Bennett Fort ’19

Early on, my brother told me that the shortest story of my life would be the one I get to tell myself. He told me this with little to no context and it’s something I’ve been trying to decipher ever since I heard it. I was 17 at the time, lacking any sort of knowledge about how a real story worked. All I saw were the words on the page, and not what was beneath them.

As I inched closer and closer towards what I thought was the key to his riddle, I learned more and more. I began arriving at family gatherings and using the most absurd elements of the world to voice my displeasure with my family members. Yet, they didn’t have the faintest idea what I was doing to them. It was all words to them too.

Sitting in Italy, just writing all those summers ago was the best time of my life. It was just me and my words. I wove tapestries of dialogue. I created musical anecdotes. I was creating. And then I shared it all. I went around telling people my stories for no other reason than I wanted to impart some small part of myself upon them. I remember one specific show where I just stopped singing mid-song to think about how all of them. The audience thought I had forgotten the words. People don’t forget the words to their own stories. But, they do forget the points of them.

As my tours continued. As I sank deeper and deeper into my stories and the people who loved them, I felt happy. But feeling happy, it turns out, is a lot different from being happy. By the time I was winning awards, I was tired of it all. By the time I had half the world watching me, I wanted all of them to avert their eyes for just a few seconds. I wanted a family. So I made one. I wanted to work with my brother. So I did.

And then, when it was all too much, I took it all away from myself. I stopped. I walked away from the pen, the microphone, the camera. I just started living my life again. I was me and I wasn’t there to make stories for anyone except my children. The nights they couldn’t sleep, I wrapped them in my old tapestries. The days they were sad, I told them my musical anecdotes. I watched them grow up. And they watched me grow old.

Now, I’m back in Italy, with my brother, finally understanding his phrase. My life was made of stories from the very start. But, the one I told myself all alone in those early days was the shortest one of them all. It was one of reassurance, but with a tinge of sadness. Its words were merely abstract concepts. It was nothing truly physical. But it was small, and it was something I only told myself. And now, in death, it’s not mine anymore. It’s no ones. It was the story that I was me. And now I’m not.