The Ever-Changing Crossroads

 Soph Bonde/Argot Magazine. [Photo description: A young Black woman in a baseball cap walks through a crowd at a party in dim lighting].

Soph Bonde/Argot Magazine. [Photo description: A young Black woman in a baseball cap walks through a crowd at a party in dim lighting].

Shavon

Damn I can’t stand these late night classes. A class from 4 to 8. Really?! I am so glad it’s Friday night because it has been a long stressful week. Finals are fast approaching and I can’t believe it’s my last week as a freshman at Tennessee State University. I quickly walk back to “Eppse Hall” which isn’t that far from campus but still feels far to me. I’m extra excited about tonight because of the huge party and of course the flyest people from TSU and Nashville are going to be there. There’s even a rumor Mase and P. Diddy are supposed to be there, but I’m not too sure about that one!

Lord I hope my roommate actually acts like she got some sense! I’m not breaking up any fights looking like a million bucks! Don’t get me wrong, Kiya’s my girl, but lately she isn’t the Kiya I remember. I understand people change but there’s just something strange about her. She’s smart and beautiful but the decisions she’s making aren’t the best. I get to my dorm room only to find Kiya and of course her no good boyfriend Derek there. No, I’m not jealous, but something about him doesn’t sit well with me. However, Kiya looks beautiful with her hair pulled up in curls, matte jewelry, and a silky white dress that looks lovely on her chocolate skin.

“Hey girl! Hurry up and get dressed! We don’t want to be late,” she tells me, scurrying around the room trying to find her purse.

“I just got in the door; will you give me a second?” I gather my all white outfit from my closet and hurry to the bathroom.

“Yeah, hurry up, Shavon. You always making somebody be late,” Derek suddenly feels bold enough to jump in. I really can’t stand him.

“You need to shut- up,” I shoot back as Kiya gives me a pleading look, so I go in the bathroom before I regret saying anything else.

The outfit fits me so perfectly! I curl my long black hair and put on my pink heels and my gold jewelry. I look like a million bucks but I feel a sense of insecurity about everything and especially TSU being a predominately African American college. Don’t get me wrong it’s fun but sometimes I feel torn from my roots here. I’m Korean, Chinese, and African American and I long for diversity. Should I transfer? Should I go back to my homeland? Lord please give me guidance. My thoughts are interrupted as I hear Janessa walking in the door. “Hold on I’m coming,” I yell as I walk out the bathroom. How is a girl supposed to party with so much on her mind!?

Kiya

We’re having a ball at TSU’s party and everything is just perfect including my man Derek who stands 6’3, athletic, and sexy in a Calvin Klein outfit. I haven’t seen him in a while but I’m not worried. “Will you slow down on the drinks? Isn’t that like your third Vodka?” Janessa asks me as we slide in a nearby booth. She actually looks girly and less of a tomboy in a little black dress, pink heels, and a slicked back ponytail.

“Girl I’m fine. Don’t worry about me,” I shoot back at her as I see Derek coming across the room. I get away from the table to meet him halfway there.

As I’m walking, I notice this girl and her crew staring at me. What are they looking at?  “I know you’re not messing with him. He’s nothing but trouble,” a caramel girl says, stopping dead in front of me.

“Who are you? An ex or some random broad that probably wants him?” I ask sarcastically. I’ll admit the girl is pretty in a pink dress, gold heels, and long curly hair but she isn’t any competition.

“I’m going to assume you’re just one of those immature freshman lost in Derek’s web of lies,” she laughs, shaking her head. “He’s going to do you the same way he did me,” she retorts walking past me. “The name is Chante by the way,” she retorts as I walk past her and go straight to Derek.

“Hey baby. You want to go upstairs?” he asks grinning from ear to ear.

“Um…well…I guess,” I tell him skeptically but I hope he isn’t expecting anything.

“Who’s Chante,” I suddenly blurt out as he motions for me to get on the bed.

“She’s just an old friend baby. Why you ask that?”

“No reason.”

“Okay. So what’s up with me and you now?”

I give him a shy smile but I don’t know. I felt ready but this isn’t the way I wanted to lose my innocence. Before I know it I’m taken in by his toxic kisses, the rubbing on my thigh, and I become lost in his ecstasy of love.

Janessa

“You STILL haven’t seen Kiya! Look we have to tell somebody. I feel bad for leaving her like that,” I tell Shavon as she’s coming from her dorm.

“Look let’s just calm down and look for her some more. Maybe she’s at Derek’s,” she suggests.

“Alright come on then,” I say leaving the room with Shavon close behind. What if something horrible happened!? All these crazy thoughts run through my head but they’re quickly interrupted as I hear yelling from afar.

