I could tell something had been on Ben's mind all evening. He had been distracted since he picked me up from my dorm at North Campus, and his demeanor was much more subdued than I'd ever seen. He called me from the front desk instead of knocking on my door, he hadn't told me I looked nice.. it was just... weird.
I wondered, had practice been rough? Was something going on with his roommates? He'd said no when I'd asked him. We'd driven in silence to the theater, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable now that we were leaving. He was still really distant.
We got in his car, and he put Cypress Hill in the CD player. That album drove me insane, and he knew it. He stared, his jaw muscles visibly tense, out through the windshield, while I turned my head toward the passenger window. As the minutes wore on, my stomach muscles tightened and worst case scenarios flashed through my head. Why wouldn't he talk to me? Had I done something? Was he going to break up with me after just a few weeks of dating? Maybe he had met someone else..
I was jolted out of my swirling thoughts of dread by his sudden yanking of the steering wheel into a parking lot. Why were we in front of Ellington School?
He stomped on the brake and put the car in park. Then he slammed his fist into the door.
“Fuck!” he yelled. And that's when the tears started.
I inhaled sharply from shock, and then the realization washed over me that the anniversary of his mom's death had been coming up soon. What day was it? I hadn't even thought to look. Just now, I was betting it was today.
I shifted to face him and laid my hand on his bicep, rubbing my thumb back and forth. He kept his eyes shut tight, but he reached over to put his hand on my thigh. I could tell he was wishing he could stop, probably willing himself to pull it together, and purposefully not looking at me.
“Ben?” I inquired, as gently as I could, “I'm so sorry..”
I took my seatbelt off and reached for his shoulders, instinctively wanting to pull him closer. He shuddered as he buried his face in my neck and wrapped his arms around my back.
“God I miss her. So bad. This sucks!” he whispered angrily.
He let me hold him for a little while as he grieved for his mom, something I couldn't even imagine dealing with. I wondered what he was thinking. But I decided to not say anything, just sit and feel this moment with him. After he wiped his face on his t-shirt, he kissed me lightly.
“ Sorry,” he mumbled, looking down. Then his dark brown eyes met mine, “And thank you.”
“Don't be sorry,” I replied. “Thanks for letting me in. I was worried when you wouldn't talk earlier.”
He backed the car out and shifted it into gear. “I can be kind of a jerk when I'm upset. Didn't mean to worry you,” he said as he laced his fingers through mine. “But now I'm starved. I'm thinking pizza. Gem City or Tower?”
“You're such a guy.” I giggled, “Tower.”
The tension was gone, we were together, and everything was right with the world.
Author's Note: Ben wrote a stunning piece of poetry for me not long after this incident that I thought was lost forever. I hadn't intended to link up to this prompt, but the poem he wrote turned up when I was cleaning today, and this memory surfaced as a result. We didn't date for very long, but this is a very strong memory I have from that time.
When there is affection given as a need for comfort is expressed, it's often incredibly memorable, and bonding between those involved. As I have experienced the cruel lack of it in the later years of my marriage, I know that withholding comfort can cause a lot of damage. If you're presented with an opportunity like this, risk some simple physical touch. It can make a big difference.
Writing prompt: How the show of affection played a part in your memory.