Chapter 2: Ben
Case 019 Interview 019-02bb1
INTERVIEW WITH BEN (I)
INT: [standard introduction]
RES: Who is this Brian person?
INT: Brian Ellison, the boy who lost his life on the go-and-serve.
RES: Why don't you show me a picture of him?
INT: All right. [shows yearbook photo]
RES: Oh, that guy. What did you say he did?
INT: I said he died. We believe he took his own life.
RES: Um. What was your question?
INT: I understand from some of the other members of the youth group that he left a note on your bunk before he disappeared.
RES: He was a pretty cool dude. This is really quite a tragedy.
INT: Yes, many people feel this way. That is in fact the reason I'm here at your school. Would you say that his death upset you?
INT: You don't exactly sound upset. You sound - bored.
RES: I can't tell whether I'm bored or hungry or tired.
INT: Many students, after having been involved in an incident of this nature, would experience conflicting emotions. But I must admit, these are not the usual emotions students describe.
RES: [sighs] I feel both happy and sad; both - um - ah - oh, I dunno.
INT: I was hoping that you could tell me a little about Brian himself. Were you acquainted?
RES: Yeah, he was a pretty cool dude. This is really a tragedy. I feel both happy and sad.
INT: Yes, you mentioned that. Did you know him well?
INT: For a long time?
RES: I guess he was in the youth group for however long he was in it, until he died, whoever he was.
INT: Did you and he participate in many youth group activities together?
RES: We played various get-to-know-each-other's-name games. His answers were usually rather bland and predictable, or at least I would assume they were.
INT: Are you saying, then, that Brian wasn't popular?
RES: He was popular with the nerdy section of the youth group. Maybe you should talk to one of them.
INT: Yes, thank you, I plan to do that.
RES: I'm not saying that he was himself a nerd. But I am.
INT: I'm not sure I follow you. Are you saying then that you and Brian ran with the same crowd?
RES: I really didn't run with much of a crowd at all. I was sort of a wild child. A loner. You can't trust anyone but yourself. That's all.
INT: I see. And yet, as I understand it, Brian chose you to receive his last communication.
INT: Did you read Brian's note?
RES: I skimmed it.
INT: Perhaps you could explain something to me, then.
INT: Maybe. Brian's note said, Dear Ear. Who is ear?
RES: I don't know.
INT: And at the end, it said, "Why couldn't I have killed Felix?" Do you understand what that means?
RES: No. It sounds like he was trying to impersonate Rob. Are you sure Rob isn't the one who died? No, that's a dumb thing to say.
RES: Rob is, along with me, one of the co-founders of the supergroup: The Gland Puppies. Founded in February of 1987, the Gland Puppies had humble beginnings but through much hard work and determination and more than a little ingenuity, the Gland Puppies slowly worked their way to the top of the charts, where they have staked a claim to the title of World's Greatest Band.
INT: I see. You and Rob comprise this band?
RES: Rob is the backbone to powermad riffsters, The Gland Puppies. He lurks the stage like a gremlin on mischievous overtime. There are also some other members of the group who are expendable.
INT: Expendable? And was Brian one of these expendable members?
RES: He was an expendable nonmember.
INT: Was he a fan of your band?
RES: Yes. I think he was one of the people who auditioned for the group, but I don't remember, there were so many people. I assume that he did - audition - as he would have been shunned by his peers if he didn't.
INT: I was under the impression that he was somewhat shunned by his peers anyway.
RES: He was a pretty cool dude. I can't believe he's dead. This is horrible. What an atrocity. I wet my pants. [very flat affect here]
INT: Is that right? Would you like to step out?
RES: Are you asking me to sleep with you?
INT: Are you telling me that you understood me to say that I invited you to sleep with me?
RES: You do want to sleep with me, don't you? That's why I'm here, isn't it? I'll give you a backstage pass if you want. But I'm not ready to sleep with you yet.
INT: Thank you very much. Backstage pass?
INT: To what?
RES: To my show. This Saturday. 8pm. The Battle of the Bands. Be there.
INT: What is the Battle of the Bands?
RES: It's a raging babe-fest.
INT: I'm sorry, I don't understand you.
RES: Maximum babe-osity, dude.
INT: I see. Thank you very much.
RES: You're welcome. Well, I'm ready to answer all of your questions now.
INT: OK. Thank you very much.
RES: You're welcome. Start firing. Question #1. Why don't you try again? That was good for a first try.
INT: All right, I will. Tell me a little about Brian Ellison.
RES: He deserved to die. What an ass. Maybe you should ask me why.
INT: All right. Why did he deserve to die?
RES: Because everyone deserves to die. Except me, and whomever I decide deserves to live.
INT: But you didn't decide that Brian deserved to live?
RES: Who is this Brian person? What is the question again?
INT: Are you on drugs?
