A Thousand Little Benjies by Mohammad Sadegh Sadeghi

I

A thousand little Benjies constantly talk in my head. A thousand little creatures speaking, some in subdued almost suppressed and some in apprehensive yet hollow tones, somewhere in my head. They all talk, all of them, together, simultaneously. Shut up, shut up, shut up. They keep repeating those words. Like parrots on cocaine, they keep repeating those words. Blah, Blah, Blah. Tickets please, sir. I was sitting, and the clock went one, then two, then three, then she came picked me up and then we were here and I was sitting again but we were moving. And we are moving, and they are moving, and those are moving, and maybe it was a bicycle and not a bike. Maybe we’re not moving at all, and it’s just my head horsing around. I have liquid memories and container moods, the latter follows shape and the former follows suit. I press my eyes against my palms, and I melt right through. They won’t let me forget. These bastards won’t let me forget.

“Then why are you two even still together?”

“You, because of you.”

“Baby I won’t do it again, I swear I’ll never do any of these things ever again. I’ll stop. Please, I swear, nobody else needs to know about this”

“Don’t you think about these things now son, okay? You go to your school and you make us proud, okay?”

“Hey Benjy, Bob’s got the car, painting the city red tonight, you coming?

“I would, but I’m just not feeling it tonight. You guys go ahead, I see you tomorrow”

Can I get you anything sir?

“What is wrong with you? Why can’t you just shut that big mouth of yours and be happy like the other boys? Why you gotta always go around rambling about these stupid stuff and make everybody upset. You’re not good for people you know, you make everybody around you sad.”

It’s usually said that in order to survive human beings need love in their lives. They need to love their family, they need to love their friends, they need to love their town. Since there’s no protection from your own reflection, you seek an escape through someone or something hoping that maybe they can provide you with the service. But what does someone who can’t seek love in his family, and who has hated his town as soon as he knew where he was living do? He seeks love in his friends of course. And friends are great, they’re always there for you. Until they’re not. What’s he to do with no friends? Benjy, could you move over a little?

I’ve been standing here with my eyes fixed on a chair and this rope in my hand, out of my mind. I’ve been gazing at the sky through this enormous window in front of me, but I don’t remember seeing anything. It’s never a delightful view anyway. It’s never a clear sky, more than often it’s a violent one disturbed by all the shouting. At last I put the rope back under the bed and get on with reminiscing as I rest my head against a pillow. They used to call us The Bobs and the one and only Benjamin. I’m lying, no one ever called us that. You see they were all named Bob; there was Bob, there was Rob, and there was Bob Jr., and I was, well, the one and only Benjamin. The Bobs, they were my best friends. We did everything together, and this is no exaggeration. We woke up every day as inmates awaiting the chance of escape, we walked then as free jubilant men to the same school, and by the end of the day intoxicated with happiness we acted like mad men who needed to be locked up. Our home was the neighborhood playground; we lived together. We did so until we were fifteen. We played, and we played and we played, until there were no more strength left in us to do so, and then tired as we were we laid back on the slides, which were more comfortable to us than any bed ever was. And what happened on the slides was magic. We dreamt the same dream, we had the same fantasy, and each contributing with our own silly ideas we painted a single picture. Our dream, however silly, was to take a one-week trip to the city, to spend a week just the four of us, to achieve the ultimate goal; to literally live together. And ever since they left me, that sweet childish dream has been left to be echoed only by the pale colored walls of my room. I might as well paint them black because, that dream is shattered, the Bobs are gone, and I have become the one and lonely Benjamin.

II

I’m here. Killed the flickering lights on my motorcycle, closed my eyes, threw my arms out reaching for nothing, rode my bike straight into the darkness under the bridge only to find my escape through a gate to a darker side, and I’m here.

“Hey guys I’m home. It’s me, Benjy. I know I’m late, seven hundred and thirty-one nights late now counting tonight, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t go with you that night, I’m sorry that I wasn’t there, that I wasn’t with you, that I wasn’t happy. You see my mom and dad were fighting that night and I just wasn’t in a good mood, how the hell could I know that this would happen. But it’s not fair you know, you guys flew your way away all the way to the city and all it took was a stupid drunk truck driver driving against the traffic, and I’m stuck here; in the loneliest corner of the universe. We had different plans.” Did you pack everything?

