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Ben wondered if it would ever stop hurting. The pain was so intense that he couldn’t even form thoughts around it. It was so sharp that it cut just to look at it, and all he could do was stare out the window and try not to move. How many times would the memories come back before he got used to them?
Maybe his mother had been right to leave. He could understand now, how tired she must have been, battling faceless demons and never knowing whether any progress was being made. Knowing that emotional destruction was right around the corner, and that no matter how hard she tried, she would never quite be rid of the past.
It would always come back to haunt him. Someone, either intentionally or unintentionally, would always be there with a reminder of what he’d done.
He was so tired. Would his head ever feel normal? Would he ever stop feeling like he was one wrong move away from falling off that cliff?
His cravings were so strong, like a caged tiger at the back of his mind. A lot of things were caged back there, actually. He floated above the river of his thoughts, and all there was, really, was that window and the blue, blue sky beyond. He should shut it. The light was bothering his eyes, making it hard to sleep. Lanie thought it was good for him to see the light, but she was wrong. Things only made sense in the dark.
How could he expect her to keep taking care of him? She wanted her to talk to him, tell her what was on his mind. But it was always the same things. He was a broken record. He wanted to talk. He wanted nothing more than to pour out everything to her, but he knew he would just end up back in the same place again, spouting the same old story again and again. Of course, she would get tired of it. He was tired of it.
He tried again to call Bel, but he didn’t answer the phone. Neither did Jake, or John, or Ian. He even considered calling Pastor Anderson, but that seemed like going too far. He didn’t bother to leave any messages, just continued staring out the window.
He knew he should probably try to get himself to a hospital. But that felt like admitting defeat. He was supposed to be a leader. Strong and reliable, able to carry the burdens of those around him. He shouldn’t be lying here in bed, crying and feeling sorry for himself. He should be out there, helping Lanie get the kids ready for school. He shouldn’t be lying here, waiting for her to come back, not even sure if he wanted to see her, but hoping it might spark something, anything, in him. What was he expecting? No one could save him from this. It was selfish of him to expect that. It was selfish of him to burden them, especially when he would continue to be an unstable mess for the rest of his life.
He should have known that his future had been written in his mother’s blood. As much as he had tried to run from her legacy and keep himself from ever going near that dark place, he’d failed. He’d tried to surround himself with bright shiny things that made him happy, but all he did was hurt people and leave destruction in his wake. Why he had ever thought he could do anything more, that he could change who he was or make up for his past, was beyond him. Why did he think that anything he could do would keep him from falling down that same pit? He was only a man.
Dre shouldn’t be seeing him like this. He shouldn’t be seeing what Ben had seen in the last days of his mother’s life. The hopelessness. The despair. The apathy. Ben had been quite certain that his mother simply didn’t love him anymore, and that everything he did was making her sad. That was the last thing that Ben wanted for his boy. At least with the Folgers, it had been quick. Dre had never had to worry that he wasn’t loved or wanted.
Why hadn’t he just let the drugs kill him in the attic when Lanie had been gone? At least then there wouldn’t have been that spark of hope from men’s group that maybe he could become a different person, if he just worked hard enough.
He stared at the window, at the spot where he knew there were several small and very powerful pills hidden above the sill.
He knew he should call Pastor Anderson, and get a ride to the hospital. In the back of his mind, he was scared of where his thoughts were leading him. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t even want to experience another overdose and go through that whole thing. He didn’t want to have to explain to anyone why he had done it, and why he had done it “again.” He didn’t know why he wasn’t strong enough to hold on to the will to live. He didn’t know why thoughts of his son or his baby girls weren’t enough to make him fight. He just knew that if he was gone, things would be easier for all of them, and they would finally be able to have the life they deserved. Lanie could be with someone like Jake, or Bel, who weren’t touched by the same darkness he was. Lanie had so many people in her corner that he was redundant.
They would be so, so much better off without him. He should have known that he would never be able to offer anything of value to a family. He’d never be anything like Bob Anderson, or Lloyd O’Malley, or John Wright. He was a Sean Carter, inside and out.
Downstairs, the door slammed, and after a few minutes, he heard heavy, exhausted footsteps trudging up the stairs. They paused outside the door, and she stayed there for so long that he shifted, turning over to look at the door just as she opened it. Their eyes met. She tried to smile at him.
“Hey, there, B. How are you feeling?”
She crept closer, then sat on the bed. There were lines around her eyes that made it hard to look at her. Her usual mass of escaped curls hung limp and scraggly around her face, and he wondered at the last time she had taken a shower. Or done anything for herself, really. What would she be doing now, if she didn’t have him to look after?
She twisted her hands in her heart pendant, and it flashed in his eyes, but he couldn’t even blink. “Can I get you something? It looks like you’ve still got some water. And you didn’t eat your cookies. Do you want to try some watermelon? I got a fresh one downstairs.”
Suddenly, unexpectedly overcome, he reached for her. Willingly, she leaned down until he was able to pull her to him. Trying desperately to find some sort of feeling, he wrapped himself around her and buried his face in her hair. He thought of all the pain and worry he had caused her over the last couple of years, and the sharpness of his self-loathing returned. She had already been hurt so much by the men in her life. He had never wanted to join the long list of people she had to recover from knowing. He had never wanted to be just another man that she thought of whenever she was hurt. Whoever the next man would be, he was sorry that he had spoiled her for him just a little more.
He loved her so much. He couldn’t believe that he was doing this to her. To all of them. They deserved so much better.
He closed his eyes and held her tighter. One last time.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13