All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
Back in High School, he was an afterthought, the wispy kind you would keep to yourself, because you knew if you told your girlfriends they would make too big of a deal about it. One airy crush going nowhere would suddenly turn into a marriage with children, and soon the whole school would think you were a desperate crazy stalker all because of your silly little friends who wanted to live vicariously through you.
It’s not like Dante and I even had anything going on. We had been best friends since Freshmen year, but Junior Year changed. Suddenly, he was only interested in smoking and experimenting with drugs. Because the school we went to was Private and small, everybody knew about everyone’s business. Rumors spread that he was dating a freshman and that they frequently had “chemistry” sessions in the Sin Bin after school hours. I could only imagine the things he would tell her-probably all lies.
He never really opened up to people. Usually, you could find him laughing and hiding under the façade that he had it all together, but I knew he didn’t. I knew his secrets because when no one else would listen to him, he would turn to me-every time.
We had had a couple of classes together, Spanish and an absurd Advanced Placement Class; but we had always had a few classes together. Whether Study Hall, Lunch or PE, we always managed to bump into one another. He always made sure that the bumping was quite literally a bump, and more often than not I would end up spilling my water bottle, my books or my papers all over myself. He liked to bother me, but we both had our own circles. He did not like girls like me, and I was not supposed to like guys like him.
However, despite the different social circles we, somehow, ended up sharing his musty, gray locker. Somehow, his locker was at the most convenient spot for me to keep all of my textbooks. People liked to snicker at the two of us and usually tormented me as to why I just didn’t “date him already.” I would usually come up with some sort of lackluster response, “he’s not really my type…I don’t think of him like that…he’s like my brother,” and while I was okay with my stance on not-dating throughout high school, sometimes I would daydream about him. But I would keep those thoughts to myself, too scared to dwell on them for too long.
I am still not sure why he took the AP class; maybe he took it to prove that he was slightly more educated than he acted. Hah. Mostly, he slept through the class and failed the exams. Sometimes, he would cause a ruckus in the corner by the window, so that for the hour we would be forced to listen to him rant about the difference between Blacks, Africans and all the other colors of the rainbow. Usually his rants would end in the principle’s office, or out in the hallway. I used to feel sorry for him because I thought that he was simply misunderstood.
I don’t feel sorry for him anymore.
During the summer after my senior year, I tried not to think about him. He had broken my trust too many times through his various sexual escapades. For the most part, he had tried to keep his secrets hidden, but nothing is hidden at a small private high school. Nothing. But he was one of those things that kept popping up in my head, no matter how much I wished he wouldn’t.
When I was younger, and more naive, or at least I like to think of myself as being more naive, I had planned of dating him, of allowing him to be my first boyfriend, first guy I would hold hands with, first guy I would kiss and the first guy I would love.
Silly, silly, me.
I should have known better to allow my heart into the hands of an ignorant and obtuse human being.
His first mistake, in his long list of mistakes, was the girl. He never should have gone back to Jamaica. He said it was to get back with his roots, and to experience all of the things he missed growing up. Instead, he came back with a conquest story and probably a whole host of STDs.
Because our school was small, his travesties were instantly made public. This ensued in him being instantly shunned by all the decent, self-respecting girls while simultaneously becoming an instant pleasure toy to all of the other girls. I can still remember their leer. Their-thick, pouty red lips would open and tease and their bright, wide eyes were suddenly made bigger and more innocent with the help of mascara. He was their plaything now.
It didn’t happen overnight, but he quickly became the laughingstock of the school. His name would suddenly become the butt of a joke in the midst of societal pleasantries, a guaranteed laugh in any sophisticated conversation. My friends would tease me about him in hushed voices, “such a good thing you didn’t end up with Dante,” they would prattle, their dark eyes opening wide as they gasped at the assumed horror. “He would’ve absolutely ruined your virtue you know.” His name became sprinkled into their conversations, a definite discussion-saver whenever their chats would become too sordid. “Don’t want to be a Dante, you know?” they would muse and laugh while continually reminding one another that their mistakes were futile because after all, at least they weren’t a Dante.
I used to chide myself for not standing up for him and trying to protect his…his what? His valor? His virtue? But somehow, I had convinced myself to believe in the floating mendacities. I mean, if he didn’t do any of it, wouldn’t he have tried to at least deny the scandalous rumors? So, instead my senior year passed in a blur. He would hang out with his social group and I would hang out with mine. Anytime spent together was kept to a minimum: short pleasantries and minimal eye contact and formalities.
On graduation day, I remember him requesting a picture with me. Because I didn’t want to look like an imbecile in front of my family, I politely acquiesced. The next day our picture became his profile picture, and I was forced to endure the taunting jeers of my friends for the rest of the summer. And, by the end of summer, the name Dante was already a curse to my ears.