I could go on shouting for as long as I wanted to, but I wouldn’t get any response from my company, and no extraterrestrial being would bother the perfect silence, so I give up on the ground. We buried what were left of the bodies in a graveyard uptown, but to escape the silent and the dreary stones I come here where I can still hear them laughing. This place, where the first fields emerge to the passengers’ eyes and where the road out town comes to its end, right next to this highway, used to be a graveyard too. Dirt and grass cover most of the old graves, but I can hear one or two still breathing right next to me, communicating with each breath. They hate this town too, and if I close my eyes I can sense their presence, watching the flashy highway with me. Wow, look at those mountains. Benjy, are you looking? I sit here still and I watch them all pass by, the moon and the stars, the people, the cars. They never seem to notice me sitting here a phantom like figure witness to their frantic behavior. Just like my parents. The cars, they just go.

It’s a curious case. Where it all begins pieces are put together and cars are born. They are then put on a highway alongside other cars and told to go, and they spend all their life trying to reach the end of the highway. Now some don’t make it and some lose their way but most, if chosen wisely, find companions in other cars who can make the journey all the more pleasant to them. However, the unfortunate ones are still stuck with the wrong match to go through a sour journey instead. And riding through smooth and bumpy roads, all along the way, the question none ever asks is: what happens when they reach the end of the highway? What then? Do they stop? Do they keep going? They just, go? “What do you guys think?”

But not to lose my track of thought, aside from this usual wondering, one other specific thought was to occupy my mind and to be shared with you tonight; a recent request. “I think I’ve found a new friend guys, though he’s name is not Bob, hahaha.” It’s odd, he found me deep in my thoughts, keeping to myself with an expression almost same as a dead man’s on my face, and instead of shunning me he told me with a stupid smile on his face that he’s name is Jim and that he would like it if we could hang sometime. And it’s weird since lately the only thing I’ve thought about hanging with is a rope which rests under my bed. I of course chose the friend over the rope. He’s a sixteen years old outcast with parents on the verge of divorce too, and I have found him to be unusually like me in many ways except that he’s an admirer of Nikki. She promises to provide him some peace through her magical relaxing powers I guess. I, however, could never smoke. Even though right now I wish I had a cigarette to evaporate this liquid that’s ruining the ink on my notebook’s paper.

III

You don’t know how little you matter until you’re all alone, sitting in the corner of your room with your hands wrapped around your ears trying your hardest to block the piercing noises coming from the battlefield upstairs, where your parents are busy destroying what was never properly built, ironically together. You force all of your pent-up anger on your poor ears, but what good does it do when the noises are fixed in your head? You walk and walk and walk your way to the moon, but peace of mind is nowhere to be found. You come up with speeches in your head; ways of expressing your “childish” mind to your parents, but you remember how useless your previous attempts have been. It’s an uphill battle with steep challenges. It’s two against one. Escape is the solution so you flee from the battlefield, and flee I did. It’s going to be just lovely there.

Such a seamless transition it was. I took the ol’ bike, picked up Jim, and headed for home. I Killed the flickering lights on my motorcycle, closed my eyes, threw my arms out reaching for nothing, rode my bike straight into the darkness under the bridge only to find my escape through a gate to a darker side, and we were there. We sat there for what felt like ages, me curling up into the act of a motionless witness to the turbulent highway with eyes opened to their utmost width, and Jim getting started on his worshiping rituals for the enchanting Nikki with the help of his faithful lighter. I was about to disturb the perfect silence as I turned to him in a burst of laughter and said:

“You know what was Adam and Eve’s grand mistake Jim? The one that was most significant in their pitiful lives? The one that were to haunt the human race to its end?”

