A few crazy things happened right before the wedding that should have been wakeup calls for me. I’m not saying that I wasn’t supposed to be marrying Ben. I’m only saying that I had no idea what I was getting into. I hadn’t even stopped to think about if I was ready to get married. I knew that Ben was my best friend and that being around him just made sense. But you can never be fully prepared for what marriage will throw your way. It’s that old saying, “love is blind, marriage is the great eye opener”. I think an ex-boyfriend sent me that message a few days before my wedding. I still don’t know to this day if he meant it to be snarky or helpful. Maybe both.
One night, I was checking my bank account statement online and I realized there was a $70 charge to some random video store in Northridge. I hadn’t lived in LA for a while now, so I immediately assumed it was fraud. I called the video store and left a message, saying that I’d report them for fraud if they didn’t refund that charge. They finally called me back when I was working late a couple of days later. The restaurant where I was serving was completely empty, so I went outside to answer my cell.
Lady: Hi, is this Danielle Charest?
Me: Uh, yes.
Lady: Hi, I’m (so and so) from (so and so) video rentals in Northridge and you have some overdue rentals that we charged you for. It was not fraudulent.
Me: I’m sorry, but I don’t remember ever renting from your store?
Lady: Yeah, you opened an account with us over a year ago and rented some DVD’s. You’ve never returned them.
Me: (OHHH crap- this is the video store Brodie and I would go to and rent stupid dvd’s that we never actually watched but just used an excuse to cuddle up) Yeah, I don’t know what you’re talking about, I returned those DVD’s over a year ago.
Lady: No, it shows here you rented some movies a couple weeks ago and still haven’t returned them.
Me: What?? I live in Fresno, that’s not possible! (And then it clicked suddenly in my brain; Brodie had been using my rental account to rent movies that was, for some reason, still linked to my credit card?! I WAS PISSED)
Me: Exactly what were the titles of these movies? (I needed all the proof and all the details I could get so that I could call Brodie and chew him out and get my money back)
Lady: Well, (she paused) um, they are adult films….
Me: Did you say- adult films?
Me: (Okay, I take it back, NOW I was pissed.) And what exactly are the names of these adult films? (I needed the hard evidence)
Lady: (The line was quiet for a moment. She said a couple of names of “adult films” that were honestly really stupid cheesy names for a movie, not like adult films at all…in fact, they almost sounded like chidren’s films, but I’ve never watched pornography so what did I know? And then-) …..and the last one is…. (she lowered her voice so I could barely hear her)….
Me: (I heard the words she said, but I couldn’t believe them.) I’m sorry……what exactly did you say?
Lady: Um, …….. (I can’t even repeat the words here on the page because they still make me blush. To sum it up for you though, Brodie was renting very explicit gay pornography.)
Me: Thank you.
I hung up. My face was red. I didn’t know if I was supposed to laugh or cry or be angry or what? Was Brodie gay? Was he just addicted to pornography of any kind? Or did he just like to rent this stuff for fun with his friends? Who rents porn just for fun? I had always been afraid to even watch it. Why would I want to see other people having sex? I mean, that’s gross, right? Right??? I went to Ben’s house afterwards and told him the story and all he and his roommates could do was bust out laughing. I mean, it was kinda funny, in sort of a traumatizing way.
“So, you’re telling me you owe $70 in late fees for porn?” one of the roommates said, laughing hysterically.
“Yeah but I’m not paying that!” I protested.
“No, you’re not!” agreed Ben, “And you’ll call this Brodie dude up and make him give you the money back!”
“Totally.” I said defiantly. But I did not want to do that. Not in a million years.
The next day though, I did. Ben encouraged me to confront Brodie and as much as I hated confrontation, I knew he was right. I called and I called and I called. No answer. I left voicemails. I sent emails. Nothing. I was definitely being avoided. Finally, he called me back. I went off on him. He was apologetic. He said that he and his buddies just rented them to be funny. I didn’t believe that then and I don’t believe that now. He said he loved me and didn’t want me to get married. He promised he’d send me the money. He never did. I didn’t want to press my luck.
This is really a funny anecdote more than anything, but it also made me realize in that moment what a night and day difference there was between the men I had been drawn to in the past and the one I was about to marry. It did bring some comfort to my soul.
But still, there was an uneasiness inside of me. In hindsight (because I clearly did not realize this at the time) this brief interaction with an old flame showed me something troubling:
I hadn’t dealt with all the past trauma of my old relationships. I allowed them to fester and I glossed over them, securing the wounds with only a band-aid. I was a survivor. I moved on. But, I never processed anything.
That’s the best way to ensure a future mental breakdown.