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Growing up in a small town having no friends his own age, a little boy meets someone that changes his life.

Black Rose

by Matt R. Anderson

"Benjamin Crosswel was a beautiful person. Even at the age of ten, when we first met, he was more of an adult then most adults were that I come in contact with. He never said more that was needed to say, and people never really took the time to actually take in what a person like Benjamin had to offer. Even as his best, and for what I know, his only friend, he kept to himself around me as well. He never had to say anything for me to know how he was feeling. His facial expressions and body movements said it all." I started tearing up, "He didn't deserve to die like that, in a way I believe it's my fault. I remember him whispering in my ear as he laid on that bed in his front room. He said to me, `Can you bring me all of my porch flowers, please brother?'" I read to the audience of four. And all four people were my family.

After reading the rest of the speech, I had to return to my seat to try to calm myself from the uncontrollable tears from pouring out of my eyes. I looked up to only smile at his memories. He loved life so much, that he wanted me to live on to experience mine more than him living and learning through the rest of his. I owe him my life, and he will live on through me forever. The amount of respect, love, and dignity this man deserves will not compare to the amount that is given him in this story. Here is the story of a man that loved everyone too much, and it ended up taking his life from him, here is the story of Benjamin Crosswel.

Ben lived in a little shack like house at the end of the gravel road I was raised on. I remember spending summer after summer trying to hang out with him while school was out. I never received an answer from him, or anyone in his family for that matter. I gathered up all the courage I could, and I went up to Ben's door and knocked for the third time that summer. He answered the door, around five feet tall. He towered over me at the same age of ten. I stood intimidated, somewhat scared, and excited, all I could say was, "Do you want to hang out?" He replied, "Sure."

Ben was weird, but he was the only person I could hang out with except for my two sisters. I used to watch, as he would do yard work all hours of the day no matter how hot it was. Sometimes he would look up and nod his head hello, then get right back to work. No one ever came out to get him. It was almost as if he was being forced to get whatever he was doing done.

A chain link fence went around his whole house, which was a big, two story, brick house with a chimney that always seemed to have smoke coming out of it. The fence gave his house a prison like appearance, until you looked at his front porch. It was bright white painted wood, with vibrant colored flowers hanging every two inches it seemed. It was beautiful. It was one of those things that every time you look at it you can't help but smile.

Ben did go to the same school as I did, but he never really talked to anyone. He never got picked on either, which I thought was odd. People picked on other people for everything in high school. No one picked on Ben though. He kept to himself; his homework was always done on time, and went home. I once heard a rumor while we were in high school that one person decided to pick on him, and Ben put him in a coma for six months. This obviously was not true considering that Ben and I were friends, and I would have known about it. I never said anything about the rumor though. It wasn't my place to say anything, plus, I wanted people to be afraid of him. Ben didn't deserve to be picked on.

Junior year, as we were walking home from the bus stop, I was asking him questions and talking to him, never receiving a verbal response, only smiles and nods. I could tell he was getting annoyed, but he just looked at me. Instead of telling me to shut up, he lifted his shoulders and gave me a slight smile.

A car came pulling up and slammed on the brakes. A man screamed out of the car and told us to get in. I had never seen any of the three men in the car before. Ben grabbed me and pulled me behind him, then very clearly shook his head no. The men opened the doors and exited the vehicle, Ben let go of my arm, and pointed for me to run. I ran.

I looked back after a couple seconds of running to see two of the full grown men on the ground screaming. Ben was fighting with the third one, I turned around. As I ran closer, I noticed one of the men on the ground had a ball point pen shoved into his eye socket and was bleeding all over the place. The other man seemed to have gotten his ear either ripped or bitten off and was also rolling around in a puddle of his own blood, which was growing larger and larger.

Ben was in a headlock by the last man as I ran to his aid. He was slowly turning blue as he waived for me to go back and run away. I jumped up on the car and dug my fingers in the man's eyes as hard as I could, and screamed from pure fright and adrenaline. He let go of Ben and threw me off of his back. As he was running towards me when Ben picked up a big branch and hit him in the head with it. The man fell to the ground stiff as a board, and the other two had already managed to crawl back to the car.

Ben leaned over and said to me, "Are you okay?" I smiled and said, "Yes, did we win?" Ben then smiled and said, "We didn't lose, did we?" We both smirked at each other, panting like we just had ran a ten mile race without stopping. Neither of us ever said anything about that day. In fact, this is the first I have spoken of it since it happened. Ben had asked me to never bring it up to anyone ever.

That seemed to have been the real beginning of our friendship. I could actually call it more of a brotherhood. We did everything together after that, fishing, hunting, skipping rocks in the river, trying to figure out ways to spy on girls, etc. We were us, and that's all that mattered.

On a random warm rainy day in August, the rain coming down just hard enough to make you close your eyes while riding your bike down the road. Ben and I were sitting on a broken, downed tree that extended a little over the river. I asked, "Hey Ben? Where has your momma been since we started hanging out? I never seen your momma or father. Where are they?"

Ben looked at me with a half smirk on his face he and asked, "You really want to know don't ya?"

I replied, "Well, if you want to tell me, I won't be mad at ya."

He than smiled and said, "My momma ran away from me and my poppa when I was a lot younger. I can't even remember what she looks like anymore, but she smelled like flowers, a whole bunch of `em mixed together, and poppa thought so too."

"Is that why you like flowers so much? Cause they remind you of your momma?"

"Yea, I guess you can say that, I used to call my flowers momma when I was younger. My poppa used to get angry when I did, but I did anyway. But I would have to say, I like flowers cause they can't run away like momma did."

