Whatever Happened to Benjamin R?
Most guys have a bachelor party. This is what I did.
It’s March 17, 2000, barely twelve hours before I get married. I’m standing at an airport gate as passengers from a Salt Lake City flight stream past me. I’m scanning each face for someone I haven’t seen since I was ten years old. After several minutes of waiting, I’m starting to get nervous because I’m not sure we’ll recognize each other. But when he finally walks off that ramp, he takes one look at me and gives me a wide smile, one that I would know anywhere.
It’s Benjamin R., my very first best friend.
I met Benjamin outside his mansion of a house when we were seven. He was a skinny Mormon kid with six brothers and sisters. He wore hand-me-down clothes and told me this was the only house in the area big enough for his family. And what a house! Marble floors, a pool in the basement, and a fully-equipped game room upstairs with an air hockey table and pinball machines.
He took me on a tour. Then we started talking about our Star Wars and GI Joe toys, and I knew we’d be hanging out as often as possible.
Starting that summer, we would get together early every morning to ride bikes, play tag, and train to be ninja warriors. We’d sleep over at each other’s houses, talking till we fell asleep about toys and fights and football. We’d watch Knight Rider or Misfits of Science. Then play Commodore 64 games. Or wrestle like we were Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.
We did everything together, even things we ended up regretting. Once, we fell for a couple of girls in our class. We talked each other into calling our young loves, convinced if we confessed our deepest feelings they would melt. Maybe they’d even let us talk to them on the playground. We grabbed the telephone, and I went first.
The poor girl I called, Moria, was horrified. I was trying to be suave, but slowly went from dumb to goofy to darn near aggressive. She told her dad. Her dad eventually had a talk with my dad. My dad made me call and apologize. It was the most ashamed I had ever felt in my short life.
Benjamin called a tiny brunette named Tara. He started out smiling, then I watched him deflate slowly as he grew silent, said goodbye, then hung up the phone. He stared down at his arms and told me the verdict: he was “too boney” for her. We collapsed onto my couch, shock radiating off us in waves.
We went through a few fights, but always stayed best friends. We had everything in common and rarely got tired of each other’s company. Whatever I told him, whatever I did, he never turned on me, never made fun of me.
But one day, when I arrived home from school, my mom was speaking in hushed tones on the kitchen telephone. It was Benjamin’s mom. His dad had gotten a new job, and they were moving to Arizona.
We promised to write and call each other, but ten-year-old boys don’t have much to say in letters, and long-distance calls were expensive back then. We lost touch, and my life lost some of its color and light.
But fourteen years later, when my fiancé and I began making out invitation lists, I went searching online for Benjamin R. I found an email address and wrote him. To my surprise, he replied with his phone number and a promise to fly in for my wedding.
Now, seeing him after all these years, I’m amazed at how little he has changed. We start talking immediately, picking up right where we left off. I’m just starting out work as a church music director, and I’m marrying my high school sweetheart. He took his Mormon mission to Bulgaria, is married with kids, and now works full time for the Mormon church.
We decide to drop by a Walgreens and buy some cheap cookies & cream ice cream. When we arrive at my spare apartment, he shakes his head when I attempt to serve him ice cream off the top. He shows me how to dig through and get the biggest cookies out of the bottom. This is our first sleepover since 1986. It’s the best bachelor party I could have ever hoped for.
Now that we’re in touch, we call each other from time to time. He tells me how he and his wife lost a baby, and how much that hurt. He tells me how the Holy Spirit comforted him in that moment, and though I don’t understand his religion, I’m moved by it.
He tells me how he struggled to find another friend like me. Once, when times were tough and he was feeling especially lonely, his mom told him, “We just need to find you another Cory Edwards.” I felt the same way, because I never found another Benjamin R.
I’ve had many, many wonderful friends over the years. The loss of any of them would leave a tremendous hole in my heart. When it comes to people, we only get one of each. My advice: when you are lucky enough to find someone that means as much to you as Benjamin meant to me. . .
Is there someone in your past you lost touch with that you wish you hadn’t? Leave a comment and tell me about that person.