The first day of classes began on August 19. I felt like a brand new person. Perhaps, it was the haircut and the idea to go natural. I was tired of weaves and perms and hot irons that still made your hair never straight enough. Or, perhaps it was the knowledge that for the first time in years I was going to wear my hair out. I had full, kinky hair: a head full of it.
As a black girl, hair is one of those things that take up most of your thoughts, even if you don’t intend it too.
I was definitely marked apart from the rest. I looked like one of those serious sort of black people who feel the need to make a statement. Really, I was just tired of having flat hair. I was tired of having to straighten my roots every morning. I was tired of burning out my hair just for “convenience”.
I had to be at school a week earlier than the rest of the students because I had decided to join the choir. It was a higher, more elite choir than the other one offered at PenBerry, and would give a full concert on opening week. My older sister had been in it, and I can still remember her horror stories of girls crying after being chewed out by the director. But, luckily the director had retired-wanted to spend more time with his wife and kids-so I had absolutely no idea about what to expect from the new director.
For the most part, the director was okay. As the only black person in the choir, I quickly began to realize that not only did I look different, talk a little different and act different, but I also sang different. This quickly began to catch the director’s notice, and, like in most cases when a Caucasian choir is singing a gospel song, the solo was quickly handed off to me-the black girl.
I’d like to think that the director gave it to me because my voice fits the style-and I think that is partially true, but I also hate the nagging thought in the back of my brain that also suspects that I attained it simply because of my color. It’s like the same thing as the reason I’m on a video for my High School, or why I’m asked to write a piece in the college paper or why I’m an ambassador or why I was asked to be an academic mentor. Not only do I possess the skills necessary to fit the job description, but I’m also black, and being a minority helps to bump up the numbers of applicants, and bumping up the number of applicants results in more tuition money.
Sometimes, I wonder if I’m just a means to an end. It’s pathetic, really, to have to constantly be asking yourself in the back of your head why you were chosen for the job, but I do it anyways. I lack the self-esteem to actually believe that I have what it takes. That it’s not my color, or my silly, naive self, but it’s because I’m actually worth something: me, Bonita Chaim.
The first day Dante called me, I shouldn’t have answered my phone. It was from an unknown number, and so I answered, intrigued by the idea that maybe a close friend had changed his or her number.
“Boni, look, please don’t hang up.” It was Dante. I could tell the second he said my name.
“And why shouldn’t I?” I had never been very good at trying to be insolent; however, I managed to make a decent effort at sounding peremptory. “I don’t really want to speak to you at the moment.”
I don’t know why I didn’t hang up. Maybe it was the way he said my name, or the soft lilting tone in his voice, but whatever it was, I decided to hear him out.
His story was absurd. He wanted to apologize for everything he had done during our years in High School. From the spilling of my books, papers, and drinks to the sexual activities he had participated in, he wanted my forgiveness. I didn’t believe him. He had lied and hurt me too many times. Hadn’t I always been the one having to bail him out? Hadn’t he decided to throw it all away and to forget my very existence? I was sure that he was making it up. Boys like him never change. I was convinced of it.
“Please, give me another chance,” he added. “I swear I will never hurt you again.”
I wanted to laugh. Was he really trying to promise to never hurt me? I had cried for days over all of the stupid decisions he had made, and the idea that I didn’t even find out about the things he had done from him, but through his friends.
“I don’t know,” I managed. “I don’t trust you anymore.”
“Then I will earn it. Just give me the chance, please?”
Sighing, I closed my eyes and balled my hands into a fist. “Okay, one chance,” I agreed. “Just one.”
For the next couple of months, we talked on and off. Whether through Skype, Facebook, text or phone-calls, he was determined to make our friendship work again. I was more than a little wary of his efforts. How did I know that this wasn’t all a scheme to make me trust him again only to have him hurt me again? How did I know that he really had changed? In an effort to prove himself to me, he introduced me to his roommate and his Resident Assistant. They both vouched for his character, and after a couple of months, I began to believe that he had changed. Not only had he sworn off dating girls until he could trust himself again, but he had also joined, and was actively participating in, a number of Bible Studies.
I liked the guy he was becoming…or at least the guy he was claiming that he was becoming.
For my birthday he called me and sang me songs from my favorite Disney musicals, and I found myself serenaded to the song, “I Can Show You the World,” from Disney’s Aladdin. Later that night, he confessed that throughout High School he had had a crush on me and was beginning to fall for me again.
Unsure of what to say, I avoided the conversation. We were only just starting to be friends again, and I was just starting to trust him. I couldn’t be involved in a relationship yet. However, as our friendship matured, so did his feelings-and eventually mine. We would talk intermittently about dating, and if it was a good idea. We would come up with lists about why we should or shouldn’t, and sometimes it looked as if the cons outweighed the pros. I had never been in a relationship before, had never held hands or kissed a guy before, so why should I let him be the first one? He had hurt me so much before, how did I know that I could trust him?
