I’d like you all to meet Ben. I recently met him while strolling down the sidewalk of my creative subconscious. We introduced ourselves and it turns out we have something in common; I’m an aspiring writer attempting a novel, and he’s the flawed protagonist of said novel. What a coincidence, right? After exchanging pleasantries and some weather-related small talk, we jumped right in to the heavy stuff and I really started to get to know him.
Judging by his steely expressions and hardened features, I would have assumed he was several years my senior, but as it turns out Ben is just 28. He hails from a small town in Wyoming, just east of Cheyenne. It’s funny; I always joked that Wyoming wasn’t a real state, that it was just an extension of Montana or Colorado, because I had never met anyone from there. Well, Ben has officially proven my hypothesis wrong.
He’s one of 4 siblings, though our conversation nearly ended abruptly when I began inquiring about his family. From what I was able to gather, they were a tight-knit group growing up but Ben hasn’t seen or spoken to any of them in years. He quickly changed the subject in order to take back control of the exchange, and we landed on the topic of work. For someone who was so eager to dictate the topic of conversation, he certainly seemed disinterested in my job and workplace. I cut short my response and tossed the question back at him in hopes of drawing him back into our banter.
He described himself as an “IT guy” with the inflection of someone seemingly embarrassed by the words. I asked him if he enjoyed his work, to which he responded, “It’s a job. Pays the bills, you know.”
I nodded but he wasn’t looking at me. He was just staring up at the trees as they swayed in the cold winter breeze. A few moments passed without either of us saying a word. I was trying to come up with another question, like a reporter searching for just the right words to lead his subject down the path he desires, when Ben spoke up.
“Sometimes I wish…” He lowered his eyes from the bare branches to meet mine. I could tell he was about to open up about something and I could feel my eyes widen. Like the groundhog spooked by his shadow, my look of intrigue stopped him mid sentence.
“You know what, I gotta get back to work.” He said and began walking away. “Nice to meet you Jim.”
Before I could say anything, he was 10 feet past me. “Nice to meet you too.” I shouted back at him. He raised a hand without looking back as he continued down the sidewalk. Our conversation lasted all of about five minutes, and while he seemed curt, and at times absent from our discussion, I felt like I learned something about him. His cold demeanor felt unnatural to me, like he was supposed to be a warm and caring man but something in his past sent him veering off track. I can only assume that whatever caused his change in direction, stems from the family he was once a part of, but now refuses to discuss.
I look forward to running into Ben again in the coming days and weeks. I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of this complicated man and with a little more interaction, perhaps I can help him somehow. But hey, what do I know…I’m just the guy who created him.
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