The first draft of Ben Behind His Voices was a full 100 pages longer than the draft that eventually got published. Once in a while, I plan to post some of the “lost” passages that wound up on the writer’s version of the cutting room floor.
This chapter describes a trip that I took with Ben and Ali, right after Ben returned from his period out West which began with great promise (and success at becoming pot-free), morphed into homelessness, and eventually got him back home for treatment. At this point in the story, we still didn’t know for sure what kind of mental illness Ben had. Even now, we are the observers of symptoms, always watchful for their return, always hopeful they will not, or that they can be explained away by something other than the illness.
Here is what happened:
“We took a weekend trip to Maine, just the three of us, right after Ben had finished his summer at the day camp. But Ben was acting very strangely again.
He had his backpack with him, always. Forty pounds of spiral notebooks he just couldn’t leave behind – even if we were going to the beach, or walking near the sea cliffs.
He talked often, but not of ordinary things. His favorite topic that weekend was bragging to us about his “psychic powers.” Often, he looked at me or Ali and said “I know exactly what you’re thinking. I can read your mind.”
The first few times, we played along. He was never right, but would say that we were simply lying, that he must know more about what is in our minds than we did.
The three of us went to see a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Ogunquit playhouse. Ben, however, often seemed distracted. We caught him “watching” the show with his eyes completely closed. He looked as if he were trying to go into a trance.
“What are you doing?” Ali asked him.
“I just enjoy the music better this way sometimes,” he said.
It was weird. It looked weird and it seemed weird. He seemed stoned – but there was no other evidence of that at all.
How many more days before we can go home?
And it was only a weekend vacation.
Ben spent the entire five-hour ride home talking. And talking. It was another non-stop monologue, mostly about his ideas and concepts. It seemed as if he simply could not turn off his brain.
We made it home, finally, and retreated to out quiet and separate corners. I was worried. Does Ben need to increase his dosage of his medication?
Have they suddenly stopped working?”