In High School, being the silly children that we were, we had agreed to keep each other accountable. It didn’t work out. Therefore, I am quite confused why we tried to attempt the same thing in College. Agreeing that we wouldn’t talk to each other until after we did devotions, and only for an hour at a time, I found myself wanting to run through my time to God in order to spend time with Dante. This completely destroyed my goal for wanting to do devotions. I was allowing Dante to become another idol-another “thing” that I could attain, when in reality, I needed to be running to the One who created all “things.”
He asked me if he could ask my dad for permission to date me over Christmas Break. He wanted to tell my parents about everything he had done, and the idea unnerved me. Was I really ready to follow through with this? And what would my parents think once they knew all of his past deeds? Sighing, I quickly agreed to allow him to talk to my parents, and that we would see where it would go from there.
Three weeks before Christmas Break, he told me that there was another girl. Apparently, he had started liking her the same time he had started talking to me. He asked me not to be mad at him, to just let us still be friends and to continue to trust him. Trust. I’m not sure if he knows what that word means.
The week after he told me he had another girl-a mistress on the side-was a blur. Most days were spent haphazardly sitting in a corner of my room listening to “His Name” by He is We, while skipping the cafeteria meals because I was too busy lamenting.
His name was deleted from my phone, his Facebook deleted from my friends list and my emails erased. How dare he? I had told him everything, and he had spit in my face.
How dare he?
At first, I didn’t know what to do. I had never been good at confronting another or at standing up for myself; however, after a week I decided that I needed to be assertive. After an hour of typing, deleting and editing, I sent him an email declaring my confusion and contempt.
He didn’t respond for a week.
He claimed that I never gave him time to respond and that he’s sorry but he just didn’t have time to talk because he had been so busy. Instead, he set up a time for us to talk, and because I am the silly, sheltered, trusting human being that I am, I waited for him to show for 2 hours.
He never showed. Nor did he text or call me to state a reason for his absence.
Some of my other friends called an intervention meeting. I hadn’t talked or eaten in days, and they were getting concerned. After cornering me in the hall after classes, they announced that they wouldn’t leave me alone until I told them what was wrong.
I didn’t want to tell them. I had made myself look like a first class idiot, and I certainly had no inclination to trust any boy ever again, so why would I tell the two of them?
“Boni, please tell us what is wrong.” Jason’s voice was concerned and soft. He patted the seat next to him, and took a deep breath. Obediently, I took a step towards him and finally sat next to him.
“I don’t wanna talk about it,” I mumbled. I figured that the best thing I could do was forget all about it. If I never acknowledged it aloud, then I could keep on pretending that the thing never actually happened.
“Well, obviously you need to talk about it,” interjected Tye. “You haven’t eaten for days, your face is swollen and you really do look a mess.”
“Thank you so much,” I snapped. I hadn’t asked them to intervene. I thought I had been doing quite well on my own, considering I hadn’t done anything rash…yet.
“Look, we are just worried about you,” Jason added while scowling at Tye. “We just want you to know that we are here for you, okay? But we really aren’t going to leave until you at least tell us something.”
Glaring, I scowled at them, and took a deep breath. I didn’t want to tell them. Partly because even though they were two of my closest friends, I really didn’t trust boys anymore.
“Please, Boni?” murmured Tye.
Sighing, I sank back into the fading couch, and told them the story.
“He’s not worth you,” exclaimed Tye when I finished. “He’s a dirt bag, and if I could see him…” he balled his hands into fists, and clumsily punched at the air.
“Don’t,” I scolded. “I should’ve seen it coming…” my voice faded off as Tye and Jason began lecturing me about how it wasn’t my fault and that I shouldn’t blame myself.
“Guys, please. I just don’t want to talk about it anymore,” I muttered.
“Fine, but we will continue this conversation,” warned Jason.
“You and I are going for a walk,” stated Tye. He pulled me firmly up by the arm and out the door. Light rain was falling, and almost immediately I began to shiver.
“Look, I know I’m no good at this,” he started, “but that guy seriously doesn’t deserve you.” His voice was low, and I tried to walk slower than him. I really didn’t want to hear yet another rant about how I had been stupid to fall for some guy that “obviously didn’t deserve me.” What happened if I really couldn’t get a guy that “deserved” me? What happened if the best I could get really was an imbecile?
“Boni, listen to me.”
“Listening,” I muttered.
“No your not, so listen. You don’t need to sell yourself short, you don’t need to find a guy because everyone else does, you don’t need anyone that will hurt you, okay?”
“I didn’t think he would,” I murmured. I hoped he couldn’t tell that I was crying, maybe he wouldn’t be able to tell, it was raining….
“…I just don’t want to see you hurt anymore, okay? You deserve better.” His voice was starting to soothe me, and almost subconsciously, he pulled me into a hug, his jacket hovered over us as we stood there in the rain while I cried.
“You deserve better,” he whispered again and squeezed my hand. “And I know you will find him.”