"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."
- ee cummings
Nothing that happened before the first time Benjamin Cox picked up a camera really mattered, not in the grand scheme of things. He had a typical birth with a typical upbringing in a typical family in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but what set him apart was how alive and energetic he was the moment he pressed a camcorder to his eye. For as long as he can remember, Ben's lived this way—viewing and manipulating the world through a lens. When his friends learned how to skateboard, he was there to document it. When his parents argued over mundane things like how to decorate the house for Christmas, he was recording from around the corner. And when he was too shy to say hi to a girl he liked, Ben let his camera be his worthy shield.
It should go without saying that when Benjamin finally grew up into a tall, lanky adult, he chose to follow his heart. At the tender age of 18, Ben shipped off to the University of Michigan to study film, graduating after five years of dicking around and having way too much fun with his major. But because life isn't perfect—and Ben's life is really far from perfect—he didn't make it big once he was finished with school. Instead, he built a small (but enthusiastic) fanbase after uploading a few of his decent short films and sketches on YouTube, and to pay the bills, he started bartending (more for the cliche than because he actually wanted to serve drinks in his spare time).
After a couple of years of incredibly minor success and a few projects that were worthy enough to add to his portfolio, Ben's life—and his concentration—took a turn. Even at 25, Ben was still attending Halloween parties because his friends were still throwing them, and on the Halloween of 2007, he had the luck of meeting Audrey Alenko. Blonde, leggy, beautiful and entirely out of his league, Ben was more than shocked when they hit it off—she didn't even laugh at him when he summoned the courage (with a little help from his friends Jim and Jack) to ask for her number. And after a few dates—in which he learned that Audrey was more than just a pretty face but also a witty, silly, intelligent woman—Ben knew he'd be an idiot if he didn't tie her down while he could.
Years passed, and Ben was finally convinced that Audrey wasn't playing a long, dumb joke on him. And while he'd always been convinced that his purpose in life was to make movies, he soon realized that he'd been somewhat wrong about that; Ben's primary purpose was to love Audrey, and he did—wholly and unconditionally and passionately. She fit so snugly into his life; she smoothed his rough edges; she laughed at his immature jokes; she wanted to be friends with his friends (who very quickly decided they liked Audrey more than they liked Ben, anyway); she motivated him to live out his dreams; she inspired him to find the beauty in each and every moment. It really wasn't a coincidence that Ben's best works were produced during his years with Audrey, who was nothing but helpful and supportive and loving.
On February 13, 2013, however, life as he knew it would change once again—but this time, it wasn't for the better. As much as he loved Audrey, their relationship wasn't full of just joyous highs; days, weeks, even months passed when they'd sink into a deep low, his kind and wonderful girlfriend a victim to depressive episodes. Despite it all, though, Ben braved the waves with her, and he knew that he couldn't live a minute of his life without her in it—highs and lows and all. Just after he'd bought a ring and asked for her family's blessing to marry Audrey, Ben came home the day before Valentine's to find his better half on their bathroom floor, unresponsive and clutching an empty pill bottle.
The efforts to save Audrey Alenko were unsuccessful. Once she was buried—resting peacefully, Ben told himself—he spent months trying to piece together exactly why she left, but Ben could never make sense of it. Maybe it was the holidays, or the gloomy weather, or an argument at work, or maybe he didn't show her he loved her often enough, or... Whatever hypothesis he had, Ben only knew one thing, and that was that he'd never truly know anything. This realization was his biggest breakthrough in grief counseling, and from then on, Ben decided that he'd rather celebrate the exuberant woman Audrey was than spend the rest of his days digging for an answer he knew he'd never find.
Time passed and wounds healed and Ben eventually found himself enjoying life again, even if Audrey wasn't at his side to enjoy it with him. He threw himself into his work, carried by a combination of grief and a desire to do what he'd always loved: make movies. His mourning inspired his work, but not as much as his life with Audrey had—and it was this inspiration that pushed out his best project: Light/Dark, a short film based on loving Audrey through all her moods, good and bad. It was different from his typically lighthearted, goofy films, but in this case, different was...good. Different was how he told their story—her story—the way it needed to be told. The way he knew how to honor her memory.
These days, Ben's still plugging away at writing and directing film projects, only now he's a little bit closer to making a name for himself in the community. The newfound success (as small as it is, Ben considers it success) hasn't gone to his head, fortunately, and he's remained the same manchild he always was—only now he takes things a little more seriously than before. And that's not really a bad thing.
Ben is an ENFP
, and as such, he's wildly extraverted and unpredictable, and he tends to follow his heart more than he does his head. Growing up, Ben always thought that a simple idea could change the course of the world, and it's something he still stands by to this day. He cares about people with every fiber in his being, he's quick to make friends and his energetic enthusiasm often earns him more true admirers than haterz (with a 'z'). Ben makes it look annoyingly easy to connect with people of any background on any topic, and he's really blessed that this translates into his work. On the other hand, his lack of organization and planning skills tends to piss people off more than not, but he's come to terms with that.
