This Is Really Happening

In the end, in the waning hours of this weekend, I am left, miraculously, speechless.

I am, as you might gather, rarely without something to say. And at numerous times over the course of this ridiculously active weekend I have wondered aloud why my gums were flapping at all. What was the point of what I was saying? Just to fill empty space?

Heather and I were driving back from Ikea this morning. We were approaching the Lincoln Tunnel exit on the New Jersey Turnpike, a brand-new chair to match my brand-new couch in the trunk, when I caught myself mid-story and asked, “Why the hell am I ever telling you this?”

It wasn’t something that mattered, it was just a recollection. I was driving back from the Almost Home tour a few years back. I was on the same stretch of road. I’d been driving from days. This particular day I had set out from Carrboro, NC, and was making the ten-hour trek in one shot. And I was in a hurry. U2 was pegged on the car stereo. The windows were down. The sun was setting. And I had somewhere to go: a date. So I was speeding. Big time. At one point I looked down and saw the needle flirting with 90 mph and I thought, ‘You’re going to kill yourself ten miles from home.’ So I slowed down.

This is the story I was telling her. That was the three minutes she’ll never get back. No punchline, no epiphany, no moral. Just the sound of my voice over the hum of the tires.

She pitched in on a major spring cleaning this afternoon. We listened to Smokey Junglefrog and other examples of my musical ephemera as I rifled through boxes of CDs, DATs, DV, beta and VHS tape trying to decide what to throw away, what to give away, and what to keep. Every so often I’d stumble across an old photo and spin off into some distant memory. “All I remember from that day,” I said of a photo of a four-year-old me in red overalls, “Is that my sleeve got cought in my dad’s drill on that same patio. I didn’t get hurt, it just scared me.”

And I realized then that all the stories we tell, all the songs we write, all the photos we take and journal entries we post on the internet, they’re really just some kind of mile marker. They’re just graffiti: “Benjamin Was Here.” And that’s really all we want, right? Some evidence, some confirmation, that we’re really here? That this isn’t a figment of our imagination? ‘Look, here’s evidence! I was six-years-old once! I had a pony tail once! I was blissfully unaware. Once. Next thing I knew, I was doing ninety on the New Jersey Turnpike, trying to get back to some girl. And then I died.’

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