Benaroya BENJI

HondaiMood: Nostalgic
Listening to: Duet (with Hyene) – Benji
Playing: League of Legends
Craving: Ice Cream
Watching: B.I.G music videos

The sky is crystal clear in downtown Seattle today, it finally feels more like what the rest America would consider “Spring”. I wasn’t so hungry for lunch break so I decided to take a walk instead. I usually take walks around the market but today I decided to take a different route and walked south bound. I got to 2nd & Union and a nostalgic breeze gazed by me. I looked up saw the sign for the Seattle Symphony and it reminded me of the first time I watched a performance at Benaroya Hall. It was a Halloween theme concert called “Spooktacular“.

Let’s rewind back a little as to why this concert was so memorable to me. In my memory, junior high was an unpleasant time of my life. I was fresh off the boat and completely clueless about American culture. It didn’t help when I was also pretty slow at adjusting. Looking back at it again though, I was lucky enough to have friends who try to teach me the American ways and a few of them who actually accepted me for the way I am. When I was in 8th grade I discovered my love for Anime and Manga. At this time my core obsession was Yu-Gi-Oh GX. I would watch every episode that aired on cartoon network. Unfortunately, I was too poor to buy the physical cards so I would play on the PC with a GBA emulator. One day I saw a boy and his friend playing Yu-Gi-Oh in the Library. I got so excited I asked if I could watch them play. His friend agreed but the boy seemed a little skeptical, “do you even understand what’s going on?”. “hehe”, I chuckled and told him that I might not have a physical deck but I sure do know how to play. He tested me a little then finally agreed to let me watch them play.

Ever since my encounter with the boy and his friend in the library, I would stop by every day during lunch to watch them play Yu-Gi-Oh. One day right before lunch ended “here” the boy said while pulling a deck out of his pocket, “I made a fire deck“. “What?”, I responded confusingly. “Just hold on to it” he continued. I grabbed it and quickly ran to art class. At that moment I felt embarrassed but I was also filled with joy because I felt like he accepted me as a friend. My diffident self at the time could never imagine anyone, especially a boy, accepting me like that. Since then we would hangout not only during lunch but also after school. I always thought he was kinda odd because there are days where he would leave school early and some days where he would have to stay late before his parents came to pick him up.

On the weekend of my sister’s birthday that year, my aunt took me and my sister out to an orchestra concert titled “spooktacular” at Benaroya Hall. We sat at the very front row and enjoyed the performance. Mid way into the concert, the conductor introduced the soloist for the next song, “Benji Bae” he announced as a boy dressed in a Dracula outfit came up to the front of the stage. This boy had the same exact name and looked exactly the same as the boy I hang out with in the library. I thought I was hearing things but I checked the pamphlet over and over again and yep, that was him. I had NO idea he was that good at the violin.. heck, I didn’t even know he played at all. The next school day, I was pestering him about it, “Were you the soloist that dressed up as Dracula at the concert last night?” “Why didn’t you tell me you play the violin?”. “I don’t know what you’re talking about..” he denied all my claims. Til this day Is till don’t know why he kept denying that he was the soloist. He was the most amazing violinist I know that’s my age and it wasn’t something to be shy about. I guess he was shy? Now that I think about it, I should have known he plays the violin… I do recall him asking if I’m in orchestra.. also making comments about my violin.. and he also told me once that I put too much rosin on my bow. I even asked him once why he was in choir and not orchestra and his answer was “because orchestra sucks” .. Lol, well he aint wrong about that. Benji was always kinda sarcastic & mean towards me but we would still hangout together after school.  We would even do stupid things like singing the Yu-Gi-Oh GX theme song in the school courtyard because we were “.. chilling out with the crew in the school yard”… get it? LOL. I’m surprised that towards the end of 8th grade we hung out so much but I still didn’t know a thing about him personally. On the final band/orchestra/choir concert in 8th grade I gave him a high 5 for doing a good job on his choir and that was my last memory of interacting with Benji as a friend. When 9th grade started, he was nowhere to be found.

In high school, I heard rumors that the violin prodigy “Benji Bea” is here at our school district’s solo & ensemble. I followed everyone else to take peak of him. That day I found out that he’s still around, just at a different school. He grew tall, got rid of his glasses, got a nice hair cut and became very popular among his peers. The one thing that didn’t change was his mild goofiness. I was too shy to go up to him when I saw him that day, but my friends who knew that I was friends with him in Jr. high pushed me to. I only briefly greeted him before he was dragged away by his friends to the next event and that was the last time I ever saw Benji.

10 years later here I am sitting under a tree in front of Benaroya Hall wondering how Benji is doing. I looked him up on Facebook wondering if he’s still my friend on there but instead I found out that he’s in Korea debuted as an idol under the group B.I.G. I laughed to myself again because how ironic if it that the boy that I played Yu-Gi-Oh with in the library with managed to surprise me in the same manner again and again and again. It makes me wonder if he remembers anything about our Yu-Gi-Oh craze, it doesn’t really matter though. All I know is that without a doubt, Benji Bea was born to be a shining star on stage.