I was at a popular off-campus dive bar with a couple friends when I saw her.
This fine woman walked across the room towards us, but since we were standing close to the hallway leading to the ladies’ room, I assumed she was headed there.
As she inched closer, it began to dawn on me that not only was she headed towards us, her eyes were locked directly on me.
After making her way to my right side, she leaned in close enough to hear her voice over the pulsating music but far enough away that each of my friends could make out exactly what she was saying.
“You’re Damon Young, right?”
“I want to sleep with you.”
If the looks on my friend’s faces are any indication, they were as floored by this request as I was. I took a half second beat to recover from the shock of what I thought (hoped) I heard.
“You heard me the first time”
She then grabbed my hand and led me to the dance floor directly across from the bar. I looked back at my friends with the gleefulest shrug of the shoulders possible, and followed her.
After dancing for a couple songs, she made the “let’s get out of here” motion with her head. We left. It was approximately 1:30 am. By 2am, we were in her bed; both naked, both ready to make good on her request.
There was one problem, though.
“I don’t have any condoms.”
I like to blame my condomlessness on it being September of my freshman year and me not yet learning that, while in college, you’re supposed to carry condoms with you all the time. But, I still had three opportunities to get them between the bar and her apartment
- I could have asked one of my friends before leaving the bar.
- We walked past my dorm room. I could have made a quick detour there and picked one up.
- Her apartment was a block away from a 24 hour drugstore. Could have easily just bought a couple there.
I, obviously, did none of those things — a boneheaded move that definitely was going to put a serious damper on my evening, probably cause her to kick me out, and maybe even…
“Shhh. Don’t worry about that. You only live once.”
I didn’t say anything in response to that because, if I did try to say anything, it probably would have sounded something like “Whaaaaaat! You want to have unprotected sex!!!! With me!!!!!”
Now, I probably should tell you that I got up and left after recognizing that her being a-ok with having an unprotected one night stand was a giant red flag. I won’t tell you that, though. Haven’t lied yet today, and don’t want to start now.
We had sex twice that night. Both times we did it sans condom, and both times I added insult to injury by climaxing inside of her.
I left her place that morning, simultaneously invigorated by my “conquest,” and scared to death by the thought of the dozens of STDs I was assuredly carrying. Yet, despite this paralyzing fear — which grew even more paralyzing whenever I’d see a Valtrex ad or a shot of Magic Johnson on TV — I didn’t get tested.
Call it fear, call it ignorance, call it cowardice, but whatever you wish to call it, it was keeping me away from the doctor’s office.
For the next five months, I scrutinized and stressed over each morning cough or congestion and every unidentifiable bump and blemish on my body. I even refused to return to a post-season pick up game after one of my teammates accidentally cut me and drew blood. I didn’t want to infect anyone else with whatever the hell I was carrying.
Then, one morning in the spring, I woke up with an unbearable throat ache. I couldn’t talk, could barely swallow, and even had trouble walking. I went to the team doctor later that day. When he mentioned that he would have to taken a blood test to figure out what was wrong with me, tired of this six-month-old albatross around my neck — I asked him to test for everything.
I hate clichés, so while I won’t say that I was sweating bullets while awaiting word from his office, I was sweating, um, ice cubes. I reflected on every decision — good, bad, and ugly — that I’d made in my 19 years on the planet so far.
I went from being a very apathetic Christian to, well, a just somewhat apathetic Christian. I even crafted the speech I was going to give my parents after telling them that I was sick.
The call came five days later.
“I called to let you know that I looked over your blood work, and it looks like you have…
…strep throat. Looks like someone’s been playing one too many games of beer pong and sharing cups”
Other than that, my blood was fine. No HIV, no anything.
Now, the obvious morals of this story are to always wear protection and make sure you get tested on a regular basis. Having unprotected sex significantly increases the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
But while fear of disease, unwanted pregnancies, and spreading infections are what’s usually used to sell people into making smarter and safer sexual decisions, there’s another reason that’s just as resonate: peace of mind.
Strap up so you don’t have that paralyzing fear of the unknown. Get tested so you don’t worry yourself to death. You may not be as lucky as I was. Be smart and be safe so you never even have to think about it.
Damon Young is the co-author of Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm at Night, and the co-founder of VerySmartBrothas.com — an award-winning blog recently named to Ebony Magazine’s Power 100. Young is also the head editor of The Hill Review — a literary magazine founded and funded by the August Wilson Center for African-American Culture.A graduate of Canisius College (English B.A.), his work has been featured in numerous publications, including The Washington Post, The Root, Essence Magazine, The Huffington Post, NPR News, Jet Magazine, Black Enterprise, The Good Men Project, Clutch Magazine, and Madame Noire. He resides in Pittsburgh, Pa.