"What about when they die?"

"My poppa taught me that everything is going to die sooner or later, just like a flower. But for a few months, they can be the most beautiful thing you've ever seen."

I looked over at Ben thinking to see him tearing up a little bit at least, but instead he was smiling, probably bigger than I have ever seen him smile. He looked at me and said, "Wanna go meet my poppa?"

I replied "Yea, of course I do." I followed him out of the tree, a little excited. I really didn't know what to think. I wasn't nervous at all. How could he be a bad man and raise someone like Ben? Ben loved everything about life. Walking to Ben's house, I couldn't help but look at all the flowers on the way. Ben must have looked over and noticed that I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking and pushed me right into a mud puddle. I remember looking down at my soaking wet, muddy shoes and laughing. Ben thought it was hilarious. He had his hands on his knees and was laughing. I started laughing at his laugh, as did he, and we couldn't stop laughing the rest of the way down the road.

We went into Ben's house and he said, "Wait here I'll go get him." As I waited, I curiously began to look around. The house on the inside was a bare. A couch, rocking chair, and end table made up the whole living room, and the rest of the house didn't seem to have much more than a kitchen table, a chair, and a refrigerator. I turned around and saw a big fireplace with wood smoldering in the bottom. I thought to myself, "Explains the smoke coming out of the chimney."

I looked up above the mantle and saw a black rose attached to the wall. The rose was obviously dead, dried up, and definitely out of reach from everyone. Ben came walking in with a wooden box and put it on the table in front of me. I looked and asked, "What's this?"

He replied, "Poppa. Two years ago, poppa had gone to visit his brother in Ireland, and this is how he came back. I talked to Uncle Pat, and he had said that poppa got sick and wasn't going to make it home. He said he was going to send poppa home when it was possible. Poppa came home like this. He had that rose in his box with a note that said."

I'm sorry son. There's not much I can do about the situation I'm in right now, just like a dying rose. When you get this package, I want this rose placed above the fireplace. I want to be able to see you grow up son. This is the last time I'm going to be able to talk to you, but I want you to know these two things. Even dying roses are beautiful, and I love you. Uncle Pat will visit when he can, and he will take care of the bills. Finish school and love life. I managed to save some money for college. It might not be enough, but Uncle Pat will help. Remember me son, remember the beauty of the dying rose."

After I read the note, Ben kindly asked me to leave him be for a little bit. I tried to keep in touch with Ben after that, he didn't want to do anything for a while after bringing those two memories back into his mind. He seemed depressed all the time after that. I would try to go over and play, ask him to go to the tree, or play catch, but nothing worked.

One night I just decided to go to the tree myself. After climbing the tree, I sat for a while. I felt really bad for bringing this up to Ben and making him feel bad. I stood up and screamed as loud as I possibly could. I really did hate myself, he didn't deserve to feel bad, he did nothing wrong.

I heard a crack and looked toward the river's edge as the branch I was standing on broke. As I was screaming, being pulled down river by the current. I focused all of my energy on breathing instead of screaming. I felt a real sharp pain coming from my leg, I knew it was broken, I couldn't do anything. I gave up, too exhausted and in pain. There was absolutely nothing I could do. I realized I was going to die.

I felt a hand on my back while I was underwater. It was Ben. He came to save me, again. He pulled me up and threw me over his shoulder, after dragging me up to the river's edge. He carried me all the way back to his house. He put me on his couch and gave me a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate.

I could do nothing but cry, apologize, and give thanks. He must have gotten sick of hearing me apologize. He smiled and said, "Thanks for getting me out my house, buddy." I didn't know if he was being serious, but I did know the pain in my leg was gone. It must have been a cramp. A cramp in my leg would have taken my life away if it weren't for this man.

I looked down in front of Ben and on the floor there was a puddle of blood. The puddle was growing fast. I looked at Ben's face, he was very pail, "Ben what happened? Are you okay? I'm calling an ambulance." I ran to the phone and called 911 and ran back into the room. "Ben, can you hear me? Ben? Ben?" I laid him on his bed in the front room and ripped his pants off to see what had happened. His leg had gotten caught on the tree when he jumped off to save me in the river, the tree must have ripped the artery in his leg. The adrenaline must have made him not feel anything. His eyes were getting glossy,

"Ben? Ben? Don't leave me now Ben. It's not your time."

He looked up and smiled, "I wish you were the one who made that decision." Ben started to get really cold. I was pressing down on his leg, but it was too late. He bled the whole time he was carrying me back to his house.

I started to beg him to stay, "Please don't go Ben, please, you're the only friend I've ever had, please don't go."

He smiled again and said, "I don't make them decisions neither buddy, but I want two things from you before I go to my poppa."

I replied, "Anything Ben, anything."

He smiled yet again, "Take that black rose right there, and put it up wherever you go. I'll be there I promise."

I replied while the tears poured from my eyes, off of my face onto his shirt, "What else brother, anything?"

He replied, now starting to tear up himself but still smiling, "Can you bring all of my porch flowers in for me?"

The ambulance arrived as I was taking the last flower holder in. They rushed into the house, and I knew he was gone already.

I sat there for a while after they took him away. Crying, laughing, talking, screaming, nothing brought him back. He was a big brother to me. He lived by himself in that house till he was seventeen. Benjamin Crosswel taught me a lot of things. He taught me a lot more than I could ever sit here and write about.

"We will meet again, brother. I promise that, and that old dried up black rose, is still as beautiful as ever, brother."


Copyright © by Matt R. Anderson . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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