Reflection by Meredith

Gary, Christine, Eric, Matthew, and Liz,

There is no way that I can express how sad I was to hear about Ben; knowing that I won't see him again breaks my heart.  I still remember my visits to your house on breaks from Rice, and even after we graduated. I remember dinners with your family, hearing about the trip that Ben took to Mexico with Liz and watching Matthew and Jana's band practice. 


I think I fell in love with Ben the moment I met him. At 18, I naively thought this was a romantic kind of love, but I soon realized it was something much greater. For the past 13 years, Ben was one of my closest friends, despite the fact that we would go months without talking or emailing and years without seeing each other. Our friendship was so much deeper than that. It was the connection that we had that allowed us to remain so close when we had practically nothing in common. We even had contrary approaches to most of our common interests. And yet somehow, I can’t count the number of nights in college, or even after college when he was living in DC or when he came home to visit you, that we would be up until all hours of the night talking about anything and everything – our shared love of hip hop and travel and our radically different beliefs when it came to religion or how much was an acceptable amount to pay for jeans.


While Ben and I were and are about as different as two people can be, we both appreciated every single one of those differences. I thought he was absolutely crazy for doing ultra races and putting himself through all of that physical pain, but at the same time I envied him. I once asked my mother if I had the mental stamina to do a marathon (barely a quarter of one of his infamous 100 mile races) and she said no, which is probably true. I admired his ability to get into the craziest, and sometimes most dangerous of situations, when he was traveling and to get out of those same situations with such flair. From the bribes he paid when he traveled through various “stans” to his VIP seats at the Whirling Dervishes to his simply walking into the VIP lounge at a club we went to for a hip hop show because “there was more space to dance.” Somehow, no matter where Ben went, everyone believed he belonged.  And he, in his infinite wisdom, had me accompany him on his shopping trips where he attempted, but somehow still managed to usually fail, to “upgrade his wardrobe” and rid it of the baggie corduroys and jeans with holes that were his wardrobe staple. During these trips, we’d both lament the fact that menswear designers still didn't take into account the small section of the male population built like female sprinters, with large muscular thighs and a round butt, when designing and sizing pants.


One of my biggest regrets is that we never traveled together. We were both (I guess I still am) avid travelers and we often shared trip reports and talked about trips to take together, but they never quite happened. Perhaps because my idea of roughing it is staying in a hostel and Ben’s was, well I’m not sure if he would really consider any situation roughing it. Or perhaps because I dream of days when I can just lay on the beach with a fruity drink in my hand and I can’t imagine Ben in that setting for more than 10 minutes. Regardless of the reason, I am truly sad this never happened because I think travel is one of the best ways to see the world but also to bond with the people you are traveling with.


Since I read that Ben’s body had been found I have spent hours listening to The Roots station on Spotify thinking about all of the times we saw them live and reading everyone else’s memories on Facebook and various blogs. What’s amazing to me is how similar everyone’s descriptions of Ben are, and yet we all feel as though we knew him so intimately. That was Ben’s magic.


I used to stop by his dorm room on my way back from the library – I thought I was a rebel because I crammed all of my studying into a couple of hours at the library a few nights a week – and he would give me grief for studying at all. Can you imagine wasting time doing something as silly as reading a textbook at college?!? There were so many ideas to be exchanged, songs to hear and dissect, school events from which to liberate free food, that he couldn’t imagine doing anything so mundane as studying. 


There are other memories of Ben that bring a smile to my face, such as his adamant refusal to get a cell phone long after they seemed to be a necessity of life, explaining that if people really needed to talk to him, they would find him.  Besides, sometimes, he just "liked being unavailable, ya' know?" Then, when he finally did get a cell phone, he called me from San Diego at midnight my time to let me know. With anyone else, I would have been annoyed, but because it was Ben, it just made me smile. We then talked for over two hours, catching up on each of our lives. Ben also had the ability to pull me out of my comfort zone, such as the time he convinced me to go to mass on New Years' Day. I was fairly certain I'd be struck down by lightening when I entered the church, or maybe that I'd melt or fry, but it ended up being a very peaceful day to start the year. Not surprisingly, 10am mass on New Years' Day isn't well attended in DC. 


But of all my memories, the one I choose to keep closest to my heart is a bit vague. It's a collage of so many nights where I found myself lying with my head on his lap on the couch in his dorm room, listening to hip hop and sharing stories and ideas. In my memory, he's wearing that awful pair of tan, wide-leg corduroys and some polo shirt he picked up at a thrift store (a blue one with a green stripe I think), with his hair mid-length. Not short, which I preferred, and not down to his shoulders, but just long enough for the curls to begin to get a mind of their own.

I have no idea what it must be like to lose a son or brother at such a young age and I know that there are not enough words to erase the pain. I can only hope that my memories, along with the outpouring of other stories will help to soften the blow. Please know that your family and memories of Ben are in my thoughts.