Benji the Latte Boy

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*The chronological history of my past has serendipitously ended up on today’s subject: the first time I met my husband. It happens to be our 12 year wedding anniversary on Sunday and is the 15th year we’ve been together.*

It was only days after that horrific night happened that I walked into the Starbucks two doors down from Retro Rag to grab a coffee before work. I had heard through high school friends of mine that one of our fellow former Fresno Christian High School students was working there now. In fact, it was our former teacher’s son. I had a vague memory of him, but he was a Senior when I was a Freshman in high school and to be honest, I had a fat crush on one of his best friends.

I knew that his mom had been one of my favorite teachers in high school though, so I thought it would be cool to reconnect with someone from my past. Someone who didn’t know about my college rebellion. Someone who remembered the innocent version of me. He was behind the counter, at the register. He was a bit short, really skinny and had long bleached blonde hair, kinda like throw-back Kurt Cobain. He wore super tight Levi’s stay-pressed pants (surely thrifted) and his tight, button up Starbucks white shirt. He had a cute (very Nordic looking) face and a little gap in his teeth that you could see only when he smiled. Which he did, a lot.

Me: Hey, can I have a coffee? Also, did you go to Fresno Christian? Aren’t you Benji McEntee? I went there too. Graduated in 2001.

Ben: Yeah, I did. But sorry, I don’t remember you.

Me: Oh. Well, I was a freshman when you were a senior. We never spoke in high school but your mom was my teacher.

Ben: Yeah? I’ll ask her if she remembers you. What’s your name?

Me: Danielle. Danielle Charest.

Ben: Cool. So, what are you doing now?

Me: Working at Retro Rag. I just moved back to Fresno….I went to college at Azusa Pacific….and, uh, well, it’s a long story…

Ben: I just came back here from San Francisco. I went there because of a girl. Then she ruined my life and I moved back here.

Me: I have kind of a similar story.

Ben: We should talk about it sometime.

Me: Yeah. We should. Okay, see you later!

Ben: Nice to meet you, Danielle Charest.

I left that Starbucks thinking I had just met a really cool new friend. Someone who shared a similar life story with me. Someone who knew what it was like to come from Fresno, from a Christian home, from a Christian school, go away and screw our lives up and then return, tails between our legs, back to where we started. I didn’t think much of it besides that. I was still reeling from the agony of what had just happened to me only days before. Ben would be a safe man. He would not be someone I had to worry about. Not only was he totally not my type, he was also short….I had strict rules on that. But……he was also Eunie McEntee’s son. She was a saint on Earth. No son of hers would ever take advantage of a woman.

A few days later, Ben came into Retro Rag to look for a dress. For himself. Not only did he look like Kurt Cobain, he wore dresses onstage ironically like Kurt Cobain. As a kid of the 90’s, this was so cool to me. I was intrigued, of course. He told me it was for this new band he was in called “The Nancys”. He and his band mates wrote rock n’ roll love songs about how society referred to men like them as a bunch of “nancy boys” because they didn’t want to mess around with girls, just fall in love with them and marry them.

They were the romantic ones, not the women anymore. I wasn’t sure I agreed with this, but I hadn’t met the rest of his friends yet and I didn’t really even know him. I had found out from some of the regulars who came into Retro Rag that Ben had been playing music in the scene since he was 16 and that he and his bands were kind of “Fresno Famous”. They wrote about his music in the local newspaper, calling him one of the loudest musicians in all of Fresno. The Nancys had their debut show that following week and they all needed dresses.

Ben: So, you’re a photographer, right?

Me: Yeah, I started doing band photography in LA for some friends of mine.

Ben: You wanna come take pictures of my band next week?

Me: Uh, yeah, I would love that!

Ben: So, why don’t you take your break now and we can chat about it? Do you smoke?

Me: Sometimes. Yeah, I’ll go on my break.

We walked around the Tower, smoking cigarettes, talking, laughing, getting to know each other better. Those 15 minutes flew by and I found myself become increasingly more drawn to this man. I didn’t know why. He didn’t hold any of the attributes I usually was drawn to in men, yet, I just wanted to be around him. At the end of my break, he pulled out his composition note book and asked for my number so we “could discuss the vision of the photos” he wanted for his show.

I told him the number, he wrote it down, then he wrote the name “Nicole” on top of the number. I started laughing.

Me: My name isn’t Nicole! It’s Danielle!

Ben: Oh, man, I’m sorry! Crap!

Me: No, it’s fine. Just funny, that’s all. Don’t worry about it!

Ben: I feel terrible, I don’t know why I wrote that name!

Me: You can make it up to me. Bring me a tea tomorrow and we’ll call it even.

Ben: Sounds good, Nicole.

We both laughed.

When I got back to work, the girls at the counter (Corie and Laura- two other incredible, amazing women who became my dear friends) were teasing me because they saw what I could not see, or refused to see: Ben totally had a thing for me. I reassured them he only asked for my number so we could discuss “business”, but they had a thing or two to say about that.

I was nervous, though. I just wasn’t sure I liked him. Or maybe I just wasn’t sure I trusted men anymore. Any man. Even if he was the reincarnated Kurt Cobain.



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