me. Help me. I’m not done yet.
Love. Love had taken a hold of him like a vice, just for that one moment, and he hadn’t been able to breathe. He didn’t know whether it was God, and if so, which one. He’d vowed to make amends, and do whatever it took to make himself worthy of that box of dreams. On pain of hell or bad karma or whatever cosmic consequences would hold him accountable, he was determined to change. But he hadn’t accounted for one thing: other people in his life, and the betrayals that came with putting it all on the line for someone else. All those memories that had continually stabbed him, reminding him of the past that he hadn’t been able to outrun.
It was bad enough when he didn’t see it coming.
It was worse when it was someone who had claimed to love him.
It was even worse when he was the one who had killed that love. Whether he meant to or not.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13