I paused a minute to seek an answer in his face, which was covered with the smoke exhaled anxiously out his lungs, and finding it hard to read any expression through the released cloud of tension I continued:

“Now you know the story; Adam and Eve were perhaps the only human beings ever that were genuinely happy, living the ultimate fantasy in the most desired dreamland, dominating all other heavenly creatures. That is until they finally committed to their god designed childish nature; did what they were asked not to do and tasted that damned forbidden fruit with a stupid smile on their faces probably thinking ‘Yes we did it. We ate the fruit. We know we’re naked now, so what? We’ll do whatever we want to do’ Adam and Eve were cool kids, you know. And god of course did what every other child would do in this classic fight over power, he got back at them by sending Adam and Eve to live the rest of their miserable lives as mere mortals on earth, where they would suffer until the last of their days.” He sat there as silent as the other ghosts of the highway lounge, his face now almost fading away with the cloud of smoke as though he was turning to one of the ghost residents.

“Most people deemed that to be Adam and Eve’s first misstep, the worst mistake ever made by any human and called it, The Big Mistake. They wrote books about it of course, like they wrote books about all the other grand events. They taught their children all about it too and asked them to do the same for their children, and so they made sure that every fallen soul on earth knew the story of The Big Mistake. But they did it wrong. They told the story wrong. Eating the forbidden fruit wasn’t Adam and Eve’s worst mistake. It was a crime, sure, and like any other crime you see Adam and Eve needed only to do their time on earth, and then maybe they could die and go right back to heaven. We are all told after all that those who are righteous and give themselves to the Lord shall go back to the most desired dreamland once again and live happily ever after when they die, right? And that is what happens when we die righteous, isn’t it? But the greatest trick that the devil ever pulled was to convince Adam and Eve to bear children here on earth, where their obedient children could continue suffering for generations by imitating their parents, and it was in that very moment that they made the mistake signaling the beginning and the destruction of human race, by involving more people in their punishment and setting a pattern through which god’s judgment could be passed on to eternity. For that we children of Adam and Eve are doomed to suffer in this wasteland and pay for our parents’ mistake forever. And my parents made a mistake too, just like Adam and Eve, when they decided to marry each other. When my mom thought it was a good idea to marry a man ten years older than him with whom she has nothing in common, when my dad succumbed to his parents’ will and thought he could tame the shrew, when they decided to go on living together each leading two completely different lives, my mom as a young and reckless woman and my dad as an old exhausted settler, but most notably when they decided to bring me in to this limbo, make me a part of this nonstop suffering, to save their beyond any repair marriage. Now I too have to pay for my parents’ mistake until the day I find another unfortunate soul with whom I can bear yet another victim for the system, and so continue this chain of suffering even further, and I don’t want to. I don’t want to make that mistake. I don’t want this punishment to go on. I don’t want to be another imitant of my ancestors. I wish Adam and Eve had killed themselves. Then no one else ever had to suffer, then I didn’t have to be here tonight thinking about how I have to wake up tomorrow morning, go to that goddamned court and stand there as somebdy chooses for me which of my parents I’m going to live with, chooses with which I can go through the rest of a bitter life. I don’t want to wake up.

“And you don’t have to.” I heard him say as he put the knife in my hand and pushed it through my chest. But as I looked up I could no longer see him, he seemed to have vanished with the smoke that could be traced back to the cigarette in my hand.

Hey, what are you thinking about?

 

Mohammad Sadegh Sadeghi

Banner Image: Pixabay.com

 

6 thoughts on “A Thousand Little Benjies by Mohammad Sadegh Sadeghi

  1. Hi,
    We were all delighted that this got onto the site.
    You showed a professionalism and your story has benefited.
    There was a lot of observation within this and maybe the front story actually took a back seat. That is a very difficult thing to do. You achieved this and made this an interesting and thoughtful piece of work.
    I am looking forward to seeing what else you come up with.
    Hugh

    Like

    • Thank you Hugh for your kind words, and for giving me the push that I needed to improve my story.
      I appreciate the time you all put in, and I am very grateful for your support.
      I do hope to be able to send you some new material soon!
      Sadegh

      Like

  2. Some great turns of phrase in here. “Liquid memories and container moods,” “ghosts of the highway lounge.” Reads like a long prose poem in places. I like the overall aesthetic, dark and angsty without being too self-conscious about it.

    Like

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