February 15th, 2007 - Ben Woodard
He sits at his desk on Thursday, February 15, 2007, probably processing an invoice, or playing a video game on his work computer, or, if this is the right year, maybe he’s making paper airplanes from the paper airplane desk calendar he received for Christmas.
He is me.
Me as in I, the person typing in 2017.
But there’s a part of me that cannot call the 28-year-old sitting at his desk I, or me, because we are not the same person. It’s difficult to see myself in him or know what he is going through. It’s also nearly impossible to remember a single day ten years ago, so I rely on technology for assistance.
There’s a random web comment I see while researching the date: “My Mother's funeral was that day, we could not bury her, I will never forget that day!” Grammatical flaws aside, it’s amazing to me that one person will never forget a day I hardly remember.
One thing I do know: He just experienced his first Valentine’s Day as a married man, and he’s only one month away from having to decide if the dating anniversary he shares with his wife still needs to be celebrated, or if their new wedding anniversary in May is enough. This is their 12th year together. They are high school sweethearts, and as I write about them, I can add 10 more years to that total.
Another thing I do know: According to an old Yahoo email account, he ordered a book titled How to Cheat at Everything two days ago. It’s about grifting, and I still look at it from time to time.
A third thing (also learned from Yahoo): He is trying to arrange a meet-up with old friends from high school for Saturday. It will happen, and he will have fun, and though he doesn’t know it, he may never see some of those people again. I am still waiting.
A fourth thing, related to the third: Though he is generally happy around people, he travels to dark places sometimes when it’s just him and his wife. His mood turns quickly. He feels lost and uncomfortable. Stress crushes him.
What would he say if I could tell him it will take about 5 more years until he makes a move to curb the jags of depression that leave him sometimes too spent to get out of bed, or that, five years after that, he, as me, will be a college professor, or that he will own a home in the suburbs and go to bed at 10pm and that he will be writing, really writing, and that some of his words will make people happy?
I want to believe he’d be very happy to hear this. But I think it would depend on how much darkness he visited that day.
In just over a year, he and his wife will leave Boston for Connecticut, where she will accept a tenure-track position at a small women’s college and he will struggle to find work until he decides it’s time to finally go back to school to earn the MFA in writing he has coveted for nearly a decade.
I wonder: When does he become me? When he starts graduate school? When he figures out how to climb out of the dark places once and for all?
The body’s cells are in a constant state of regeneration.
We shed so much, yet maybe I am still he, if only a little.
Benjamin Woodard is a writer and teacher living in Connecticut. He is an editor at Numéro Cinq Magazine and Atlas and Alice Magazine. Find him online at benjaminjwoodard.com or on Twitter @woodardwriter.
Ben urges you to learn more about organizations like the ACLU and CAIR. He also recommends people get to know Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, an organization devoted to helping seriously ill children experience the simple joys of being a child. Visit holeinthewallgang.org.