RES: Are you asking me to sleep with you? [tugs kilt over knees]
INT: No, Ben, I'm not. I'm trying to get as much information as I can about the death of Brian Ellison, in the hopes that future such deaths can be prevented. If you can help me, I would be pleased to talk with you.
RES: Lemme just say that I think you're totally on the wrong track here. You shouldn't be worried about trying to keep these dorks from killing themselves because they're dorks, and they deserve to die.
INT: It is certainly possible that the perception that one is a dork predisposes one to make a suicide attempt. Do you think that Brian understood himself to be a dork?
RES: Probably. Otherwise he wouldn't have killed himself.
INT: I see.
RES: You should consider spending more time telling these dorks that they are dorks so they don't get the idea that they're not dorks and then don't kill themselves.
INT: Would you say, then, that you have ever considered killing yourself?
RES: Do I look like a dork to you?
INT: I'm not sure what a dork would look like to me.
RES: Take out that picture you just showed me. Or do you want me to strip down?
INT: No, that won't be necessary. Thank you for stopping by. I'll be in touch as necessary. Good afternoon.
RES: It was my pleasure. Ear. [leaves the office]
Janet put her head in her hands. That is the most well-defended boy I have ever seen, she thought. If that was the person Brian chose to be close to, no wonder he felt lost and defeated. What an extraordinarily unhappy person he must be. She gave herself a stern look. How angry he's made you, too, she told herself. I'll have to tell James about this, she concluded, and turned to the mail in her In box.
Just as she returned from lunch, her phone rang.
"Oh, Dirk, hello. I was just thinking about you."
"Hi, honey. How's it going? Things have gotten frantic down here. I'm gonna be stuck for dinner tonight - some important software guy from Boston. It'll probably be midnight or so. I know we agreed that we'd keep this kind of thing to a minimum, but ... well, Art made it very clear that he needed me to come along. So I guess you'll have to take Nick to softball tonight."
"I'm sorry, honey. You know how it goes. Something go wrong there?"
"Oh, not wrong. I had the most unusual boy in my office this morning."
"Oh, no. This is a different unusual boy. Nothing like Rob at all. I can see now why Rob was reluctant to call them friends. This boy was as impervious as a sheet of glass. But much more interesting to look at."
"One of those gorgeous high school hunks I've been worried about?"
Janet laughed. "No such luck. This kid can't have weighed more than ninety pounds, and half of that was hair. And did I mention the skirt?"
"Was he a faggot?"
"Nasty talk." Janet wrinkled her nose and assumed what she called her ProfessionalDemeanor (tm). "He and I didn't discuss sexual identity issues. I'm fairly confident, however, that he's heterosexual." She sighed. "But that's about the only thing I'm sure of. He was entirely enigmatic. He made me wonder more and more about this youth group band I've been hearing about. Both Ben and Rob are so strange."
"Are they punk rockers? Safety pins in their noses? Torn up t-shirts?"
She shrugged. "I have no idea. Rob didn't strike me as the safety pin type, though.... Actually, Ben mentioned that they were going to be in some school-sponsored social activity this weekend. I may go over and see what they're like. It can't be any worse than going to the basketball games. Most of the kids here still treat me like I'm some sort of administrator. Maybe I can "get down with my bad self" a little, get loose from this Dr. Dawson image."
"Well, Jan, you know what you're doing. If you think it'll help, I'm right behind you. I'll even go with you, if you want," Dirk said with obvious reluctance.
Janet grinned. "That's OK, Dirk. I can tell you can control your enthusiasm. I'll manage."
"Don't you think," he suggested (not for the first time), "that there's something about their family life that makes these kids so unstable? They're too soft, they lack commitment. When times get tough, they don't know how to deal with adversity and they just cave in. They don't have the kind of values that we did, that made us strong."
"In a way, Dirk, I agree with you. These boys are very isolated, not only from one another but from all social institutions, including the family. I think that isolation removes the coping mechanisms that would otherwise enable them to work through their loss and depression issues."
Dirk laughed. "Coping, loss, issues. When you talk like that, I know you're in trouble. You don't have any idea at all what's going on, do you?"
"No, probably not. But I'd better have something to show for myself. I got another one of those "If they only had some school spirit and went out for sports" lectures from Dean Busboom again this morning. It's a good thing my NIMH funding is out of his control. He actually said, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.' Twice."
"Heh. He and Art would make a great pair. Speaking of which, I have to get tough and get going. It's going to be a long day."
"It certainly is. Don't drink too much at dinner, please, or if you do, phone me from the station and I'll come to fetch you. Give my love to Art, too."
"Nasty talk, yourself, Dr. Dawson. Tell Nick I'm sorry about softball practice."
"He'll survive. It'll still be ground balls and playing pepper, anyway - it's only the third practice. Thanks for calling. Bye."