“Hey! Hey! Wait up I need to talk to you guys,” a girl with caramel skin yells, running frantically toward us. Who is that? I never saw her here. “Look my name is Chante. I don’t want to get involved in your girl’s business but she’s in danger being with Derek,” she tells us still breathing heavily.

“Okay and what do you mean by that?” Shavon speaks up because I’m still trying to process everything.

“Derek is not who he says he is. He will get Kiya hurt big time.” At this point I kind of roll my eyes because I already knew that!

“He has-,” she stopped midsentence as if to gather her thoughts. “Herpes.”

“How do you know this?” I ask skeptically as my heart begins to race a million miles a minute.

“I know because he infected me,” she tells us. The tears begin streaming down her face. I have to quickly walk away as I grab my cell phone, praying Kiya answers this time. This has to be a dream. Not Kiya.

Kiya

Swear I wake up with the worst hangover and can’t remember a thing. Did that really happen? Did I use a condom? I look on the right side of the bed and this boy is nowhere to be found. I glance over at my phone and pick it up to hear Janessa panicking on the other end.   

“Where are you!? We couldn’t even find you and we’ve been searching all night and morning. Look you need to stay away from Derek. He’s no good.”

I roll my eyes. “Stop it girl! He’s rough around the edges but it’s all good.”

“It’s not all good,” she shouts back as I hear her start to cry. I don’t think I ever heard Janessa cry before. “Look, Derek has herpes. You know that girl from the party Chante? She contracted herpes from him!”

“You can’t be serious,” I say with my head still spinning from the news.

 “You don’t believe me? Okay. Check your social media,” she instructs me through her sobs.

I log onto Facebook with my hands shaking frantically and feel as if my education, my friendships, and my future have been taken away by one man. A dog is more like it! What’s the first thing I see? The bastard has naked pictures of me while I was sleeping with sexual descriptions of everything he did! I wish I was home! I wish I could see my mom! I wish daddy was here! I drop the phone in disbelief and start to hyperventilate. I fall back on the bed drifting away into darkness.

Janessa

I can’t believe it’s my last night at TSU and I’m officially a sophomore in college! I hate going back home but I’ll admit I do miss my family. Only a little bit though. Despite all the crazy things that happened this year (and in the past week at that crazy party) everything is going well. I’m a part of a winning basketball team and managed to make the Dean’s list. I’ll admit your girl struggled at times but I knew I had it.

As I sit on my girl Kiya’s bed I’ll admit I’m a little disappointed in her but who doesn’t make mistakes? She has actually dumped Derek and seems to be back to herself…well almost back to herself. I can’t imagine what she was going through but she still manages to smile. Personally I would kill anybody that gave me any STD or took naked pictures of me without my consent, but that’s a different story. Funny because we never actually seen Derek after that night! Not in class, the dining hall, or his room, and it was like he never went to TSU! What a coincidence right? I wonder if her family knows. I decided not to ask any more questions about it though. Kiya simply told me everything was taken care of and she was going to take her time in her next relationship. That gave me relief as a whole.

Now Shavon on the other hand had a change of heart but I’m glad she’s coming back to TSU! I can’t imagine coming all the way from Korea to attend college, but she’s doing it. Funny how people you only know for a year can be better friends than people you’ve known your whole life. Hopefully everything will work out for her.

“Girl shouldn’t you be packing,” Shavon asks throwing a pillow in my direction.

“I will eventually. You know I like to do everything last minute and you see all the stuff I have. I’m good.”

“Still lazy I see. Some things never change,” Kiya chimes in, shaking her head as she begins packing another box full of clothes. The girl brought her whole wardrobe with her!

As for me, I’m anxious about TSU next year. I’m hoping to just take the championship again, stay on the Dean’s list, and maybe find a little lover in between. I’m still trying to find myself especially when it comes to my sexuality “contradictions” (at least that’s what I call it). That just makes me more excited about next year since Shavon will be my roommate. I do feel guilty but I can’t help how I feel about her. For now, though I would just focus on our friendship. How am I going to control myself with her walking around the room like that?! I’m still staring at her packing her clothes in boy shorts and a see through t- shirt.

“Girl what you looking at? It looks like you’re in a daze,” she says, giggling, packing up her box full of bedding items.

“Nothing Shavon. Nobody’s not thinking about you,” I say, grabbing a pillow and throwing it at her. Lord she’s beautiful.

Kiya knows about my sexuality, but I’m not sure if Shavon knows. I mean, TSU has some good looking guys, but I’m not sure if I want to be with any of them or any man for that matter. It was just something about a female that makes me curious in every way. Shavon has the mindset and the body that would drive any man (or female) wild and wanting more.

“Well I’ll catch yall later. I’m going to go shoot some hoops and maybe start packing. I’ll stop by later though,” I say walking out the room as they continue packing.

“Later,” they both say in unison as I grab my basketball and head for the gym. What a year it will be!

