Outside

Benji has long had a complex relationship with “outside.” It’s something he has always struggled to put into words, because his feelings don’t fall easily into nice little checked boxes in the way that he categorizes them for most things. That’s the comfortable way, to him, to be able to easily say “I hate mangoes” and “I love steak,” without having to explain that, under certain conditions, those feelings change.

Given the choice, most days, Benji would rather stay inside, reading a book or watching television. The outside and the vast majority of the activities being outside implies hold no interest for him. The most outdoorsy activity he can think of, camping, disgusts him even when brought up in passing in a casual conversation. He can’t even comprehend why people would want to inflict such a loathsome activity upon themselves.

Benji does not like playing sports. He doesn’t like getting dirty and sweaty, or forcing himself to be outside in the sun or the rain. Benji doesn’t like the rain, because he hates being wet in his clothes, and he certainly hates storms and other natural events that bring chaos and destruction to his otherwise orderly life.

Benji does not like the winter or the summer or the fall. He hates that winter forces him to be outside in a way that none of the others seasons do, because, in order to get his car out of the driveway, he must shovel it, which means time spent sweating and grunting in the bitter cold. Benji does not like to be cold.

He hates the heat of summer, because he refuses to use air conditioning even though he is one of those people who is particularly susceptible to heat. He sweats at the mere mention of a warm breeze, and his heart seems to catch aflame in his chest — and not in a pleasant, passionate way — whenever he starts to get too warm. Summer brings memories of passing out, multiple times, in high school gym class.

Fall’s not quite as bad as summer or winter, because the temperatures are more to Benji’s liking. It’s the gloom of the overcast autumn skies that gets Benji down in the fall, and the falling tree leaves. They are beautiful as they turn, and even Benji can admit that, but he has no desire to deal with them once they’ve hit the grown. They become brown, soggy messes, leaving the bare trees as ugly as the dying ground on which they’ve fallen.

Benji does not like dirt or bugs or gardening or cutting the grass. He doesn’t like the pollen that fills the air in spring, nor the thunderstorms that roll in as winter and summer battle over what temperature his slice of the world should be. And yet spring is Benji’s favorite season.

And yet, despite everything he dislikes about it that makes him think he should hate the outside, he does not.

Benji loves to open his window and let a cool, fresh spring breeze waft its way into his house. He loves the vibrant green of tree leaves in pure sunlight, and the way flowers dapple the blooming trees and the gardens of those who care about them.

Most of all, he loves listening to the birds, especially on spring mornings, when their song rings out clear and hopeful, uncluttered, yet, by the sounds of humanity going about its business. This is the only times he actively enjoys being outside, standing just outside the shade, letting the sunlight warm him as a cool breeze caresses his skin.

Benji does not hate the outside, he just hates parts of it. He doesn’t love being outside, except for when he does, and at those times it brings him more joy than sitting on his couch in the dark shadow of his home could ever give.

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