Ben is an all-around average guy. He's an average height and weight (read: kinda tall but not really, and despite some serious efforts to eat better, he just can't get rid of the little belly that came with getting old). Since maturing into a 30-something-year-old man, Ben's taken some steps towards looking more like his age, first by chopping off the unruly curly mop of hair and then getting glasses so he could finally see. Sometimes he shaves, sometimes he doesn't, but Ben is generally found looking pretty neat and clean. He usually wears button-ups and jeans, a pair of round glasses and always, always, always
a pair of sneakers. Beyond that, Ben's most pronounced physical traits are his gapped teeth and—most noticeably—his nose, for which he can only thank his Jewish half of the family.
adam • father • 60
b. march 20, 1955.
A corporate law attorney for the University of Michigan, as well as an Ann Arbor native (like Ben). Adam is a caring, doting father and husband to his wife and son.
mary • mother • 58
b. august 13, 1957.
An ER nurse close to retirement. Mary also occasionally volunteers with Ben for suicide prevention causes.
Screen Arts & Cultures
audrey alenko • girlfriend • 27 [deceased]
b. july 4, 1986. d. february 13, 2013.
Cuddler extraordinaire, the best shower singer and Ben's better half for five years (from 2007 to 2013) before she committed suicide the day before Valentine's Day.
, University of Michigan, 2005
▸ Has been making movies for as long as he can remember. Ben grew up with a camcorder practically glued to his hand, first filming his daily activities before branching out into making short, silly videos with his friends. He thinks he's still doing the same thing—only now he's got better equipment and props.
▸ Has a few notable projects under his belt, the most successful and best known of which is Light/Dark
, a short film he wrote after Audrey's suicide. It took almost a year to write, film and edit, but it's his greatest accomplishment to date...even if it is heartbreaking.
▸ Volunteers for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline in his spare time. Ben's also made a few videos to promote suicide prevention awareness programs and resources in Michigan in the years following his girlfriend's death.
▸ Despite being in his thirties, Ben still has dinner with his parents every Sunday. They talk about everything from work to the weather to where they want to be buried because nothing
is off limits in the Cox family, it seems.
▸ Still has the first camcorder he ever owned. Even if it's falling apart and hasn't worked in years, Ben refuses to throw it out. It has a place of pride on one of his bookshelves in his apartment.
▸ Didn't move out of the apartment he shared with Audrey until the winter of 2014, nearly two years after she passed. Sorting through her belongings to decide what to pack, give to family or donate felt like losing her for a second time, but he knew it was time to start living again. Ben let her family and friends pick and choose which of Audrey's things they wanted, with the exception of her favorite coffee mug, the scarf she always wore when it was cold and a small locket she wore every day. He also kept the engagement ring
he'd bought her and it stays tucked away in a box at the top of his closet.
▸ Sends out Christmas cards every year to his family and friends. The tradition started after his and Aud's second anniversary, and Ben has kept the tradition going—even if he's taking the cheesy photos by himself.
▸ Grew up in Ann Arbor and hasn't really considered moving. Ben's traveled around for several projects in the past and he assumes he'll continue doing so in the future, but as far as he knows, he's perfectly content to live out the rest of his life in Michigan.
▸ Unwinds in his free time with the occasional beer, but honestly? He'd rather spend time with his loved ones than go out drinking these days. Maybe it's part of getting old or maybe he can't handle his liquor as well as he used to, but he's pretty okay with it.
▸ Is goofy, silly and immature, but Ben has a real heart of gold. Despite all his hardships and traumas, he maintains a cheerful disposition and is without a doubt
a "half glass full" kind of guy.
which apartment complex do you live in?
I live in The Arboretum, obviously the best one.
when did you move in?
I moved in, like, right after they opened so...a year? I moved here back in 2014, sometime in the early winter.
where are you originally from?
I was actually born and raised in Ann Arbor, making this little slice of paradise my hometown.
why did you move here?
I mean, I've stayed in Ann Arbor because I like it, but I moved to these apartments because I needed a new place to live. Fresh start, new surroundings, that whole thing.
who do you live with?
I live alone. I've been thinking about getting a pet. Maybe a cat or a bearded dragon or a fish? Something to keep me company on the rare occasion that I'm home.
what kind of neighbor are you?
I like to think that I'm a pretty decent neighbor? I mean, I'm loud sometimes, but only during the day. I'm friendly to strangers, so I won't shout at your guests if they knock on my door by mistake. (I feel like that's really important.) And I take out my trash all the time, so you won't have to deal with the smell of week-old garbage next door. You're welcome.
pb: andy samberg • ~bgcox • cst, 3rd person + threads • adult or ftb