Shavon

Oh boy. This is just way too much stuff to pack. Kiya is still packing on the other side of the room and Janessa just left the dorm. I’m finally finished with my first year at TSU. Even though at times I felt out of place here, I’m proud of myself for making it through. As I start packing all my items, my mind began to race with dread about going home. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to leave, but I know awaiting me in Korea are two steaming pit bulls aka my parents. My mind drifts back to our unforgettable phone conversation. I could almost feel their rage through the phone.

“I thought we already discussed your decision about TSU,” my mother told me. “We just think it would be wiser for you to go elsewhere. You even said so yourself.”

“I know ma, but I decided to stay here. I don’t want to go to school in Korea and I feel as if it’s more opportunities here,” I told her praying she would get off my back.

“You can’t possibly think Tennessee has anything to offer. You probably want to stay there because of all the parties and those so called “men” they have there,” my stepfather shouted on the other line. He had some nerve to put his two cents in. After all he isn’t my real father.

“For your information I barely went to any parties. Even if those were my reasons to stay why do you even care,” I shouted back at him.

“Klarissa you better get your bratty daughter, talking to me like that. I see that college is already making you change for the worst.”

“Stop it both of you! Now Shavon if that’s really what you want to do then I’ll accept your decision, but show some respect for your father,” my mother chimed in at the perfect time.

“He’s not my father and never will be! I’m going back to TSU to finish what I started,” I told them. I was tired of discussing the situation. I didn’t call for their approval I just wanted to see how my mother was doing.

“You take your little grown ass back to TSU. See how far you get being around those type of people,” my stepfather said with the coldest voice I ever heard.

“I surely will. Now I have to go and get packing. I’ll talk to you later. Love you mom,” I said hanging up the phone. I can’t believe he really disrespected my African American culture and heritage! What the hell did he mean by those people? The fact my mother let him get away with it makes my blood boil. I just can’t take them trying to control my life.  I can’t believe my mother didn’t say a thing about it. For once I’m going to do what I want and what makes me happy. As long as God got me I’m good.

Kiya

I’m so glad to get out of here. So freshman year at TSU was the complete opposite of what I expected. You know what though? I don’t blame nobody but my dumb ole self. I guess I was so busy trying to have fun, I lost myself in the process. Shavon just boarded her plane and I’m left in the dorm alone. As I wait for my mother to pick me up tears began to flow freely down my face.

Why did I have to sleep with him? Why didn’t I listen to Chante? What about all the warnings my girls gave me about Derek? The memories of being in bed with him that night replay in my mind like a broken record. It’s like I could almost feel his disgusting, lying, diseased body up against mine. To think he never said a word a word about it. I have to try my best to block the memories out my mind before I become sick to my stomach.

I log on to my computer to finish working on the flyers for my organization next semester. Well hopefully I’ll be able to start it next year. The organization is called “RTT” which stands for “Resist the Temptation” which is to promote safe sex. No I’m not trying to preach about “No sex until marriage” but I want to inform people about the reality of sex and maybe tell my story. I figure instead of being bitter about the situation, why not help somebody avoid the same mistake I made? It’s not much but it’s a start. Of course I have my girls Shavon and Janessa helping me.

As I look back on my year I still can’t believe I have to live with this. Herpes? I remember sitting on the doctor’s table about to fall on the ground when he revealed the devastating news to me. The worst part had to be telling my mother about it. I can still hear my mother’s voice and sobs echo in my head. “Kiya how could you let this happen!? We talked about condoms, birth control, and diseases,” she said through her sobs. I couldn’t even say a word to her as the tears rolled down my face as well. I felt like the ultimate disappointment. The knocks at the door help me snap back into reality.

“Mother,” I run to greet her as she takes me in her arms. “Baby,” she coos. “How have you been?”

“You know what ma? I’m good. I’m alive. I’m just going to do what’s best for me.”

“Child. I’m still disappointed in you,” she tells me as I hold my head down in shame. “However I know God will forgive you and therefore I will too.”

I know at that moment everything is going to be okay. Not perfect. Not normal. But simply okay. Now that’s what I call unconditional love! No I may not have the grades I wanted, the college lifestyle I wished for, or the relationship of my dreams. However I do have my girls and my best friend by my side, which of course is my mother. No matter what, I am determined to make my next year at TSU my best year yet!


Shaunese Johnson is a social media editor at online magazine My Black Matters. She is also a childhood educator and a contributing blogger for CitrineMagazine.com, BlackToLive.org, JetMag.com, Afropunk.com, and TheNaunces.com. Her writing focuses on social justice issues, intersectional feminism, education, sexuality, equality, relationships, self-love and mental health. Follow her on her blog, The Black Alien, or on Twitter as @afrosentricc.